Table For Two, by Nora Roberts

>> Monday, March 31, 2003

Last week I read some Nora Roberts. The book is Table for Two, and it's a 2-in-1 reissue of two mid-80s category books. Both books are connected, and are about two chefs.

The first story is Summer Dessert:
When love-resistant dessert chef Summer Lyndon develops a taste for her delectable boss Blake Cocharan, her legendary willpower is put to the ultimate test.
This one was a C+, pleasant, but no more than that. The most remarkable thing about it was how hungry it made me, especially for pastries and desserts. After all that talk about how Summer's specialty was teh bombe, I just had to go out and buy myself some dulce de leche-filled bombas. These are rounded pastry shells filled with different types of creams... I suppose, from the description in the book that they might be similar to Summer's bombes.

I wasn't too engaged by the love story here. The best description would be "nice", but nothing too exciting. Just lukewarm, like my reaction to the main characters. I liked them and more or less understood them, but I didn't much care if they got together or not. Summer baffled me at some points, especially by her attitude towards cooking. It sounded all very exhausted, and I didn't feel it was something she really enjoyed much. Too much emphasis on perfection.

I more or less disliked the ending. The situation between Blake's parents just didn't strike me the way the author intended. My reading was was more "Even in this obviously happy marriage, the man cheated on his wife, but they got over it through hard work". Very romantic. That'll make me want to get married, all right.

Second story was Lessons Learned and it was much, much better. A B+.

Publicist Juliet Trent never mixes business with pleasure, but her newest client, charming ladies' man and chef Carlo Franconi, is determined to whet her appetite for love.
All that pasta, yum! And Carlo's attitude towards cooking was much more to my taste. The guy had fun cooking and enjoyed the process.

And Carlo, oh Carlo! I had my doubts about him during his appearances on Summer Desserts and early in this story: why would I find such a stereotype sexy? Plus, being Italian myself, the simplifications and over-generalizations were a bit insulting. Well, I thought Carlo was hot. I'm crazy about heroes like this, charming and appreciative of women, but not insincere or frivolous. As soon as I started liking him, my doubts returned. why would such a man fall in love with a dry, humuorless stick like Juliet? Bit she started showing some signs of life and of humour, so I finally bought it.

I loved the plot about life in a book tour (Nora would know about it. Maybe not in 1985, but she must have checked this before the reissue). Best scene, hands down: the perverted chimp. This raised the score half a letter at least!

Anyway, this was very satisfying. Seeing the playboy lose his cool and become jealous and possessive (without becoming a jerk!), wow!!


>> Friday, March 28, 2003

This Tuesday I got an e-mail from my university with the great news that I've been accepted for the post of professor's assistant I'd applied to. There'll be 2 of us, and we'll be in charge of the exercises class for Microeconomics II.

I don't know if it works like this in other universities, but here, for many subjects, you get both theory and practice classes, and in the latter you solve exercises based on what you are learning in the former. These classes are optional... that is, the students are supposed to try to solve the exercises they are assigned themselves, and in the practice classes we go over the ones they've had difficulties with. If they've had no trouble, they don't need to attend. We'll be working with our future colleagues, who are now in their second year of college.

Now for the bad part: I'll have to be at the university every Saturday morning at 8, and I'm not getting paid, not even the bus fare. Still, it'll look pretty good on my CV, something I'll need when I make my applications to go study abroad.

So far, Mica (the othe girl I mentioned) and I have only been attending the theory classes, to see what they are learning and how, so that we know how to explain things when the time comes. We'll be going over the assigned exercises with the professor beforehand, but still, we wouldn't want to explain things with graphs when they'd learned how to explain them analytically, and vice-versa.

After two classes, I just know what they'll be having trouble with. I have a feeling I'll be visiting with my old friends Slutsky and Hicks and their decomposition of the total effect of a change in prices into income and substitution effects, for at least a couple of classes. Not that it wasn't taught right, the professor's really good, but this is a difficult subject to grasp at first. The maths are pretty simple, but you have to have a good understanding of the subject itself to know what to do.

I think I should be more nervous than I am about this: facing a room full of kids (some of them older than I am!) asking pointed questions about a class I took back in 1998. However, after my stint as a tour guide, I pretty much have 0 stage fear. I've never written about this, have I? It was right after high school. A girl I knew told me about how the people who organized the city tours for the tourists who arrived in cruise ships were looking for people capable of maintaining a running monologue in English for 3 or 4 hours.

There aren't many of us around (most people learn English here, but they usually get only to the level of ability necessary to maybe read a newspaper in English), so they "hired" me. All completely illegal, of course. I'd just show up on the day of the tour (there were about 4 or 5 a month, during our summer), and afterwards they'd pay me cash, no social security or anything. I must say, with the tips, I was making about twice what I'm making now, and I worked a quarter of the hours I'm working now.

The first time was awfully nerveracking, but I winged it and I did ok. After that, it was pure fun. I just loved the people I met, mostly retirees from the US. I sincerely hope to have half their energy when I'm their age.


To Marry an Heiress, by Lorraine Heath

I've always pretty much despised Western Historicals, but Lorraine Heath is one of the very, very few authors who'll make me take the plunge. Now she's writing England-set books, a fact which I'm sure everyone will mourn (Westerns lose another author, etc, etc, etc.), but sorry, I'm glad. The one I finished yesterday is called To Marry an Heiress (excerpt).

Devon Sheridan, a widowed earl and father with a deteriorating estate, seeks to replenish his empty coffers by marrying Georgina Pierce, the plain, stubborn daughter of wealthy American Nathaniel Pierce. In exchange for unlimited access to Nathaniel's funds, Devon agrees to woo Georgina and provide her with the one thing she desires most children. Georgina quickly sees through the charade but marries him to please her father, who dies shortly after the wedding, having gambled away his fortune.
Very good book, very, very enjoyable. My grade is a B+, and pretty close to an A-. There were quite a few things that made me want to shake both Gina and Devon (especially Devon, more on this later), but the good parts were just so good!

I loved, loved, loved Gina (and yeah, I know I should ease up on the bold font, but my brain is speaking kind of enthusiastically today and I can't help myself). Ok, Gina, in spite of her tendency to be a martyr for her daddy, this was a heroine you can root for. Nice, sensible, not afraid of hard work (and I mean hard, backbreaking, physical work), cheerful, she's quite a strong woman, but, thank God, not feisty.

I always practically groan when I realize the heroine is an "American heiress", because that seems to be code for "same old, same old, but feisty, wild, and usually TSTL". Not here, not at all. Gina really did have a complete different outlook on life than Devon, and this made for a very original conflict.

In Devon, Heath doesn't take the easy way out and make him a 20th century egalitarian who just happens to have a title. He's very much an aristocrat, and he really does believe all those rules we find so silly now (and by extension, so do the usual 20th cent. egalitarian heros mentioned above, who simply ignore them). This was believable, and original. For all that I think that the "gentlemen don't work, that is below them" dictate is bullshit, I simpathized with Devon.

Problem was, there were times when I doubted if Devon's brain was working all right. He simply didn't seem capable of logical reasoning. Ok, I understand that he's deeply scarred by his first wife's rejection of him when he had to start laboring in the fields, but it simply doesn't follow that he'd believe for so long that Gina would do the same. From the very beginning, she made it clear that she thought it was silly that gentlemen didn't work, and that she considers willingness to work up some honest sweat a virtue. And even after Gina had helped him out in the fields, he doesn't let go of this idea. When he makes his very kind offer to give her a child (*snort*) and she refuses, he still thinks it's because she's repulsed by the fact that he's become a field laborer. Enough said, stupid thinking. This is what kept this book from A range.

I loved the way Devon slowly realizes he's falling in love with his wife. Very well done. However, the ending was a bit of a cliché, with Devon's bedside vigil. Still, it was cute and pretty satisfying.

Tiny little niggle: Devon sometimes addressed Gina as "Countess" (for instance, "Countess, I'd like to talk to you after dinner"). Now, all I know about the subject of protocol and such comes from reading other romance novels, so I very definitely don't consider myself an expert. Also, I usually couldn't care less if this kind of detail is correct. Still, this "Countess" business just grated terribly. I asked in the AAR Reader to Reader message board if this was correct, and it was confirmed to me that it wasn't. Someone wondered if he was doing it when he was annoyed with Gina (at the beginning, he was), and another poster mentioned she thought he was doing it as a way to remind her that she'd bought the title. At the time (I wasn't even halfway through the book), I thought this sounded like a good explanation, but he keeps doing it right until the end, so it now seems to me it was just a mistake. Not that it bothered me much! I still loved this book.


The Wild Side, by Isabel Sharpe

>> Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Time to post about a book I read during my vacation: The Wild Side, by Isabel Sharpe, a Harlequin Blaze.

Melissa Rogers, restless good girl, longs to indulge her sexual fantasies before she meets Mr. Right and settles down. But instead she gets a walk on the really wild side, thanks to the uninhibited neighbor who skips town, leaving Melissa to take her place.

Riley Anderson, brilliant private investigator and every woman's fantasy, is assigned to seduce a female suspect. But Melissa Rogers doesn't fit the profile of the woman he's after. This woman makes him long for things he didn't even know he wanted.

Will it be pure eroticism, or forever-after commitment?

You decide.

The Wild Side managed to keep me turning the pages like crazy, really interested in what was going on and wanting to know what was next. That's nothing to sneeze at. Also, I loved the secondary storyline. Slate and Rose were perfect for each other, and it was great to have a female character who had been really promiscuous not be punished for it, and see her find true love.

Unfortunately, for all that I liked the story in a general way, the main protagonists were pretty yuck, especially that stupid Riley. He lost me right at the beginning, with his attitude towards Melissa when he thought she was Rose. Acting so judgemental and disgusted when he was perfectly willing to sleep with her. Reeks of double standards! And Melissa, hmmm. She saw that, even thought about how everything clicked (his attitude, etc.) when she found out he'd been thinking she was Rose, and she had no problem with it! Basically, she's saying it's perfectly acceptable for him to be that way. Blech!

To summarize, a great storyline and secondary love story, a bad main couple. I graded it a B- when I first read it, but thinking back on it, Riley really did bother me, so I grade it a C+. Without Rose and Slate, this goes into D territory.


The Waiting Game, by Jayne Ann Krentz

Final book I read this weekend (I'm getting soooo lazy, this is Wednesday and I'm still catching up!): yet another JAK (are you getting sick of me writing about her books or what?). This one's an oldie, from 1985 (when I was starting 2nd grade in school), and it was part of a series Harlequin did at the time featuring 50 books, each set in a different US state. This one, The Waiting Game, is set in the state of Washington (well, who are you going to get to write a book set in Seattle and its environs if not JAK?). If all the books in this series give you such a good sense of place as this one, I'll seriously consider tracking them down.

Sara Fraser has decided to ditch her trendy life-style and go in search of the black sheep of her family, her mysterious Uncle Lowell Kincaid. But Uncle Lowell has gone missing, and that means finding Adrian Saville, a recluse Kincaid had once told her to contact if anything should ever happen to him.

As Sara and Adrian work together to close in on the stalker they discover is tracking her uncle and his elusive cache of gold, the tables suddenly turn, and Sara finds herself hunted as well as hunter. Protection flames to passion as danger escalates for Sara, for Adrian and for a renegade agent, code named "Wolf.

Apart from the cool tour guide stuff, this one was pretty average, just a nice B. The heroine was a bit silly, but definitely NOT tstl (too stupid to live). She did get into a dangerous situation, but she did this by obeying Adrian's exact instructions. The only element that I found remarkable and enjoyed was Adrian's worry that Sara was going to reject him when she found out he was the "Wolf". Apart from that, just a nice book.


As of an hour ago, I've finally managed to replace all the documentation that got stolen from me during my vacation. I'm pretty impressed with how things have improved in the last years. Today I replaced my ID card, a process which I remembered as taking hours of waiting. You had to make huge lines at the crack of dawn to get an appointment and then come back at that time and wait more hours as the card was made.

It was nothing like it this time. I called a special phone number to get an appointment (I'll pay for the price of the card with my phone bill) and got a date for today. I got there at 7:15 and was out by 7:45. Great!


Trust Me, by Jayne Ann Krentz

>> Tuesday, March 25, 2003

This weekend I also read Trust Me, by Jayne Ann Krentz.

Desdemona Wainwright thinks Sam Stark looks much too calm for a man who has just been left at the altar. But she was hired to cater his wedding, not to save it. She marches into Stark's den to demand the much-needed payment for the canceled reception -- and discovers opposites do attract!

Head of a multimillion-dollar company, Sam decides Desdemona would make the perfect no-strings-attached, stand-in wife, little dreaming how she will drive him crazy with desire.

But when someone breaks into Sam's secret computer files, sinister intrigue swirls around this unlikely pair. Now they must discover the real appeal of unstoppable passion and unbreakable faith...

This one was a very solid A+. How could I have forgotten how great Trust Me was? It's definitely in my top 5 JAKs, with Ravished, Mistress, Family Man and Fabulous Beast. Yes, this is very much a comfort read, but this doesn't mean it's mediocre in any way. It's much more than just comfort, everything was excellent, the characters, the supporting cast, the setting, even the suspense subplot, which isn't usually something I enjoy much. Just perfect.

There's not much I can say about this one that I haven't said a 1000 times before about other JAK books, simply because the good things here were what I've loved about this author's other books, only here they are especially well-done and satisfying.

Stark and Desdemona were lovely, and I just adored their relationship. Sam was so socially inept! Those scenes where he simply ignored all social conventions were priceless, and, as Desdemona said once, he was too sexy to be tacky!

Ok, I'll stop now, because all I'll be able to do is gush!


The Edge of Heaven, by Teresa Hill

There's something screwy here at blogspot. I've a post which won't show up in the archives, so I can't link to it in my Index of Reads. I'm reposting here, just in case the Blogger help desk can't help me and this gets lost:


Another book read in February was Teresa Hill's The Edge of Heaven. I'd already read and enjoyed one of her category books, written as Sally Tyler Hayes: Her Secret Guardian. Unfortunately, my reaction to this one was completely different.

He waited for this moment for most of his life, but now that he apparently found his older brother Sam in Baxter, Ohio, Rye McRae hesitates, not sure of the reception he will receive. As he watches the house with a hope of finding family love inside, Emma McRae returns home from college. Her boyfriend Mark abused her so Emma fled to the sanctuary of her adopted parents' home. However, Sam and Rachel leave town to help a pregnant relative before Emma can explain her plight.

Rye finally finds the courage to knock, but an answering Emma thinks he is seeking a job with Sam. He fails to tell her his identity claiming only to be a friend of her adopted father. As Mark begins to stalk Emma, Rye intercedes to keep her safe and that leads to Rye getting into trouble with the law. Still Rye will risk jail to keep Emma safe, not just because she is family, but because he loves her with all his heart.

This was a difficult book, basically because of the age difference between the protagonists, which is a major issue here. At 25, I'm not that much older than Emma (telling precisely how old she is would be a spoiler), and I don't think I'd be too averse to having a relationship with a guy Rye's age, so it's not that I didn't like this book just because of the age difference.

Anyway, I did like the first part of the book, but things went swiftly downhill when their relationship came out and the looooong separation started. I usually don't like long separations, but I've been known to tolerate them. Not here. I didn't feel it was necessary for them to grow up, and I disliked the motivations for it. IMO, Rye didn't back off because he really though Emma was too young for him, but because Sam disapproved. So he was, in effect, proving that his relationship with his brother was more important to him than Emma. Very romantic.

My grade for this: C+, and it isn't a D because I liked the first part of the book.


A Mind To Murder, by PD James

>> Monday, March 24, 2003

I read River of Eden at the same time as a PD James book, A Mind To Murder. This is book #2 in the Adam Dalgliesh series. The books in the series can be read independently, since each chronicles a different case, and the connecting thread is the detective, Adam Dalgliesh and his colleagues at Scotland Yard.

When the administrative head of the Steen Psychiatric Clinic is found dead with a chisel in her heart, Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. Dalgliesh must analyze the deep-seated anxieties and thwarted desires of patients and staff alike to determine which of their resolved conflicts resulted in murder.
AMTM was the perfect book to break up a bit the non-stop action of River of Eden. When the action got too stressful for me, the calm, stately pace of AMTM was a welcome respite.

This one's an early PD James, as I've said. It's a 1963 book and it's more a traditional whodunnit than her latest novels. Like these, it does have outstanding character development, but it was a much more streamlined work.

I enjoyed the characters, even if I didn't really like any of them. It's just a pleasure to read characters who feel like real people, each with his or her virtues and defects. And, to tell the truth, Dalgliesh didn't get on my nerves as much as he did in Death in Holy Orders, which was very good!

The mystery was interesting and intrincate, but the resolution felt a bit forced and unbelievable. Still, I enjoyed it: a B-.


River of Eden, by Glenna McReynolds

I spent a beautiful weekend in Punta del Este, and I did lots of reading. The first book I read, which I'd started last week, was River of Eden (excerpt), by Glenna McReynolds. Great book: B+

Bad-boy scientist Will Travers may have an ivy league mind, but he's got the spirit of the jungle in his heart and the kiss of the Amazon on his body.

With his sun bronzed skin, a week's worth of beard, and a shaman's crystal around his neck, Will Sanchez Travers looked more like a man mothers warned their daughters about than a Harvard-trained ethnobotonist. And if only half the rumors about him were true, Dr. Annie Parrish figured she was in trouble. Still, she needed the rogue scientist to ferry her upriver in search of a prize so extraordinary, it would make her reputation-- if it didn't get her killed first.

When she'd reluctantly agreed to take the legendary Amazon Annie deep into the Brazilian rain forest, Will expected a woman warrior, not a blond ragamuffin renegade whose secrets ran darker than he could have imagined. But once the journey begins, there will be no turning back as they enter territory--of the wilderness and the heart--as dangerous as it is beautiful, desperate to stop a twisted destroyer of worlds before his nightmarish fantasy becomes horribly real. Amid sorcery--the yearning for vengeance, or a power as potent and seductive as the heart of a singular, magical orchid?

This was a magical book, of the kind that isn't easy to write. Most of the mystical stuff here about shamans and spirit anacondas and so on might feel fanciful and ridiculous in other books. Here, it enhanced the rest of the story, lending it a feeling of inevitability that I felt covered some potential plot problems.

Will was a to-die-for hero. He was a very sexy and cute beta, a sweet and easygoing guy who, all the same exuded sex through every pore. Furthermore, he was perfect for Annie. I don't think anyone else could have admired her and understood her the way he did. He didn't seek to dominate her and he admired her guts, just what would have kept any man from really dominating her. Most importantly, he respected the fact that she felt she had to do certain things, things that might very well put them both in peril, and he didn't get angry with her because of it. When he wants to leave her behind in an island, out of danger, and she knocks him out until that becomes impossible? A lesser guy would be furious. He admires her for it.

Annie was a bit harder for me to like, basically because I didn't completely buy her motivations. I think the problem might have been that the author didn't really manage to convey the utter horror of her experience in Yavareté in Corisco's hands. She saysit was terrifying, but I never got a feeling for it, she never managed to make me shiver in identification. This meant that I didn't completely understand her compulsion to come back to Brazil to have her revenge on Corisco. My reaction was "What the hell are you doing here? Stay where you're safe!". And this is where the supernatural element, with all its air of inevitability came into play and helped me buy (at least a bit more) that she simply had to go back.

For all that I loved Will and Annie together, there was something missing in the development of their relationship. This book was such a fast-paced non-stop adventure, that there weren't enough quiet moments where they could talk and get to know each other better. Same with the love scenes: they were steamy (and came after a sexual tension so thick you could cut it with a knife), but they could have been much better with some talking incorporated into them. I'm not asking for JAK-like scenes, where they carry out long, involved conversations while in the middle of intercourse ;-) but I feel some verbal communication would have much improved these scenes. And the conclusion to their relationship felt much too abrupt. Action stops, and we go onto the epilogue, where they are deliriously happy and expecting a child. Sorry, but I wanted a scene where they actually discussed that they loved each other... a kind of emotional pay-off scene, if you will.

The whole plot about Corisco Vargas (yet another corrupt Latin American militaryman. Ever seen one sane, kind Latin member of the military in a romance novel? This is irritating.) and his plans about a Noite do Diabo (Night of the Devil) was where the mystical stuff was too much. The only good part about this subplot was how the author didn't make Corisco one of those almost all-powerful villains, invincible by anyone in the world except the hero and heroine. Nope, through Fat Eddie, we were shown how he actually came across as a nut, a ridiculous guy whose plans were by no means inevitable.

I very much enjoyed River of Eden and will definitely look for the author's backlist


A Touch of Silk, by Lori Wilde

>> Friday, March 21, 2003

The last book I read this weekend was a Blaze, Lori Wilde's A Touch of Silk (excerpt).

Manhattan reporter Kay Freemont spends her days writing about sex — and her nights wondering what all the hype is about. So when sexy, single Quinn Scofield places an advertisement in her magazine for a wife, Kay decides it's way past time she found out!

Although Kay knows she's too repressed to live out her most forbidden fantasies, under Quinn's imaginative tutelage she becomes more in tune with her own sensuality. This city girl thinks she has time for only a red-hot fling — unless Quinn has his way, and she accepts his offer of a lifetime of incredible sex!

I was a bit doubtful about the personals thingie, but it turns out this book wasn't about what I thought it would be. I don't know what you think after reading the back cover blurb I quoted above, but I thought the story would be that journalist Kay would be investigating the "modern-day mail-order bride" phenomenon, or whatever she'd call it, and so would answer Quinn's ad as a way to do research. So, she'd go to Alaska (oh, the fact that it's set in Alaska is advertised by a sticker on the front cover. What are the odds that I'd read 2 books set there the same weekend?) and misrepresent herself to him. She'd be thinking she was there to see if he'd do as a husband, she'd be there for research, but wouldn't be able to resist a hot little affair. I had it all figured out, see?

Boy, was I wrong. Kay meets Quinn on a plane, where they lust after one another but that's it. Then they meet again at the magazine she works at, because Quinn is there to see about placing his ad (a full page ad) there. Kay's boss thinks it might be an interesting story, and sends Kay to Alaska to do research (all aboveboard, Quinn thinks it's a great idea and offers to show her around). I must say I liked this much better than what I'd imagined.

I had lots of fun at the beginning when the author described the men Kay had a secret weakness for, versus the guy who was actually her boyfriend. Her ideal guy would be:

... burly outdoorsy men. Strong, physical men, who played contact sports and repaired their own cars. Men who chopped wood and roasted raw meat over fire pits. Men who'd fight to the death to protect their women."
Sorry, but yuck. You can keep those guys, Kay. I want someone like the much-derided Lloyd:
"(a) brainy, pacifist vegetarian, who didn't even own a car, much less know how to work on one"
Now that's a man after my own heart. Problem is, as soon as Wilde described him, I just knew he'd turn out to be a bitchy, whiney, wimp, who'd probably be cheating on her. He was. It's disappointing, really, when the author takes such an obvious easy way out.

Ok, enough going off in tangents. The book itself was likeable enough, but I'm not a big fan of the heroine asking the hero for sexual tutoring angle, so I didn't get to enjoy the very nice sexual tension as much as I would have otherwise. And there was a bit too much emphasis on the goodness of small-town life for my taste. Quinn was the perfect guy, but sadly underwritten, and Kay was basically just a bunch of sexual neuroses. Hmm, it seems I liked this even less than I thought I had!

Still, this one made for easy reading. Just one problem with the style: breaks (that is, white space between one line and the next, I don't know what that's called) signifying changes in point of view. Sorry, breaks for me mean that either there's a change of scene or that time has passed. It's a little disconcerting when they use them like they do here. I think I've seen this in other Blazes, so maybe this is a new Harlequin house style, I don't know. Hate it, it throws me right out of the story.

Anyway, this story was kinda ok but unremarkable. My grade is a C+.


Tempt Me With Kisses, by Margaret Moore

Two more books and I'll finish with what I read on the weekend. Lucky I didn't do much reading during the week!

First, Tempt Me With Kisses (excerpt), by Margaret Moore. I've had it in my TBR pile for a few months, but it hadn't really called to me (I'm usually a bit leery of medievals). This changed after I read Moore's story in The Brides of Christmas, which was very impressive.

Everyone knows that red-haired women are nothing but trouble, so when enchanting, flame-haired Fiona MacDougal rides into his castle courtyard announcing that she is willing to become his bride, Caradoc of Wales knows to be wary -- even of such a beautiful Scottish lass bearing gifts. He has no desire to take himself a wife, but her kisses are so tempting that the idea of an intimate -- and permanent -- union becomes most appealing indeed.

The thought of marrying this bold, handsome warrior sends shivers of delight down Fiona's spine. She wants nothing more than to tell him the entire truth -- that in his strong embrace she is certain to be safe from the despicable blackguard who would marry her for his own selfish gain. Fiona loves Caradoc dearly, but can she ever win her passionate husband's trust -- or gain his love -- if he discovers the real reason she sought him out?

Well, it certainly looks that I've found a new author whose backlist to glom. Like the short story, this was a very solid B+, and almost went into the A range.

The best about TMWK was how fresh and original it seemed. Every time I thought "Oh, shit, now this is going to happen", nope, the story went in another direction. Not a completely different direction... I mean, I knew that Fiona's Big Secret was going to come out soon the minute they confessed their love to each other, but this happened in a way I hadn't really seen coming.

I also thought the characters were outstanding. Caradoc was definitely my kind of hero... a nice beta, shyish, and lonely. I felt for him, because the poor guy seemed to be so unappreciated by his people. He really did deserve someone like Fiona. This wasn't one of those heros who are always right and always know what to do. No, he was a real person, fallible and unsure about what to do at times. It's good to have a hero that's not larger-than-life sometimes. The only time when he irritated me was when he wouldn't appologize to Fiona because he thought he was bad at expressing his feelings and would make everything worse. Right, look for another excuse!

Fiona was great too. I liked that she actually did have a past, and understood why she would feel she needed to keep it a secret. However, I did feel she kept that secret for too long. Also, I thought she was a bit underwritten, probably because Caradoc was so well-developed.

Oh, and another thing I loved here was how the author actually denounced xenophobia. It's unbelievable how many books I've read where characters are suspicious and resentful about others because they are from a different culture and this isn't considered to be a problem. Not here: the characters who hated the heroine because she wasn't Welsh were presented as stupid and prejudiced, and they were shown the errors of their ways. Loved this!!

There's a book about Caradoc's brother, Connor, which I believe takes place before the action in TMWK. There was just enough info here about this book that I want to read it (in spite of the F review in AAR. It helps that I very often don't agree with this particular reviewer, most recently about Hill's The Edge of Heaven, which was a keeper for her), but I didn't feel the author hit me over the head with it.


To Tame the Hunter, by Jayne Ann Krentz

>> Thursday, March 20, 2003

I'll finish writing about my weekend reads. Considering this is Thursday, it looks like I've completely ignored my journal this week!

On Saturday I read Jayne Ann Krentz's To Tame The Hunter

.Selena Caldwell manages a artist's shop and York Sutherland runs his own corporation. The two seem to be from opposite ends of the spectrum, but are they more a like than they think? A chance meeting at a party, whereSelena is the girlfriend of York's chief rival. A mutual passion erupts, but is it business or love for York? Will these two dynamic personalities find each other and if so who will be the first to surrender?
I enjoyed this one, but it was not particularly memorable. A B- for me.

This was a pretty typical early 1980s JAK book. As in most of her series books, the story starts in the middle of a situation already established. Selena and York have already met, and he's already started to chase her, trying to get her away from her boyfriend, his business rival. York manages to get her to break up with Richard and begin a relationship with him early in the story, so the conflict is mainly that Selena isn't really sure if York wants her or he wants to use her as a way to punish Richard. Pretty standard early JAK, as I've said, forced seductions and all.

I really liked Selena. She's a competent, gutsy woman, and though I didn't really understand her insistence on getting York to give up his plans for revenge, I admired how she went about doing it.

There were a few things I didn't like much. I just hate it when there's no hero POV in the story. The guy ends up being too much of a mystery for me. The best scene in this book, IMO, was the lone scene where JAK managed to show us how York was feeling, his desperation at thinking he hadn't succeeded in getting Selena to love him and that she was running away from him.


I stayed up late last night watching the news coverage of the first strikes. Actually, I'd gone to bed early, but my dad woke me up to tell me the war had started, so I watched TV for a whle, even though nothing much was happening. I swear, it looked like the news anchors were actually disappointed there were no explosions and stuff going on. Idiots. My position is firmly against this war, but now that it's started, I just hope it's over as soon as possible and that the US administration is right and this won't destabilize the Middle East and will bring democracy to the region.

I feel almost guilty about writing about such a frivolous subject as romance novels, with all this going on, and I wondered for a while if I should keep writing this blog. I've decided I will.


I do, I do, I do, by Maggie Osborne

>> Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Ok, onto nicer subjects. The first book I read during the weekend was I do, I do, I do, by Maggie Osborne.

A rich, proper spinster aching for a man's touch, Juliette March is an easy target for the seductive Jean Jacques Villette. When he disappears with her inheritance after their wedding, Juliette sets out to find the scoundrel. She never expects to meet Clara Klaus, who ran a boardinghouse until Jean Jacques swept her off her feet, then swept himself out of town.

While following the trail of their no-good husband, Clara and Juliette run into Zoe Wilder, another victim of the debonair Jean Jacques. Now Juliette's ready to put a bullet in his cheating heart. When these three vengeful ladies embark on a misbegotten quest to Alaska, things get downright dangerous--especially for the unsuspecting men they entice along the way. . . .

My grade for this book was a B. There were many things I loved. It was quite funny and romantic, and the setting (Alaska, during the gold rush) was original and fascinating. Osborne obviously did her research, and it shows. The best thing was that it was very well integrated into the narrative. Also, I felt the characters showed real growth, especially Juliette. Except maybe for Clara, they had serious issues to deal with, and the way they got over them was very believable.

However, my problem was that I didn't feel too invested in the 3 love stories. This worked better as fiction than as romance, IMO, in spite of some wonderful love scenes. Also, I simply couldn't believe that they didn't check the legality of their weddings as soon as they realized what had happened. I would think that's the first thing one would do!


I'm still sick, and my uncle says it's sinusitis. He won't allow me to go back to work until tomorrow. I'm feeling much better today, so I think I'll be able to do a book update, with what I read last weekend. Yesterday my head felt so stuffy that I couldn't concentrate enough to read. I ended up watching the news non-stop... war, war, war... nothing but war. It's so depressing. Whatever your opinion on whether this war is justified, I think everyone must feel it's a shame that it's come to this.


>> Monday, March 17, 2003

I'm sick today. Sore throat, a cold (stuffy nose and sinuses, ear ache and all) and... not to gross you out or anything, but a few... hmm... "episodes" of diarrhea. I called my uncle, who's also my doctor (he does what we call here "Medicina General", I think it might be similar to what's called a General Practitioner in English?) and he told me to stay home from work; he'll come by in the afternoon to take a look at me. He thinks it might be a virus. Hopefully, this isn't that new killer pneumonia going around in Asia these days!


The Edge of Heaven, by Teresa Hill

>> Friday, March 14, 2003

Another book read in February was Teresa Hill's The Edge of Heaven. I'd already read and enjoyed one of her category books, written as Sally Tyler Hayes: Her Secret Guardian. Unfortunately, my reaction to this one was completely different.

He waited for this moment for most of his life, but now that he apparently found his older brother Sam in Baxter, Ohio, Rye McRae hesitates, not sure of the reception he will receive. As he watches the house with a hope of finding family love inside, Emma McRae returns home from college. Her boyfriend Mark abused her so Emma fled to the sanctuary of her adopted parents' home. However, Sam and Rachel leave town to help a pregnant relative before Emma can explain her plight.

Rye finally finds the courage to knock, but an answering Emma thinks he is seeking a job with Sam. He fails to tell her his identity claiming only to be a friend of her adopted father. As Mark begins to stalk Emma, Rye intercedes to keep her safe and that leads to Rye getting into trouble with the law. Still Rye will risk jail to keep Emma safe, not just because she is family, but because he loves her with all his heart.

This was a difficult book, basically because of the age difference between the protagonists, which is a major issue here. At 25, I'm not that much older than Emma (telling precisely how old she is would be a spoiler), and I don't think I'd be too averse to having a relationship with a guy Rye's age, so it's not that I didn't like this book just because of the age difference.

Anyway, I did like the first part of the book, but things went swiftly downhill when their relationship came out and the looooong separation started. I usually don't like long separations, but I've been known to tolerate them. Not here. I didn't feel it was necessary for them to grow up, and I disliked the motivations for it. IMO, Rye didn't back off because he really though Emma was too young for him, but because Sam disapproved. So he was, in effect, proving that his relationship with his brother was more important to him than Emma. Very romantic.

My grade for this: C+, and it isn't a D because I liked the first part of the book.


Affair, by Amanda Quick

I reread Amanda Quick's Affair in February.

After the murder of her scurrilous stepfather, Charlotte Arkendale is left with scant means to care for her younger sister. She opens a discreet investigative service to provide other respectable women with information on prospective suitors. When a client is murdered, Charlotte comes to the attention of Baxter St. Ives, who believes Charlotte is a murderess and seeks to gain employment as her man of affairs. Inevitably, logic (and passion!) convince Baxter of her innocence, and he must protect Charlotte from the deadly adversary determined to destroy them.
I liked this much better now than I did when I first read it. Then, I thought this one didn't even begin to compare with the previous Quicks, but I loved it this time. I was wrong, in her AQ books, the author didn't jump the shark in 1996. She still has "it" in this 1997 release, that closeness and intimacy between the protagonists that is missing in more recent work. My grade for Affair is an A.

The plot is nothing too innovative, though it seems about here AQ started concentrating less on tonnish aristocrats and more in untitled gentlemen and women, and finally left ingenues behind, in favor of stronger heroines. This is a direction I like just as well as the previous one. I found Charlotte and Baxter's occupations very interesting. In fact, Charlotte's was genious, reminiscent of Victoria did in Surrender, sending Bow Street runners to investigate potential suitors for her friend.

Baxter was pure AQ, the guy who thinks himself an unexciting bore, but whose true nature is only seen by the heroine. I loved how he was pretty incapable of demonstrating superficial charm. His relationship with his brother was an especially nice touch.

The suspense subplot was a bit fanciful, but its best feature was that it allowed us to see Charlotte and Baxter working together, Baxter being unusually amenable to Charlotte being his true partner here.

All in all, I'm glad I reread this. My recollections of it were completely off-base. Let's see if With This Ring turns out to be a nice surprise too.


The Brides of Christmas anthology

The last thing I've read is 2 of the 3 stories in an anthology titled The Brides of Christmas. The third story I already read months ago, when I first bought this book, because it's the 4th installment in Deborah Simmons' de Burgh series.

The first story is The Wise Virgin, by Jo Beverley. After reading Beverley's story in the In Praise of Younger Men anthology, I was especially interested in reading this.

It was a daring attempt to rescue Lady Nicolette de Montelan before her father finds out that she's pregnant with an enemy family's child, but it goes awry because Nicolette's cousin Joan has played the Blessed Virgin in the Christmas reenactment. After all, for Nicolette to do it would have been sacrilege!

Now, however, Lady Joan finds herself trapped in a cave on Christmas Eve with the great Edmund de Grave, the Golden Lion, and neither of them are pleased about it. He's annoyed that his plan has been spoiled and worried about his brother, now in enemy hands. She's disappointed that a distant hero has turned out to be the sort to get a lady with child outside of marriage. A mighty battle ensues, but one that ends up breaking ancient hatreds and bringing the true spirit of Christmas and love to everyone around.

This one was good, but very definitely not as good as the one in IPOYM. We had interesting characters and a pretty engaging story, but there was something about it that felt slightly off. Something about Joan and Edmund's interactions just didn't ring true to me, but that's as far as I can pinpoint my problems. Oh, and I felt the story would have been better if we'd had at least a little bit from Edmund's POV. My grade: B-


The second story was The Vagabond Knight, by Margaret Moore. This is an author I hadn't tried yet, but I have one of her books, Tempt Me With Kisses, in my TBR pile. After this story, I'll probably move it up and read it soon.

A lady's quiet Christmas is disrupted by an impertinent, boisterous knight who seeks shelter from a storm. Lady Katherine DuMonde thinks Sir Rafe Bracton is trouble the moment she sees him, but courtesy and duty command that she be a hospitable hostess. As for Rafe, he thinks the lady will enjoy his company, once she thaws. Rafe, however, has seriously underestimated Lady Katherine. She has long told herself she doesn't need any friendly companionship, or anything else a man might offer, especially one as noisy and overwhelming as the undeniably attractive Rafe. Drawn together by circumstances, the couple are forced to confront both their pasts and their future as they discover the most precious gift of all, love.
This one was a very, very sweet story, but of the good kind of sweet, not saccharine. I probably liked it because I just love heroes like Rafe, guys who hide the fact that their lives are tough and they are unhappy behind a façade of good humour. In some ways, Rafe reminded me of Teagan, from Justiss's My Lady's Pleasure.

I just wish this had been a full-length novel, not a novella. All my problems with it can be traced to length constraints. We wouldn't have had the door shut in our faces during the love scene and it wouldn't have been necessary to have the walking plot device that was Father Coll interfere in the story. It would have been much better if Rafe and Katherine had changed their attitude more naturally, not because of Father Coll's advice. Still, I really liked this story, and my grade for it is B+.


My grade for the whole anthology, including the Simmons story (which I graded C-), is B


>> Thursday, March 13, 2003

Ok, geek time. I've been playing with spreadsheets, and I've now entered the info of what I read on my vacation into my records (wow, that sounds important!). As I mentioned, total number of books read: 30. Some conclusions:

The author I read the most (as it must be obvious to anyone who reads this, was Jayne Ann Krentz in all her pseudonyms. I read 9 JAKs, 4 Amanda Quicks and 1 Stephanie James: a grand total of 14, almost half of what I read.

Though I felt I'd been doing a lot of rereading, in fact I reread the same proportion as I did in the over 2 years I've been keeping track of my reading: 30% of the total.

The genre where I read the most was Category Romance, with 12 (40%), but that was probably because I read 8 of JAK's, mostly the original Harlequin editions. After that, 7 books (23%) were European Historicals, 5 (17%) were Suspense or Mystery (all 5 with a romantic thread, but concentrating mostly on other stuff), 4 (13%) were Contemporary Romance. I also read a Science Fiction Romance (one of JAK's) and an Anthology.

Since I basically read stuff I had been saving for my vacation because I knew I'd like it, I did very, very well. No real duds: the lowest grade was C+, for 2 books. The others were mostly in the B range, with quite a few As: 8. Three of those were rereads, but I got 5 new As! Those were (go here to read what I wrote about each of these books. If it's not there yet, it's because I haven't written anything yet):

  • The Shadowy Horses, by Susanna Kearsley: A+
  • Death in Kashmir, by MM Kaye: A
  • Lord of the Silent, by Elizabeth Peters: A
  • Gallant Waif, by Anne Gracie: A-
  • True Colors, by Jayne Ann Krentz: A
It's especially interesting that all the books which got A+ or A I'd labeled Suspense-Mystery.


Death in Kashmir, by MM Kaye

>> Wednesday, March 12, 2003

On the cover page of Death in Kashmir, by MM Kaye, I found a quote from the Boston Globe which pretty much sums up what I found so appealing about the "Death Abroad" books: "...the mystery novels of MM Kaye have the charm of being utterly predictable: a touch of mayhem in an exotic location, some wholesome romance and a plucky young English heroine to put things to rights.". Yup, that's it.

This particular entry in that series was one of the strongest. My grade: an A

Sarah Parrish has traveled to the mountainous paradise of Kashmir for some skiing and much needed relaxation. But a pall is cast over the snow-capped peaks when two women in her party are found dead on the treacherous wintry slopes.

Unable to shake off her conviction that these accidents were in fact murder, Sarah heads down to the lush, alke-rimmed capital city of Srinagar where the women once lived. There she meets the mysterious Charles Mallory, who sparks both passion and foreboding in her heart. And there too she discovers something that chills her very soul . . . and may soon cost her life.

At first, it seemed that this one wouldn't be what I was expecting, but more of an impersonal international spy thriller. It wasn't, and even though it was a spy plot, it was also in a sense the cozy whodunnit I wanted.

Especially interesting was the Kashmir setting. This is a place which is scene to so much violence now, that it was bittersweet to see it as it had once been. And Kaye makes the setting so vivid! It's almost like being there.

The plot was clever and intrincate, and provided for genuinely chilling moments. The cast of characters was very well-drawn, the heroine appealing, the writing style lots of fun... I just loved this one. Too bad I have only one other book in the series left to read.


Now You See Me, by Tina Wainscott

I finished Now You See Me, by Tina Wainscott, today. I started it Monday morning, right after watching a programme about profilers on the History Channel. I know, there are no profilers on this book, but what I mean is this show made me feel like reading something really Romantic Suspense, preferably with serial killers or something like that.

Olivia was eight years old when she was trapped in the twisted fantasies of a kidnapper. Escaping with her life, the trauma left her blind, and her innocence shattered. But Olivia would escape with something else-a psychic gift that has become her greatest weapon...

Sixteen years to the day, it's happened again. A little girl named Phaedra has disappeared. Olivia saw it happen. In her private darkness came the visions: the toys...the chloroform...the scissors...the cage...

Olivia shares the stark fear in the young girl's eyes, and the terrifying fate only Olivia can stop. But to find the fiendish killer and save Phaedra means returning to the terrors of her own past-and opening her eyes to an inescapable new nightmare.

This book was definitely a page-turner, but ultimately, it required much too much suspension of disbelief for me. As information started being revealed about who exactly the kidnapper was, it became more and more farfetched, until I just stopped believing in the plausibility of it all. I've got to admit, though, that Wainscott was flawless at setting up the stories, giving us just enough clues to solve the case (in my case, I did so only a little ahead of the final confrontation).

Olivia and Max were very likeable characters, and their conflicts and problems were believable and interesting. However, these two were the only remotely likeable major characters in the book. The rest (except Stacia, Olivia's dog), were really annoying and/or obnoxious.

The romance was very light, and it might have made for an even better book if it had been kept even lighter. This book has an extremely short time-span, and the relationship felt like it developed too fast.

My grade for this book is a C+. I don't regret reading it, but it wasn't really satisfying.


Silver Linings, by Jayne Ann Krentz

>> Tuesday, March 11, 2003

The second book was a Krentz from 1991, Silver Linings. My grade for it was a B+.

Successful but shy, Seattle art dealer Mattie Sharpe fell for handsome, outspoken, professional adventurer Hugh Abbot at first sight. So she turned up her courage, let down her hair and made him an offer she thought he couldn't refuse. But he broke her heart, and left Seattle for his South Sea island home. Angry and hurt, Mattie endured the advice of her eccentric, artistic family -- a sister who disdained Hugh as too "elemental," and an aunt who called him a "real" man. Mattie vowed that she'd meet Hugh again over her -- or better, his -- dead body.

When they do meet again, it's over someone else's dead body -- and now they're running for their lives through an island jungle. Hugh's talking fast to make-up for his mistake. Mattie's not listening...until his gentle touch ignites a white-hot fusion, and she gives in. But Hugh's past is catching up with them -- and Mattie must stake her very survival on the man she loves -- the only man who ever let her down!

I enjoyed this, even though Hugh wasn't my usual type of hero. He was very macho, but of the oblivious macho type. A bit of an insensitive, unsophisticated clod, sometimes (OMG, the scene where he tries to talk like the modern, enlightened, sensitive guy he thinks Mattie needs was a riot!). But, as he says once, he means well. He really does try to understand Mattie and give her what he needs, even to the extreme of being willing to give up his dreams and moving to Seattle just to be with her. Of course, she doesn' take him up on the offer, this being a romance novel and all *exasperated sigh*, but what the hell. The life Mattie's going to is much better suited to her stress-prone self than the one she was leading.

Mattie was a surprisingly strong heroine. She seemed to be a bit too much of a quiet, nurturing, understanding woman at first, but she was very firm about not allowing Hugh to manipulate her and walk all over her and drag her off to the islands. She held him off until she was sure of what she wanted to do, and she really made Hugh work for what he wanted.

I did enjoy the plot outside of their relationship. The "adventure" part was mercifully short, and the supporting cast well drawn. I especially liked Evangeline, the "working girl" from the islands.


Surrender, by Amanda Quick

Back to writing about what I read in February, two more JAK / Amanda Quick coming up. Yes, I really did read quite a lot of her. I'm beginning to get tired of writing about her!

Ok, first: a Quick book: Surrender, which was an A- for me.

From the dazzling ballrooms of glittering London society to magnificent, cursed estate in the distant wilds of Yorkshire, comes the deliciously wicked story of a thoroughly unconventional courtship -- and a thrilling midnight rendezvous that could only lead to love... At four and twenty Victoria Huntington thought herself quite adept at fending off fortune hunters... until she came under siege from Lucas Colebrook, the darkly disturbing new Earl of Stonevale. Amidst the brightly plumed birds of the town, Lucas was a hawk. And when he held out the lure of moonlit rides and wild, reckless midnight escapades, Victoria found herself powerless to resist.

But becoming Stonevale's companion in adventure was far more dangerous undertaking than Victoria could ever imagine. For the attractive Earl would use her every weakness to woo her, to win her, and ultimately to wed her. And soon the amber-eyed lady would find herself ensconced in a crumbling mansion deep in the English countryside... where the real reason for her hasty marriage becomes all too apparent...and where the ghosts of her dark-stained past are waiting to rise up in a terrifying plot that will threaten her life, her honor, and the only man she could ever love.

I left this one to read til almost last of all her Quick books because I vaguely remembered it as being similar in some ways to Seduction. I thought I would hate Lucas, the hero. I didn't. Yes, he started to pursue Vicky for her money, but it saved him in my eyes that I did believe that he didn't marry her for it. He was already in love (or in lust!) with her.

And Vicky's reaction when she realized what had happened was perfectly appropriate, IMO: a bit of sulking, but then she resigned herself to the inevitable. I do admire it when people are strong enough to realize that sometimes it's futile to fight, and do their best to make the best of things. Vicky did, but she also didn't give Lucas an inch more than she had to. I loved that she didn't cut off her nose to spite her face for pride, and that Lucas really suffered because of what she was doing. He really needed to hear her words of love and not feel she was simply doing her duty, and I thought better of him for caring and admitting that he cared.

The suspense subplot wasn't too good. The villain's motivations, especially for wanting Vicky dead, didn't make any sense. However, this part of the book was nicely light, and mostly disappeared when Vicky and Lucas were in Yorkshire, so that's ok.

This isn't my favourite Quick, but it's close.


Lost and Found, by Jayne Ann Krentz

The last book I read this weekend was another Jayne Ann Krentz, this time one of her latest, more Romantic Suspense-y ones: Lost and Found. My grade for it is a B.

Cady Briggs was happy to get out of the family business. Aunt Vesta's antiques gallery may be a prestigious and successful business, but the stress and responsibilities weren't much fun for her, nor were the frequent comparisons to Aunt Vesta's quirky personality. Cady much prefers her art-consulting business, especially when it leads to meeting enigmas like Mack Easton. Mack's request for help tracking down a stolen Renaissance helm seems like an easy job, and a good way to get to know the mysterious man.

When Aunt Vesta dies under suspicious circumstances, Cady finds she needs to call on Mack's unique talents. Posing as Cady's "almost fiancé," Mack helps investigate the complex workings of the antique world. Sparks begin to fly, however, as everyone becomes confused about the true nature of their relationship, including Cady and Mack.

It seems that JAK is devoting less and less space to the romance part in her books, and adding to the suspense elements. This is something I don't much like. Still, the suspense subplot here was engaging and the romance (at least what there was of it!) was ok.

First the romance: definitely not her best. I really bought the beginning of their relationship, and how they started being attracted to each other through e-mail and phone interactions. This rang true to me, probably because I've had a couple of work-related phone and e-mail-only relationships where I developed a pretty nice rapport with the other person. They never escalated to real attraction, but I definitely see how they could have. However, when they finally met, the chemistry wasn't too good. It was all relatively unemotional, and I really didn't see them falling in love.

The suspense subplot did compensate for much of this. It was interesting and I liked the process of unraveling all the threads. Cady and Mack didn't just hide everything from everyone else and from each other and try to present the world with a fait accompli. No, they shared with potential allies as soon as they had something substantial, and everything ended up being a group effort.

Some little details: I would have liked the decorative art to be more present in the story, since I found the info Krentz put in fascinating. Loved the setting. The names Cady and Mack weren't too good. Maybe it was just me, but I felt neither was overwhelmingly feminine of masculine, so for much of the first third of the book I had to think twice whenever one of them was mentioned, to remember if this was the heroine or hero.


The Cowboy, by Jayne Ann Krentz

>> Monday, March 10, 2003

Book # 3 is The Cowboy, was probably my favourite of the trilogy. It's a B+, like # 2, but I liked it slightly better.

Romance writer Margaret Lark was just getting her life together when Rafe Cassidy, a man from her past, shows up lounging in her house as if he belonged there. He had come back to convince her that he wanted her back and to tell her that his mother and her father were going to get married. Not believing this, she decides to take him up on his offer of going down to his Arizona Ranch. Will history repeat itself when an old boss asks her for a favor, or will she find happiness with her cowboy?
This book started with something I hate: the heroine being manipulated by everyone and his mother to do something she didn't want to do, because they all just knew it was the right thing for her. (There's a thread in AAR's Potpourri Message Board which explains exactly what bothers me about this and does so much more articulately than I could possibly write it. Here's a link to the actual post, at least as long as it's there on the board). I kept wishing she'd tell them all to go to hell, and that Rafe would be forced to try a different way to get Margaret to give him a second chance.

Why did I enjoy this, then? Well, for the most part, it was a guilty pleasure kind of thing, but Rafe did get better. After he'd manipulated into coming to his ranch, he did deign to apologize for what he'd done and ask her reasonably to give their relationship a real second chance. I might be too vengeful, but I usually find heroines forgive heros too soon, and don't make them grovel enough, but it felt just right here.

A little nit to pick: I simply hated the cowboy-wear. Those cowboy boots, with strange decorations... I'd probably find them a real turn-off in real life.


The Adventurer, by Jayne Ann Krentz

Book #2 is The Adventurer, and I liked it better than #1. This one gets a B+.

Sarah Fleetwood has always gone with her instincts, and her gut instincts are telling her that Gideon Trace is her hero. Sarah wants to find the Fleetwood Flowers, gold and gem earrings owned (and buried) by her ancester Emelina. And Gideon, an expert on treasure hunting with whom Sarah has been corresponding, is just the man to help her find them. But Gideon isn't quite sure what to make of Sarah when she arrives on his doorstep and tells him just that!
Actually, I can't believe I liked Sarah as much as I did. Eternally cheerful, perpetually perky heroines are usually a bore, but not her. Maybe I was in just the right mood? I very much enjoyed the role reversal, having the heroine be the pursuer and actually literally "courting" the hero. She decides Gideon is one of her heros incarnate, despite evidence to the contrary, tells him so, and badgers him until he is. The woman just steamrolls right over him, and I just had to laugh at his bewilderment.

As for Gideon, he could have been one of those stereotypical tortured guys, who treat the heroine like dirt because they were once (once!) betrayed, but he's all right. Of course, the betrayal did have some effects on him, but they were proportionate and made me like him better, not hate him! He has some trust issues, and some insecurities, being afraid Sarah will leave him, but is capable of getting over himself. I loved the ending, Gideon was really romantic.

The suspense subplot was throwaway. The book would have been just as good without Jake.


The Pirate, by Jayne Ann Krentz

I finished Krentz's Ladies and Legends trilogy this weekend (that is, the first I read in February, but the other 2 I read last weekend). It deals with 3 romance authors who are friends, and who each find love with men who are like their heroes come to life. Book # 1, The Pirate was a B- for me.

Katherine Inskip's life is at a standstill: she is completely overworked, stressed-out and indifferent to love--not a great situation for a romance writer to find herself in. She desperately needs some R&R. A South Seas vacation--complete with sun and surf--sounds perfect. But relaxation is the last thing on the mind of the dashing owner of the island resort, and descendant of South Seas pirates.
The Pirate was nice, light fun, and I loved the idea of pairing a romance novelist with one of her heros. I felt they had very nice chemistry and rapport. I just adored Jared's son David, and the relationship those two had. I even liked David when he was doing his match-making routine, even thought I'm not usually too fond of those "I want you to be my mommy" children in romance. It usually feels manipulative, the author tugging at my heartstrings as hard as she can, but it was ok here.

Apart from that, I did feel that there was nothing too compelling here, though.


Naughty But Nice, by Jill Shalvis

>> Friday, March 07, 2003

I tried a Harlequin Blaze next, Naughty But Nice (excerpt), by Jill Shalvis. This one gets a B from me, and so fares better than the only other Shalvis I've read, Her Perfect Stranger.

Cassie Tremaine Montgomery: The stunning lingerie model with a tough-as-nails attitude and a sheriff in her sights.

Sean "Tag" Taggart: The sexy-as-sin sheriff who is more than willing to play Cassie's game...his way.

Cassie intends to use all the seductive powers she has to entice Tag as part of her revenge on her hometown. Tag, however, isn't cooperating. He's more than willing to set the sheets on fire with her, but he's asking for more than just sizzling sex.... He knows she's not as tough as she pretends. And he knows she cares about him — even if she won't admit it. That's fine. He'll just turn up the heat until she concedes there's more between them than this red-hot passion.

My most frequent problem with Blaze books is that so many of them have lame, gimmicky, "only-in-romance-novels" setups. The one here (opening a sexy lingerie shop in town to get revenge on it) sounds idiotic, but it was more believable than I thought it would be. The characters were also nicer than I imagined. Tag, especially, was adorable, and I just love it when the story is that the man wants more and it's the woman who is reluctant (and not too stupid or stubborn about it). There was mybe a bit too much emphasis on one having power over the other, but the love scenes of both trying were hot and lots of fun.

The story conentrated mainly on their relationship and Cassie coming to terms with the town (that was something I liked, it didn't feel like that "small town good, big town evil" crap so many romance novels espouse. It's simply that Cassie realizes it wasn't that everyone despised her, but that she thought they did, so she never noticed that some people were ok.). All this took up most of the book, shoving the shop and the stalker firmly to the background.

As a final note, I thought it was great that the author didn't feel Tag had to come to terms with his jerk of a father, just because he was his father. I hate it when that happens.


Hidden Riches, by Nora Roberts

I reread one of my favourite Nora Roberts: Hidden Riches. A grade of B+.

At an auction in Virginia, antiques dealer Dora Conroy purchases a mismatched box of porcelain figurines and an abstract painting on a whim. Across the country, a man opens his expected shipment to discover the items he received are not the ones he arranged to have shipped. A search begins immediately for the lost shipment; it's a search that brings a murderer closer and closer to Dora Conroy. With the help of her tenant, ex-cop Jed Skimmerhorn, Dora unravels the nature of the violence that has trailed the auction items. As that same violence begins to swirl around Dora, she and Jed are drawn together in a relationship complicated by Jed's past and his undecided future.
I don't get why it's a risk for a romance author to have a strong, sself-assured heroine instead of a naive, virginal one, with an inferiority complex. Nora Roberts' often are of the first variety, and she doesn't do to shabbily in sales. Dora here wasn't an exception, and I thought she was great. The way she teased Jed, especially in the beginning, when they'd just met, that was so much fun. Lots of banter, and she simply refused to be intimidated by his sour moods. Jed I liked too. Even in his worst moods, his sense of humour shone through.

I thought Nora did a great job with the supporting cast. I felt like I knew them all, especially Dora's family (I adored her dad).

My main problem with this book was the sheer amount of space devoted to the villains and their activities. As I think I've said before, I dislike those eeevil, slightly insane villains, and have zero interest in getting to know them well. Every time we went with Finley or Di Carlo, I wished I was back with Dora and Jed. Plus, the suspense subplot pretty much overwhelmed everything else in the last part of the book, which I didn't much like.


I reread one of my favourite Nora Roberts: Hidden Riches. A grade of B+.

At an auction in Virginia, antiques dealer Dora Conroy purchases a mismatched box of porcelain figurines and an abstract painting on a whim. Across the country, a man opens his expected shipment to discover the items he received are not the ones he arranged to have shipped. A search begins immediately for the lost shipment; it's a search that brings a murderer closer and closer to Dora Conroy. With the help of her tenant, ex-cop Jed Skimmerhorn, Dora unravels the nature of the violence that has trailed the auction items. As that same violence begins to swirl around Dora, she and Jed are drawn together in a relationship complicated by Jed's past and his undecided future.
I don't get why it's a risk for a romance author to have a strong, sself-assured heroine instead of a naive, virginal one, with an inferiority complex. Nora Roberts' often are of the first variety, and she doesn't do to shabbily in sales. Dora here wasn't an exception, and I thought she was great. The way she teased Jed, especially in the beginning, when they'd just met, that was so much fun. Lots of banter, and she simply refused to be intimidated by his sour moods. Jed I liked too. Even in his worst moods, his sense of humour shone through.

I thought Nora did a great job with the supporting cast. I felt like I knew them all, especially Dora's family (I adored her dad).

My main problem with this book was the sheer amount of space devoted to the villains and their activities. As I think I've said before, I dislike those eeevil, slightly insane villains, and have zero interest in getting to know them well. Every time we went with Finley or Di Carlo, I wished I was back with Dora and Jed. Plus, the suspense subplot pretty much overwhelmed everything else in the last part of the book, which I didn't much like.


Gallant Waif, by Anne Gracie

>> Thursday, March 06, 2003

After that, I decided to read a book that had been languishing in my To-Be-Read pile for ages: Gallant Waif, by Anne Gracie. I'd heard so many raves about this one and about her other book, Tallie's Knight, that I bought both immediately. I read the latter first and I thought it was nice but nothing special, so I was in no hurry to read Gallant Waif. Plus, awful title. "Waif" says "helpless" to me.

Kate Farleigh was absolutely stunned when her refusal to accept Lady Cahill's offer of "charity" resulted in her being swept away in her sumptuous carriage. But the real reason behind the older woman's antics became stunningly clear upon meeting Lady Cahill's enigmatic grandson, Jack Carstairs.

Wounded in the Peninsular War, disowned by his father and dumped by his fiancée, Jack had shut himself up in his country estate, but Kate had no patience with such behaviour. Suddenly Jack found himself with a purpose, trying to steer clear of Miss Farleigh's attempts to interfere with his chosen lifestyle. Why, if he wasn't careful, Kate just might succeed in her attempts to make him want to rejoin the human race!

This was an A-. It was the first book in ages to make me cry (probably the first since The Man Who Loved Christmas). So powerful! I loved Kate, because though tortured by what had happened to her, she didn't let it turn her into a morose ghost. She kept her good humour and good sense, and did what had to be done. She truly was gallant.

Jack was more a stereotypical tortured, wounded war hero, but IMO, this was Kate's story, so I didn't mind.

For a book with no sex scenes and even no "almost" sex scenes, this one was very sensual, even steamy at times. It felt just right.

The only improvement I can think for this book is length. I'd cut some 30 pages. At times, some parts were a bit repetitive, especially the times when Kate resolved to stop what had been happening with Jack and immediately changed her mind.

Anyway, this one was one of the most emotionally powerful books I've read lately, and I'm very glad I decided to pick it up.


Joy, by Jayne Ann Krentz

Joy, an early Jayne Ann Krentz was a B+ for me.

Virginia Middlebrook and A.C. Ryerson had both been burned in painful marriages. Neither had any desire to relive the past-they'd take things slow. A Caribbean trip seemed like the perfect way to test the waters of a new relationship...until A.C. wins a breathtaking emerald bracelet with a mysterious past. Suddenly their days-and nights-become a become a reckless roller coaster of adventure, desire...and deadly peril.
Just before I started this book, I was talking with a friend who told me she only likes to read about heros who are larger than life and very exciting. No reality in her romance novels, thank you very much. Me, I have no such requirementes. I'm perfectly happy to read about two sensible, solid, even a little dull people falling in love. This book proves this can be done without writing a boring story.

Ryerson and Virginia's relationship develops veeery slowly for a romance novel (even slow for real life relationships). They become friends, very good friends, before they become lovers. The word that best describes what they have is "comfortable", but of course, there is some excitement here. I loved reading a mature relationship for a change.

The adventurous elements were provided by a suspense subplot, a diamond and emeral necklace they win and which brings no end of trouble. Luckily, this part of the plot was mainly in the background, and we got to concentrate on Ryerson and Ginny most of the time.


In Praise of Younger Men, an anthology

>> Wednesday, March 05, 2003

The first book I read during my vacation was an anthology: In Praise of Younger Men.

The first story is A Man Who Can Dance, by Cathy Maxwell.
Graham McNab is a man standing on the cusp of achieving his lifelong dream of becoming a physician. However, fate intervenes in the form of woman--a gorgeous, flaxen-haired woman. Graham will do anything to make the vision his own, even if it means entering into a bet with his nasty cousin Blair. To win the bet, Graham must rely on his best friend, governess Sarah Ambrose to teach the untutored doctor to dance, in spite of his two left feet. Close proximity and the rhythm of the dance emulate the rhythm of love for Sarah and Graham. Will they become partners for life?
This one was a C+. Nice, but nothing remarkable. And at 70 pgs., it was a bit rushed. I liked the hero very much, a honorable doctor, who has a real calling. Sara was a good character in that she wasn't the stereotype with low self-esteem. Not to be nit-picky, but this one wasn't much in the "theme" of the book. Sara could perfectly well have been younger than Graham and the story would've been the same.

The second story, Forevermore, was by Lauren Royale, a new author for me.

Clarice Bradford is devoted to raising her young daughter, Mary. Clarice is not looking for love when she is invited to attend a local wedding, but the ardent attentions of a younger man, Sir Cameron Leslie, make Clarice wonder just how thoroughly on the shelf she is or if there is a possibility of "Forevermore" in her future.
This one was a B+. A lovely story, in spite of a heroine who seems like a passive twit at first ("You should learn your place in the world", she tells her daughter). But she improves, and Cameron more than makes up for her lacks with his kindness and sexiness. This is a love at first sight story, but believable. It's a sequel, but in the end we're given enough information that it stands alone. The end of the story is delightful, with a very romantic handfasting, and a scene where Clarice loses her last fears and Cam makes her a very heroic promise.

The third story was Written in The Stars, by another new-to-me author, Jaclyn Reding.

Written in the Stars pits two lovers against an ancient prophesy. Harriet Drynan must marry a younger man to ensure the survival of her clan. But she's in love with her twin brother's best friend, Tristan Carmichael, and he loves her. Harriet fears the legend's curse that proclaims if she marries Tristan, he will die before the marriage can be consummated.
I'd grade this one a C+. It was a bit problematic for me to sympathise with a character who's willing to let her life be determined by an old curse, but Harriet finally decided to defy it, and her reasoning on why she should do it was great. But why that final nonsense about leap years, validating the stupid curse? What didn't work here, and makes me grade this low, was the "falling in love" process, much too glossed over. I don't like it when the characters were in love as children, don't see each other for years on end, and when they finally meet again they are still "in love" without bothering to find out who they are now.

The final (and best) story of this anthology was The Demon's Mistress, by Jo Beverley.

Lord Vandeimen returns home from Waterloo to ruined estates, his family all dead. His attempts to recreate something of his heritage leave him deep in debt, and he is ready to commit suicide when a woman bursts into his room with an extraordinary proposal. Mrs. Maria Celestin, widow of a wealthy foreign merchant, will pay him a small fortune to pretend to be her betrothed husband for six weeks. Van cannot refuse, but he is wary of this outrageous good fortune. He is also intent on getting into the widow's bed. He doesn't expect to be dragged back into life, and into love, or into a battle to win the woman who bought him.
Oh, what a beautiful story this one was! I graded it an A. It would have made an excellent full-length novel, but Beverley's very good at writing short stories. Both characters were complex and very well-drawn. Not a stereotype in sight here. It was one of those stories which put a knot in your stomach, and that's the best compliment I can give. It wasn't perfect, however, and I feel it would have been improved if we'd seen more of Van's POV during the story, especially midway, but that's a small detail.


My final grade for the whole anthology is B+.


I'm back! After 3 full weeks of relaxing, I've come back to Montevideo :-( Don't get me wrong, I love my city, but after all those mornings of sitting in my porch, reading the newspaper, a cup of coffee at my elbow, only hearing the birds singing in the morning, it's tough to go back to hearing traffic noise!

It wasn't all good during my vacations though. The weather wasn't too good (luckily, the last 3 or 4 days were great, so I did manage to get a respectable tan), and the house we rented was robbed, with us inside. *shudder* We were sitting in the living room with my sister and a friend, each of us reading a book (of course!), when I heard a noise from the bedrooms next to where we were. I went to check, "Anyone there?", pretty sure it was nothing. I didn't find anything.

15 minutes later, for some reason my sister Luli went into my bedroom, which is at the back of the house (from the living room, there is a corridor going to the kitchen, at a right angle to the entry to the bedrooms I checked when I heard the noise. My own bedroom can only be entered through the kitchen, and its window opens to the same inner patio as the windows of the bedrooms I'd checked). Anyway, Luli came back asking me what I'd been looking for in her medicine bag and why I'd overturned it onto my bed and had left everything lying there.

I protested that I hadn't, and went to see what she was talking about. I couldn't believe what I saw when I got to my bedroom. The window was wide open, the blinds removed from their hinges and the screening neatly slit. Every drawer was open, the armoire had been very obviously searched, and my handbag (which I'd, very stupidly, left on the spare bed) missing. The noise I heard had come from that window, through the windows of the bedrooms I checked.

Most frightening of all was that my sister's medicine bag was, as she'd said, on my bed. It had been in her bedroom, the door of which opens onto the corridor going from living room to kitchen, not 1 metre from where we were sitting. The window of that bedroom was closed tight, so the intruders must have walked down that corridor and entered the bedroom, all while we just sat there, risking that one of us might look into the corridor for some reason and see him. Just thinking about it makes me sick.

Luckily I didn't lose much, nothing that can't be replaced, in a fashion. I didn't have much money in my wallet, and I cancelled all my credit cards and ATM card immediately, so no harm done there (only the hassle of having to renew everything). What bothers me the most is having lost my beloved eyeglasses (which I don't need to read, thank God, and only use to rest my eyes when staring at the computer screen), my datebook, with all my phone numbers and the handbag itself, a gift from my sister.

And those bastards had horrible timing, too! It was such a great night in every other respect. My parents got there from Montevideo that evening, bringing me my favourite food for dinner: hummus and taboule on pita bread, from my favourite deli in town. Not only that, they broght the mail from Montevideo, which included a huge box of books from my friend Anne in the US (I have the books I buy sent to her house, and she ships them all together in an M-Bag when we get to 11 lbs.). I could have eaten my food while looking at my new books that evening, and instead I had to spend it talking to the police. Yes, I did open the box and eat later that evening, but it wasn't the same. :-(

Onto nicer topics. I did keep my promise and kept a record of the books I read, and I read a lot: a grand total of 30 books. Not much to do in Floresta other than reading! I have lots and lots of stuff to catch up on, including my e-mail, but I'll start entering the book info later today.


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