A Great Catch, by Michele Jerott

>> Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Yet another reread last weekend was A Great Catch, by Michele Jerott, now writing as Michele Albert.

The man who got away is back: After years of working her way upward in the male-dominated maritime world of Great Lakes shipping, Tessa Jardine lands her dream job as first mate on the passenger ship SS Taliesen -- a dream job until she meets her captain, Lucas Hall. Ten years ago, Lucas broke her young heart when he walked away from her without a word of farewell, and she can't forgive him for that -- or for his more recent part in a failed rescue attempt that cost her younger brother his life. Now Lucas, the ex-Coast Guard hero, is back to complicate her life. Working together day after day, Lucas and Tessa discover the attraction between them is still hot and heavy -- but can Tessa forgive Lucas, or ever learn to trust him again? And what will Lucas have to do to win back her love?
This one and All Night Long have been my favourites by her since I first read them, and the rereads have confirmed this. A B+.

Let's see, what did I like about this book?

  • The fascinating, very original setting. It's not every day that you read a book set on a cruise ship sailing the Great Lakes. I probably decided to reread it after watching a fascinating segment at The History Channel about the Edmund Fitzgerald, a boat that sank in the Great Lakes in the 1970s.

  • Characters who talked, maturely about their problems. They had really big issues to get through, and I bought that they did enough to fall inlove.

  • The suspense subplot. This is often my least favourite part of most books, but here I enjoyed it. The little notes, with the clues, the way it didn't take over from the romance... this is how I like it.

  • A small thing, yes, but I loved that Tessa reads romance novels. It's no big issue, she just does, but it was a lovely touch.

  • The cover, with its gorgeous twilight colours and attractive people in a nice position. I've heard that a big reason why this author's "Michelle Jerott" books didn't do well was because of their covers, so I guess I must be the only one who found them attractive.

Now, what I didn't like:

  • The very unprofessional behaviour. Yes, Dee Stanhope's no fraternization rule was pretty stupid, and I understand that they didn't have a problem breaking it in their own time, but doing it while on the ship was beyond the pale. I didn't like the way Lucas kept initiating things and that Tess was weak and didn't just rip his head off about it.

    The most frustrating thing was that she delivered a very nice speech about how she was the one who had the most to lose, and that she didn't want to risk that, but they immediately end up in bed. And mind you, we're not talking about never ever making love again, we're only talking about keeping it zipped while on the ship!
Just count the number of items on the "like" and "don't like" lists, and you'll understand why this got a high grade.


The Last Rogue, by Deborah Simmons

>> Monday, September 29, 2003

Early this weekend I reread The Last Rogue, by Deborah Simmons. I've been doing quite a bit of rereading lately ;-).

Although Viscount Raleigh enjoyed playing matchmaker to his friends, he never anticipated his own nuptials. But when circumstances force him to wed Plain Jane Trowbridge, he finds married life to his liking in this Regency romp.
I really liked this one when I first read it. This time, though I enjoyed it immensely and again loved the hero, the heroine bothered me more than she had back then. Still, a B+.

Jane was very, very difficult to like. Throughout most of the book, especially the first half, she comes across as terribly intolerant and judgemental. She's the kind of person who despises anything fun or pleasurable, judging things to be good just because they are uncomfortable. Novels? Oh, no, reading should be educational. Pretty clothes? A scornful no. She despises "fripperies". She's like that about everything. There was an explanation of sorts of why she was that way, but it didn't sound like a valid reason at all.

However, Raleigh more than made up for her. He was wonderfully charming, full of joie de vivre and amazingly tolerant with Jane. It was a bit hard to understand why he was so willing to tolerate her small mindedness and her insults, when he knew he didn't deserve them. But tolerate her he did, and more. It was lovely to see the way he was so ready to look beneath the surface and discover a different Jane. I just loved his delight in her, the way he appreciated her and loved her. Wonderful man!

I very much enjoyed the situation the author put them in, stuck in a creepy, decrepit huge mansion in Northumberland, all very gothic. The best part was that this isolation meant that they were together all the time, so we had a lot of interaction. Oh, and this was pretty good in terms of sexual tension, too.

I even enjoyed the very light suspense subplot, which I thought made excellent use of the atmosphere.


>> Friday, September 26, 2003

Friday questions from Las Cinco del Viernes.

1) What's your favourite book?

I'll be very unoriginal here and say Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice :-) But it's true! This is one I reread every year and never get tired of.

2) What's your favourite movie?

I don't have an absolute favourite with movies. I can only think of the best movie I've seen lately, which is Monster's Ball. It's just really powerful (and Halle Berry definitely deserved her Oscar), and also a beautiful love story.

3) What's your favourite ice cream flavour?

Pistacchio, but not just any kind of pistacchio: it has to be from this little Italian shop in Punta del Este, which sells hand-made ice-cream.

4) What's your favourite song?

Probably Nino Bravo's Libre. I cry every time I hear it, I've no idea why.

5) What's your favourite city?

I adored Paris when I was there. The atmosphere, the museums, even the people, who have such a horrible reputation!


Midnight Bayou, by Nora Roberts

>> Thursday, September 25, 2003

Yesterday I finished Midnight Bayou, by Nora Roberts. I don't rush to buy Roberts' hardcovers any more, not even when they come out as paperbacks, because I'm a bit tired of her romantic suspense. I do trade for them, if I have the chance, though, and that's the way I acquired this book.

Declan Fitzgerald had always been the family maverick, but even he couldn't understand his impulse to buy a dilapidated mansion on the outskirts of New Orleans. All he knew was that ever since he first saw Manet Hall, he'd been enchanted-and obsessed-with it. So when the opportunity to buy the house comes up, Declan jumps at the chance to live out a dream.

Determined to restore Manet Hall to its former splendor, Declan begins the daunting renovation room by room, relying on his own labor and skills. But the days spent in total isolation in the empty house take a toll. He is seeing visions of days from a century past, and experiencing sensations of terror and nearly unbearable grief-sensations not his own, but those of a stranger. Local legend has it that the house is haunted, and with every passing day Declan's belief in the ghostly presence grows.

Only the companionship of alluring Angelina Simone can distract him from the mysterious happenings in the house, but Angelina too has her own surprising connection to Manet Hall-a connection that will help Declan uncover a secret that's been buried for a hundred years.
It was a wonderful surprise to realize that this wasn't romantic suspense, but a nice, creepy ghost story. No crazed murderer stalking our heroine, no little snippets of his mental processes, no graphic descriptions of him killing his victims... it was such a relief! There is some violence in the part of the story set 100 years before; what would be the story about the "ghosts", but it doesn't take over the present-day part and is over quite quickly.

As soon as I realized what I was reading, I settled down to read and enjoy. And enjoy I did. This is Nora Roberts at the top of her form: an A+.

The story was fascinating, but what made the book were the characters. I'll come clean and confess I'm in love with Declan. This is very much his story. Lena was a great character, too (more later), but it's Declan who shines here. I'm sure many readers will find him too perfect for them to like, but for me... well, let's just say Roberts hit right on all my fantasies with him. He's sexy, kind, considerate, sweet, a great friend, has great manners, is loaded and falls like a ton of bricks when he meets his woman. He's also stubborn, nobody's fool and won't let himself be pushed around by anyone or any ghost. He has enough of an edge to make this paragon more interesting.

And BTW, I just ove the name Declan. It's probably because it makes me think of the guy from Mysterious Ways, who I love (I really like the show, too).

As I said, Lena was great. At last, after all those heroines who are nothing more than a bunch of sexual neurosis, here's a woman who's perfectly comfortable with her own sexuality. No "Oh, no! My tits are too big, men will find me disgusting!" nonsense here: Lena knows she's beautiful and sexy and she has no problem using this.

I really enjoyed seeing how Declan was completely overwhelmed by her. It wasn't quite love at first sight, but he had zero problem admitting his feelings and wanting to make a commitment, which is one of my favourite things in romance novels. I'm usually pretty impatient with heroes with commitment issues (not with heroines, though, which is yet another of my double standards).

Actually, there is a kind of role reversal here. I'm used to reading romance novels where the heroine feels dissatisfied with her life and decides to leave it all behind (high powered career in the big city, rich family, etc) for a more rural atmosphere, where she finds her place. There she usually meets a guy who's comfortable in his own skin, doing what he likes to do, and falls in love. That's a good description of Midnight Bayou, only with the heroine starting in the steady place and the hero looking for his place in the world. Simple, but very effective.

Apart from the love story itself, this book was lots of fun. A good ghost story with a twist in the end. The restoration of Manet Hall (cleaning, restoring, redecorating... for some reason I love reading about the process, even if I'd probably detest doing it). A setting that really comes to life... New Orleans and the bayou (and the house itself is almost like another character in the book. I could see it very clearly!). Nicely drawn secondary characters. There wasn't a false not in the lot.

And a last note: when Lena's evil slut junkie mother appeared, I thought "Oh no. Cliché coming up." I can't stand characters who are pushovers and allow themselves to be taken advantage of by their evil families. But the way they handled her was definitely not a cliché. Declan and Lena simply refused to be manipulated into giving her money. That scene with Declan, the way he simply flattened her, I loved it! And then he went and told Lena, didn't try to shield her. I love these people!


Secrets of the Heart, by Candace Camp

>> Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Candace Camp has been around for ages, and some years ago I had the misfortune of reading two of her late 70s / early 80s books (Bonds of Love and Analise), which were the kind of old-school romances I detest. So, when I saw an interesting review of one of her latest books, Secrets of the Heart, I was a bit doubtful. However, I remembered that an early 90s book by her that I'd read (Rosewood) had been pretty nice, with no alpha mules in sight, so I decided to give it a try.

She never expected to love again . . .

On the eve of her wedding to Michael Trent, the Earl of Westhampton, Rachel Aincourt tried to elope with another man -- only to be unceremoniously returned to her fiance by her strong-willed father. Burdened by guilt and shame, Rachel felt she'd gotten what she deserved: a loveless marriage to a cold, enigmatic husband. She was wrong.

But fate had other plans

Behind Michael's proper demeanor lay a man who thrived on danger and intrigue -- and now he'd been drawn into one of Bow Street's toughest cases. When the crime turned into a murder that involved Rachel, Michael found a new way to employ his mastery of disguise: seducing the wife he secretly loved. But would he finally be able to win her heart . . . or would he destroy his last chance for happiness?
It was a good, very fast read. A B+.

At first, I wasn't too sure about the setup. I mean, we're talking here about a couple who's spent 7 years in an unsatisfying marriage, each thinking that the other had no interest in having a "real" marriage. I thought it would be all too easy for the protagonists to end up seeming stupid... However, the way Camp described the situation and the characters it sounded very plausible. It even felt natural, given the people Michael and Rachel were, that they found themselves in a situation neither wanted, but both felt powerless to change. And I don't thing it would have changed, if there hadn't been outside intervention.

I actually liked these characters, even though I sometimes found them frustrating. Rachel was a bit too passive at first, too prim and proper, but the change she experienced during the book made me like her better. And I loved her reaction when she found out that she was being tricked!

Michael I really loved. He was definitely my kind of hero. I love stories about unrequited love on the part of the hero (I have a double standard that way) and this one was very much one of those. And maybe I'm sick, but I loved reading about his anguish and his doubts, the way he wanted Rachel but was constrained by his idea of what would be kind and honourable from approaching her. But when he was finally able to get near her, posing as "James", wow!!!

There were only 2 things that I didn't like about this book. Number 1 was the suspense subplot, which I thought was overly complicated and too far-fetched. The only good thing about it was that it showed how Michael was perfectly willing to accept Rachel as a partner in an ivestigation. He respected her intelligence and wasn't foolishly overprotective.

Number 2, was all the backstory information dump in the beginning of the book. I enjoyed the flashbacks to what had happened between Rachel and Michael in the past, but all the info about the 2 couples from the first 2 books of the trilogy was very boring and unnecessary, only there to show loyal readers how their beloved characters from other books are doing. If done unobtrusively, that's ok with me, but here it wasn't skillfully done. It was too heavy-handed, with much more info than we needed.


Eclipse Bay, by Jayne Ann Krentz

After reading Summer in Eclipse Bay, by Jayne Ann Krentz I had to go back and reread the first in the trilogy: Eclipse Bay.

Their grandfathers hated each other. Their fathers hated each other. And as the next generation of the Hartes and Madisons, Hannah and Rafe are expected to hate each other too. But Hannah Harte, a successful wedding consultant with a skeptical view of marriage, remembers the long-ago night on the beach that revealed Rafe as much more than just "that disreputable Madison boy." And Rafe remembers the heroic gesture that proved Hannah's fierce spirit was stronger than any feud and saved him from near-certain imprisonment.

Now reunited by a surprising inheritance after years of living their separate lives Rafe and Hannah return to Eclipse Bay, and the hostilities that still divide, and bind, their families. And they are discovering something that is at once delightful and deeply disturbing? They don't hate each other. Not at all.
It was very good, just as good as the last in the trilogy: a B. Now I've got great hopes for Dawn in Eclipse Bay!

It was a perfect comfort read. It did have a little suspense subplot, but it was very light. The focus is firmly on the hero and heroine falling in love, together with the quirky (in a good way) secondary characters, including an adorable, very dignified dog.

I really liked the protagonists. Hannah was a regular woman reputed to be a goodie-two-shoes, which is something I can identify with, and Rafe was wonderful, the perfect fantasy man: a bad boy who is actually a nurturing, caring, kind man. This, and not the masterful alpha male, is a fantasy that really resonates with me. And, to make it even more perfect, Rafe cooks! Gourmet, no less. I got a couple of interesting tips from that ;-)

The only thing I found irritating was JAK's overreliance on using "family characteristics", assuming someone is a certain way because he or she is part of a certain family. I'm a Harte, therefore I'm all business. I'm a Madison, so I am completely focused on "my passion". This is something JAK tends to do a lot, and I usually don't notice it (or if I do, it doesn't bother me all that much), but she went a bit overboard here.

Still, that's a relatively minor point, and the balance for this book was very positive.


House of Echoes, by Barbara Erskine

>> Monday, September 22, 2003

I felt like reading a good, meaty paranormal, so I went with Barbara Erskine, and her House of Echoes.

Faced with financial ruin, Jocelyn and Luke Grant at first view the surprise inheritance of an Essex manor house from Joss' birth mother as a godsend. But who really sent the centuries-old house where boyish voices echo, drifts of icy rose petals appear and then vanish, and a chilling shadow threatens the safety of Luke and his toddler son?

When Joss' second child is born, also a boy, it becomes apparent that only the males in the Grant household are threatened, and suspicion falls on Joss. To clear her name and save her family, she must confront and defeat a powerful, ancient presence.
I enjoyed this very much, a B.

This author was recommended to me as similar to Barbara Michaels. The first one I read, Midnight is a Lonely Place, was nothing like them, being more horror (and bloody-ish horror, at that!) than gothic paranormal, but this one was more like it. I love "haunted house" books!

House of Echoes was one of those books you simply can't breeze through. I was incapable of reading more than 30 or 40 pages in a row, so I read it very slowly, all the while reading other things. It wasn't that it was bad or boring, I just felt I'd probably enjoy it more like this.

Although... like Midnight is a Lonely Place, this book suffered from the sagging-middle syndrome. The middle third of the book was pretty slow, and the instances of haunting were much too reiterative. The editor should have tightened this, because it became a bit tedious after a while. It did work to create an atmosphere, but I got somewhat bogged down.

The book did pick up a lot near the end, and the conclusion was very exciting and highly original. I'm not sure how I feel about a certain well-known historical figure being used as one of the ghosts, but it was interesting.


The Bridal Season, by Connie Brockway

>> Friday, September 19, 2003

The best book I read this week was a Connie Brockway: The Bridal Season. I'd read the sequel, Bridal Favors and had loved it, so I ordered this one, even though the review I'd read hadn't sounded very tempting. I'm very glad I did!

Attempting to elude her occasional partner in crime, Nick Sparkle, music hall performer Letty Potts found freedom at the Paddington train station in the form of a ticket to Little Bidewell originally purchased by Lady Agatha Whyte, a wedding coordinator hired by the Bigglesworth family. Upon arriving in Little Bidewell, Letty is immediately mistaken by the Bigglesworths for Lady Agatha, and before she realizes what's happening, Letty finds herself masquerading as a high-society wedding consultant.

At first no one, not even the delectably handsome local magistrate, Sir Elliot March, suspects Letty's secret, but the longer Letty stays in Little Bidewell, the greater the chance she has of not only hurting the Bigglesworths but also of falling in love with Elliot.
The Bridal Season was absolutely wonderful, an A. It was one of Brockway's lighter books, and I'm in awe that the woman who can write a book as unrelentingly dark as All Through The Night can also write light comedy as good as this one.

Even though, as I said, this was light and funny, this doesn't mean it was lightweight or not as good as darker reads. It had plenty of stomach-clenching moments of high emotion, and even moments when I almost cried. Brockway is amazing!

Letty and Elliot were absolutely wonderful. I'm not usually fond of con-men (or women), but Letty was refreshing. She wasn't doing it for the orphans, or anything like that, she just did it. Now she has some regrets, but she's not all broken up about it. I especially loved how she tried so hard to convince herself that she was a cynic and then she kept feeling things she didn't want to feel. And Elliot I loved. He's the type of honourable hero I adore, always trying to do the right thing, always trying to treat people well, not because it's expected of him, but because he thinks it's the right thing to do. He was just wonderful.

The story was great, too. The plot about the wedding preparations was wonderfully fun, and I loved the secondary characters, even (I confess), the matchmaking servants. The setting was also very well done. I felt I was right there, and I really wanted to be right there.

Why not an A+? Just a couple of little niggles. First, the fact that Letty turned out to be a virgin. This didn't go with the rest of her personality. Was Brockway too scared to go all the way? And also, the ending. It made sense, and the final scene was wonderfully romantic, but I'm always sad when there are long separations...


Girls Night, by Stef Ann Holm

Girls Night (Pandora's Box), by Stef Ann Holm is a book I'd been really looking forward to since I read the review. Good straight romances are very hard to find this days...

All Jillene McDermott needs is a little breathing room, and the only place she can find it is the bathtub. Her coffee bar, Java the Hut, is on life support, and raising two daughters alone is a full-time job, so quiet moments in the tub are a rare treat.

Knowing their mom deserves some happiness, Jillene's daughters Claire and Faye, write her a personal ad. But their good intentions go wrong and Vince Tremonti, the town's most famous son, has to step in as Jillene's "boyfriend."

Vince is a crime writer who is back in Blue Heron Beach to rethink the grim reality of his career, and he can't afford to get involved with anyone, much less a young widow with a ready-made family.

But thrown together, the two can't deny the mutual attraction and they realize there is more between them than a summer fling. Suddenly, lattes are not the only thing steaming in Blue Heron Beach.
It was a definite disappointment: a C+.

My biggest problem with it was how conservative and preachy about it it was. I picked up on this "things were much better in the 50s" vibe early on, but I wasn't really sure until page 26, when the author just comes out from behind the characters and starts preaching. I was, to put it mildly, flabbergasted:

"Vince's generation was the result of a nation's disregard for the Ward and June Cleaver outlook. A generation that, instead, had thrust itself into psychedelic drugs and marches for equal rights, flag burning, brain burning. The liberated movement took the picket-fenced house off the map, and in its place came working mothers and day-care. Latchkey kids. Divorce. The disintegration of America. War on the streets. Gangs. The Oklahoma City bombing. Columbine."

Oooh-kay. Liberals are evil, I get that. If Americans had all stayed living as they did in the 50s everyone would be happy. And this sets the tone for the rest of the book. A woman successful in her career? Evil floozy! and so on.

And then, I simply couldn't really identify with Jillene. She was so "mom"! I'm ok with reading about people different from me, and I often like them anyway, but I just couldn't really like this particular heroine. I found her a bit of a ninny, actually. From the beginning, I just couldn't respect a woman who was so ready to leave all the worry about finances to her husband, that when he died she had no idea of what their financial situation was.

I liked Vince better, and I thought his problem was fascinating and very original. I wasn't crazy about the dynamics of their relationship, though. I never bought they were in love and I didn't like how Vince shut Jillene out from his problems. I suppose he needed to solve everything on his own, but it still left a bad taste in the mouth that he'd never consider sharing with the woman he loved. He just presented her with a solved problem.

The girls I thought were silly. Didn't like them much. I guess I don't have patience with kids like that. And that stupid personal add... not adorable, not amusing. Just plain irritating.

And, to top it all, the brand-dropping drove me crazy. Sunglasses weren't sunglasses, they were Serengetis, and so on. It was especially irritating because I've no knowledge of most of the brands, so I had to guess what the hell the author was talking about. A small detail, one I wouldn't even notice in a book I was otherwise liking, but it was just one more annoyance over many others.

I did like some things, yes. The secondary romance was sweet, and I liked how the book was wholy focused on the relationship, but this wasn't enough.


Summer in Eclipse Bay, by Jayne Ann Krentz

I reread Summer in Eclipse Bay, by Jayne Anne Krentz earlier this week. This one's last in a trilogy, of which I've read book 1,Eclipse Bay, but not the second book, Dawn in Eclipse Bay. I've just ordered it though ;-)

A special message from Jayne Ann Krentz. Dear Reader: Summer has arrived in Eclipse Bay and things are definitely heating up between the Hartes and the Madisons. It seems that the mysterious new gallery owner, Octavia Brightwell, is thinking about having a scandalous fling with that rogue Nick Harte before she leaves town. As far as Nick is concerned, a short-term affair sounds perfect. But it isn't going to be easy. One big obstacle is Mitchell Madison. For reasons of his own, Mitchell has taken it upon himself to play guardian to Octavia. He's made it clear that if Nick fools around with her, there will be a price to pay.

And then there's Nick's young son, Carson, who has his own agenda where Octavia is concerned. He doesn't want his father messing up his plans. Summer in Eclipse Bay is going to be eventful this year. Some long-buried secrets from the infamous Harte-Madison feud are about to surface. The past and the present are on a collision course. I hope you'll join me to watch the fireworks. Happy reading . . .
I gave it a B when I read it last November, but this time, I'd give it a slightly higher grade, a B+.

One of the things I loved best about this book was what it wasn't: romantic suspense. It had a bit of a mystery, but that was it. No killers, no huge final confrontations. This meant that the romance was given enought space to develop well, much better than in some recent JAKs.

The romance was really nice. Two adults falling in love, and behaving as grown-ups. No childish game-playing and no I hate you - let's have sex. They liked each other, and that is something I always enjoy.

The secondary characters were wonderful, especially Carson, Nick's kid. All that precocious, intense focus on what he wanted was sweet ;-)

I also liked the town of Eclipse Bay. It was a small town, with all its drawbacks, but the difference with the books that irritate me was that JAK doesn't try to sell what for me are drawbacks as wonderful things. Interfering old biddies are a drawback in her world, not sweet, and this makes all the difference!

What I think could have been better than was the stuff about the feud. It wasn't really much of an issue here, since this book basically dealt with the clean-up, but it could have been made clearer what had happened. I didn't really remember the details from book 1, so I must confess I was a little lost at times.


Night Fire, by Catherine Coulter

>> Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I started Night Fire, by Catherine Coulter.

Areille leslie is a sixteen-year-old girl forced to wed Paisley Cochrane, a sadistic old man who abuses her. When he dies, she believes herself free. But she’s not.

Burke Drummond, Earl of Ravensworth – a young man she’d worshipped three years before – is home from the wars, and he wants her. When he catches her, he’s in for an appalling surprise.
A long time ago, before the advent of the internet, I used to read whatever romance novels I could find here in Uruguay. We got only big authors, like Coulter herself. These books were what drove me from historical romance, with their disgusting rapist heros (or force seductionist heros, right, yeah, huge difference) and doormat heroines. When I found websites like All About Romance, The Romance Reader and Mrs. Giggles I discovered not all historicals were like that, and came back to the genre.

I never did go back to reading Coulter, and I was never even tempted. Until I read the AAR review of Night Fire, which described an interesting story and stated that Burke Drummond was Coulte's kindest, gentlest hero.

I think I might go back and finish it, trusting the reviewer in that this is going to get better, but after 120 pages, I'm absolutely hating this. It has all those little "Coulter" touches that I hated so much and which contributed greatly to me swearing never to read a historical again. I'm talking about things like the hero getting a mistress because he's randy and he has needs, all while he already "knows" he's in love with Arielle and is planning to court her. "To save him from losing control with Arielle" indeed! Disgusting jerk! And do we really need to have graphical descriptions of Burke fucking his mistress? Meanwhile, the author goes into contortions so that Arielle keeps her magic hymen. She's been abused, but never fear, readers! She's still a virgin. Argh!

Also, the supposedly nice hero is a pedophile, who goes crazy with desire when he meets Arielle when she's 15 and very much a child. Lovely! And if he's so nice, why can't he take a no for an answer? Why does he believe he has the right to abduct a woman, any woman, when she's very clearly saying no to him? That's a stalker to me, period.

Oh, and to top it all, it really looks as if the story won't just be about a couple learning to trust each other and getting over the tragedy of Arielle's past. No, there's Arielle former son-in-law there, madly in lust with her, and it looks like a big part of the book will be him trying to have his wicked way with her. Bah!

UPDATE: I finished this book in October. Click here to read my final comments.


The Devil To Pay, by Stephanie James (aka Jayne Ann Krentz)

>> Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Now that I have a new cache of old Jayne Ann Krentz novels, I can start reading them again without guilt. The first was this weekend, The Devil to Pay, written as Stephanie James.

Emelina Statton is about to break into a breach cottage when Julian Colter and his dog appear out of the night fog and stop her. She is aware that Julian is renting a cottage not far away. Rumours and gossip from the small, sleepy village says he is a gangster hiding out until his 'troubles' cool down. But someone with dubious ties is exactly what Emelina needs. Her brother is being blackmailed and she is there to find some means to put a stop to it before it ruins his career.

Julian has been watching her, and decides he will help her, but for a price. Emelina will do anything to save her brother, including making a pack with the Devil - or a mobster in this case
I really did enjoy this one, in spite of a somewhat arrogant, high-handed hero and a sometimes TSTL heroine: a B+.

This was a very early book, from the mid-80s, but already JAK included Julian's POV, which is kind of the line separating her obnoxious heros and those alpha's but ok ones. The reason I liked Julian was probably his vulnerability. He needs Emmy. He is so desperate for her that he's willing to do anything, BUT, he doesn't turn into a stalker, like some old-school heros did, and completely override the heroine's wishes.

He knows she has the right to refuse (unlike those idiots), but tries to do his best so that she doesn't. His intention is to woo her, but with a plan B in case it doesn't work. He's not above manipulating her, yes, but I never got the impression he thought what Emmy wanted was unimportant. The final scene was the perfect example. Oh, and I think I should note that this is a guy who was betrayed by his ex-wife, who ran away with his best friend (don't they all?). This marked him, but it did not make him hate all women, just made loyalty as a characteristic more important to him.

As for Emmy... *sigh*. She has some TSTL moments, but they don't really have bad consequences. Why did authors feel the need to include such idiocies? She promises to stay inside while a deal goes down and it's not a matter of the hero telling the little woman to stay in while he handles things. No, he's staying under cover too, because the deal is being recorded! And yet that idiot Emmy feels the need to see what happens. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Now that I've vented, she was ok apart from that. The same fiercely loyal, cheerful heroine JAK has written so many times.

A couple of short notes: 1) I'd be interested in reading that novel in "new" genre, combining romance and science fiction, that Emmy is writing. Sounds like JAK's best, lol! 2) I adored Xerxes, Julian's dog. He was so very like Julian, tough and fierce looking, but desperate for love and attention.


Child of her Dreams, by Sandra Steffen

>> Friday, September 12, 2003

I tried out a keeper of a friend of mine's: Child of her Dreams, by Sandra Steffen

Man in search of a future

Cade Sullivan's daughter was missing. And the single father's only hope lay in the visions of a reclusive woman. Though she'd forgotten her own past, he knew she held the key to his future. For the mysterious Lexa was tied to Cade in a way she could never imagine.

Woman without a past

Tragedy had taken Lexa's memory and given her a remarkable power. But Cade presented a puzzle she couldn't quite solve. All Lexa could discern about the lonely widower was their undeniable pull toward each other. And the feeling that their attraction could lead to destruction ....
This was a C. Not bad, but I didn't really enjoy it all that much.

The problem was that thoug the book had an interesting storyline, I never really got to connect with the characters. Maybe it was because the book was so short (less than 200 pages), but I never felt I'd got to know either of the main characters.

I kept reading because I was interested in Lexa's visions and wanted to know what the deal was with Callie's disappearance, but Lexa and Cade's romance just didn't catch my attention. When I skim the love scenes, it's a very bad sign.

Extra points for the interesting setting. I really did get a feel for it by the end of the book; it was more real to me than the characters, actually ;-)

Points taken for the a very irritating, supposedly sympathetic secondary character: Berdie, the woman who'd taken in Lexa when she'd come to the island to recover after the operation. I hated her way of speaking, and whenever she went on and on about Yankees, and General Lee or Grant or whatever, it just grated.


And now, the questions from Friday Five:

1. Is the name you have now the same name that's on your birth certificate? If not, what's changed?

It's still the same: "María del Rosario"

2. If you could change your name (first, middle and/or last), what would it be?

Hmm, I like Rosario, but not María del Rosario, so that's probably what I'd change. If I had to change it to something completely different... for some reason, I like V names, like Veronica, Virginia and Victoria. Probably one of those. Oh, or Lucia, which is my sister's name. It's not fair, I was born on the day of Saint Lucia, the name should have been mine!

As for my last name, I suppose I might like to change the spelling. It's got a double t in a place that's counterintuitive, so people always spell it wrong.

3. Why were you named what you were? (Is there a story behind it? Who specifically was responsible for naming you?)

My parents just liked the name. Both of them were named for their parents, so as the eldest, I was supposed to be either Carmen Raquel or Amadeo, but they decided to break the tradition and just give me a name with no particular history. What's funny is that my grandpa was born in a city named Rosario (not the well-known one in Argentina, one near Colonia, in Uruguay), but that apparently wasn't a factor when the decision was made.

If I had been a boy, my mom wanted to name me Juan Ramón, for a Nacional football player (the same Juan Ramón (Carrasco) who is coaching the Uruguayan National Team these days). My dad, a Peñarol fan, was horrified!

4. Are there any names you really hate or love? What are they and why?

I love the name Nicolás. No reason, I just like the way it sounds. As for names I hate, I can't think of any. A horrible boss I once had ruined the name Pilar for me, but that's all.

5. Is the analysis of your name at kabalarians.com accurate? How or how isn't it?

Let's see:

Your first name of Rosario has made you desire system and order and to progress step by step, yet you are taken into new experiences, turmoil, and change and rarely can you fully complete an undertaking to your satisfaction.
[Not really, I like change, and too much routine bores me]

You are extremely analytical and sometimes critical of both others and of yourself, and must guard against sarcastic speech and temper.
[Oooh, yes. That part's completely right.]

At times you feel torn between your desire for system and order, and your need for change and new experiences. You do not accept new ideas readily and do not appreciate unsolicited advice.
[I adore new things, but I do tend to resent unsolicited advise.]

You tend to be impulsive and could attract accidents as a result. The opposing forces in your nature affect your nervous system, causing tension in the solar plexus, indigestion, ulcers, or growths, and moods of depression. You have not found the happiness nor the settled conditions you desire.
[Wrong wrong wrong.]


Last week, the questions at both Friday Five and Las Cinco del Viernes were boring, so I skipped them. This week we compensate, with interesting questions at both sites.

First, Las Cinco del Viernes:

1) Where were you and what were you doing on September 11th 2001? How did you find out about the attacks?

I was at work at my former job, in a bank. Someone had been listening to the news on the radio, and said "Two planes have flown into the World Trade Centre!" My first thought was that he was refering to the Montevideo World Trade Centre, which is very near my house, but then he clarified that it was the one in New York. And then one of the secretaries received a phone call from her sister in Washington DC, to tell her about the attack on the Pentagon. After that it was clear to everyone that what had happened wasn't just a freak accident.

With my coworkers we immediately started looking for a TV set, to see what was going on, but the only ones in the building were only used for video, so they had no antennae, which meant we couldn't see a thing. We all ended up listening to radios, and that's how I heard of everything else that happened... the towers' collapse, the other plane that crashed... and rumours, lots of rumours. There were 15 more hijacked planes flying around, there had been bomb blasts in Washington (State Department, if I remember correctly), the Japanese Red Brigades had claimed responsability... all kinds of things.

I only saw the horrific images at lunchtime, on the TV at the restaurant.

2) Where were you and what were you doing on August 31st 1997? How did you find out Lady Di had died?

At home, watching CNN. I saw an early report that she'd been in an accident, but was recovering. The impression was that it had been only slightly more than a fender-bender, so I didn't pay much attention to the news. A couple of hours later came a report that she'd died.

3) Where were you and what were you doing on November 22nd 1963? How did you find out about the JFK assassination?

I hadn't been born yet.

4) Where were you and what were you doing on May 13th 1981? How did you find out the Pope had been shot?

I was 3 and a half years old. I do have a couple of memories from that time, but that's not one of them.

5) Where were you and what were you doing on July 20th 1969? How did you hear about the first man on the moon?

Hadn't been born yet, either.


Lord Ruin, by Carolyn Jewel

>> Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Yesterday I finished reading Lord Ruin, by new-to-me author Carolyn Jewel.

Mistaken identity and a night of shattering passion force a marriage of opposites: Ruan, duke of Cynssyr, a sophisticated and notorious rake, and Anne Sinclair, a spinster with the bad luck of being a pretty woman born to a family of beauties. Will "Lord Ruin" succeed in showing Anne that more than passion unites them or will their differences keep them apart?
I thought I was going to like this much more than I did. A very disappointing C.

Can I fault the author for not writing the book I want her to write? She sets up a situation full of potential, and then just doesn't use it well. The book starts with a rake who accidentally sleeps with the woman his best friend intends to marry, a woman who's also more than half in love with said best friend. The "accidentally" is because he thinks she's a whore, and she's been dosed with laudanum and placed in his room, because her hosts think he'll be there only the following day. Discovered, they are forced to marry and make the best of circumstances. The rake falls deeply in love with his wife, but believes she's still in love with his best friend and that she resents having had to marry him.

Sounds interesting, right? The first 75 or so pages were wonderful, but things started going downhill from then on. Jewel just didn't do enough with this situation. Much of their dealing with their new marriage is off-stage, and the rest is glossed over. In those early stages, we see Ruan's growing sexual obsession, but almost nothing of Anne's perspective on things. It was just unsatisfying.

I had a couple of problems with the protagonists. First, Ruan: was he an all-powerful duke, a well-respected politician or a dissolute rake, Lord Ruin, Insincere Cynssir, etc? Still, I ended up liking him, and I enjoyed to see him fall hard for Anne and torture himself because he thought she didn't feel the same. I especially appreciated the fact that he was perfectly aware that he had behaved very badly towards Anne and tried to make up for it, and that he liked her. He admired her brains and he loved spending time with her, and this was the best thing about the book.

As for Anne, I didn't like her very much. I guess she was supposed to be quietly strong, but her submissiveness rubbed me the wrong way, and I saw her as week. Maybe the problem was that, I mentioned before, we almost never saw the inner struggles that resulted in her choosing to behave as she did.

And then there was the suspense subplot, which completely overpowered what there was of the romance. I suppose it was interesting, in a way, but it was not what I wanted to read about, and it didn't fit in well with the tone of the rest of the book. It was too dark and disturbing, a bit like what happened in Debra Dier's Dangerous.

Finally, the writing itself was a huge problem. It was nothing a good editor couldn't have fixed, but apparently, the person who edited this must have been asleep the whole time. I often didn't know what the hell the author was talking about, and who she was talking about. Every few pages, there was a character whose name I'd never heard, and the character was dealt with as if I should know who he or she was. Sometimes it turned out to be someone new (victims in the suspense subplot, usually) and sometimes they were people we knew by another name. It was very, very irritating.

This was the type of book that make me sad for what could have been :-(


Zinnia, by Jayne Castle (aka Jayne Ann Krentz)

>> Monday, September 08, 2003

When over a year ago I started to reread all my JAK books, I was completely sure that I had all the books in her St. Helen's trilogy, but it turns out I only had # 1 and 3, Amaryllis and Orchid. I've had to wait almost a year to read book 2, Zinnia (all these were written under JAK's pseudonym of Jayne Castle).

Continuing her futuristic, paranormal series set on the imaginary world of St. Helens, where matched marriages are the norm and almost everyone is psychically gifted to some degree, Castle focuses on two "matchless," highly gifted psychics. Rendered unmarriageable because of her psychic talents, Zinnia Spring, foresees a risky love affair with casino owner Nick Chastain, who is in the market for a society wife.
I knew what I was getting with Zinnia, the excellent comfort read I needed after the traumatic experience of reading Anne Stuart's Moonrise. The book didn't dissapoint at all, and I'd grade it an A, slightly better than the two other entries in the trilogy.

I love the world-building in these books, even if there's a lot of coff-tea and New Seattle and that kind of lazy thing. I especially like the psychic powers thing. It feels very elaborate for something that was just for a few books, and I wish she'd use it again. Evaluating the trilogy as a whole, this is highly original, and excellently done. There are many details that are intriguing, like having marriage being so important and so rigid, but at the same time, making same-sex marriages part of that mainstream. And I liked the parallels to Earth, which I know is something that people who know a lot about this don't consider so good when creating new worlds. So sue me, I'm not a conoisseur :-P

But ok, this is a romance, right? So, even more important than the world-builidng was the fact that the romantic relationship in the book was wonderful. Vintage Krentz (which, you should note if you care about this, means that most things here you've seen in countless other JAK books). I loved how Nick immediately decides he needs more of Zinnia, and those hints of vulnerability when he has doubts that he'll manage to keep her tied to him. That part, when she wouldn't call, and he started getting worried but wouldn't call her himself because "it was her turn". LOL! Or that first scene, when they first meet on the metaphysical plane!

As always, the mystery was the less compelling part of the book, but it was adequate. And on the plus side, it allowed as to visit Professor DeForest's garden, which reminded me of parts of Tracy Fobes' Forbidden Garden ;-)

It did have a couple of weaknesses, mainly JAK's tendency to harp on something, this time how matrix talents are secretive and weird. Yeah, we got that the first time, no need to repeat it ad nauseam! Still, it was a great read, and I even liked elements like that final scene (present in all 3 books), where Batt gives the newlyweds some news.Predictable? Yes, I know, but I seem to have a high tolerance for predictable in JAK's books.


Moonrise, by Anne Stuart

>> Friday, September 05, 2003

I've just finished Moonrise, by Anne Stuart. This is a book I've had in my TBR pile for years and years; I bought it just after it came out, in 1996, but it never caught my attention. I finally remembered I had it after people in the AAR Message Boards started mentioning it as being one of Stuart's darkest, with a protagonist who's a real anti-hero.

Annie Sutherland is fast finding out her life was built on nothing but lies. Her father had been murdered. The former head of the CIA hit squad (though she does not know this), left her instructions,that she should seek out his former 'pet' James Mc Kinley...and man she thought she knew, and once even may have been falling in love with. Only nothing is as it seems, and nothing was as it seemed. James is holding up on an island. Gone is the conservative bureaucrat she adored, leaving her facing a tortured fugitive - but one that is armed and extremely dangerous.

Suddenly, the Texas accent is an Irish brogue, hinting he hold secrets that could mean her life. Annie and James are thrown together on a cross-country trek, which eventually leads to Ireland and back again to the US, all on the quest to solve the murder of her father. Is James a cherish lover or the man assigned to kill her?
I'm having some trouble grading this book. If I were reviewing for a pro site, I'd probably give it a good grade with a very strong warning in the text of the review that this is very, very definitely not for everyone. As it is, grading for my enjoyment of the book, it was a D.

My main problem was with James, the main protagonist (I hesitate to call him a hero). Discussing Anne Stuart's books, a friend told me she likes to know that the protagonists in romance novels are good people, even if they are flawed, and that with Stuart's characters she's never sure that they are. She hit the nail right on the head with that comment.

I didn't get the impression that there was anything of a conscience left alive in James after all those years as an assassin. I wouldn't call him "evil", as much as amoral. He's very definitely not a good person. This is a guy who's spent almost 20 years killing people, without any signs of remorse. Just following orders, like a machine. Can you tell I had a huge problem with that?

I just couldn't take how for a big part of the book James kept wondering if he should kill Annie. It's not that he thought he would enjoy it, he simply thought it might be necessary, and he was perfectly ready to do it. It was awful. He'd look at her and think about how easy it would be to snap her neck, and how it wasn't going to hurt, or look at her sleeping and imagine her as a corpse. I couldn't handle it, and it was an early sign that this wasn't going to be for me.

There was something about the depiction of James job that bothered me. It's implied that what he did was a dirty job, but a necessary one, and that someone had to do it. The problem is that Win has started selling the services of his team to other bidders, so some of the targets weren't... let's say: legitimate. And which targets were legitimate? Among others (terrorists, dictators), "people who would interfere with the US' best interests abroad". This offends me.

Ok, moving on before I start to rant. Another thing that I have low tolerance for is a close relationship between violence / death and eroticism. This relationship is so close in Moonrise, that there's practically no daylight between them. I won't say that the sex scenes weren't erotic, but they were a kind of erotic I'm not comfortable with.

Annie was a character I didn't like very much, basically because she had allowed her father to completely dominate her. He owned her, while he was alive. He picked her clothes, her interests, her men, everything. And she didn't even realize, and when she gets a glimmer of what had been happening (well after he's dead and she's out of his influence), she doesn't even get angry about it. She's perfectly satisfied with this state of affairs.

As far as the romance is concerned, I didn't like it. The main thing James' attracted to in Annie is her innocence. She's actually a strong person here, even if she allows her father to control her from beyond the grave, but it's not that strength that James finds attractive, but her innocence. Something else that I disliked was how James treated Annie. He was ready to have sex with her in order to control and manipulate her better (and discusses it very clinically with her ex-husband, eek!). He drugs her without her knowledge, he handles her roughly, he tortures her by allowing her to believe he's going to kill her for a very long time...

I did believe by the end of the book that James had some feelings for Annie, but I don't think I could define them. Love? I don't think this guy can love. Thankfully, Stuart doesn't include any mushy, sentimental scenes in the end, and the ending goes well with the story.

Finally, the plot. I liked that it concentrated more than I thought it would on the relationship than on the danger. I thought at first that it was going to be a full-out run-for-your-lives thriller, but there were few action scenes and they didn't overpower the relationship development. However, I did guess the two big plot twists (who the villain was and the other twist; you'll know what I mean if you read the book) almost from the beginning.

Even though I haven't enjoyed either of the two Anne Stuarts I've read (the other one was Blue Sage), I won't give up on her just yet. My friend (the same one I mentioned earlier) liked two of them (A Rose at Midnight and Lord of Danger, both keepers of Mrs. Giggles'), so I'll be trying those as soon as I can.


Duchess in Love, by Eloisa James

>> Wednesday, September 03, 2003

I finally got my box full of books, and of course, I've already dived into it. The first book I read was Duchess in Love, by Eloisa James.

Cam Serrard, the duke of Girton, leapt out of a window and ran off to Greece immediately after being forced into wedding 11-year-old Gina. Instead of resenting him, however, Gina spends the next 12 years sending him friendly letters. When Cam finally returns to England to grant Gina an annulment so she can marry a marquess who loves her, the warm easiness between the childhood friends doesn't surprise them, but the flare of desire does. Before long, Gina starts to wonder if being the wife of a nude-sculpting, frequently absent and socially careless duke might not be such a bad future.
In spite of some flaws, I liked this very much: a B+.

Eloisa James has a highly individual writing style, and Duchess in Love feels different to most romance novels. I'm not even going to try to describe the prose, but I'll just say it reminds me a bit of those old commedies of manners.

DIL is very definitely not recommended for those people who don't like multiple storylines, á la Brockmann. While Gina and Cam are the protagonists here, there's a fair number of pages devoted to Gina's friends, Esme and Carola, who are in troubled marriages themselves.

The only problem was that, as with Brockmann, the secondary storylines were much more interesting that the main one. I wanted to see more about Carola and Esme, especially about the latter. She and her man gave off an almost "Sam & Alyssa" vibe, if you know what I mean. Apparently, from what I've been able to find out, they get their ending in the sequel, Fool For Love, but this one doesn't sound too good, chock-full of stupid misunderstanding and idiotic plot contrivances (and I looked at quite a few reviews). Oh, who am I kidding? I know I'll end up buying it anyway, because I need to know what happens to Esme and Sebastian.

I loved Esme. I especially liked that, unlike Gina and Carola, she hadn't "preserved her chasteness" while her husband ran around cheating on her. I thought her relationship with her husband was fascinating, the way they were fond of each other anyway, and that tantalizing glimpse into their past. And the things that happened between them! I didn't think she would be allowed to do what she did in a romance novel, for heaven's sake! Sebastian was a bit less interesting, at least the times we went inside his head, so I really wanted to see his rationale for the things he did later on. These two would have definitely deserved a book of their own!

See the problem I meant? Writing about Esme, I haven't even started to discuss them main storyline. It was much less compelling, even though it had the potential to be interesting. Gina and Cam were just ok, though some things about them irritated me, like Gina's sometimes' wide-eyed innocence (which tended to disappear, to be fair) and Cam's irresponsability.

Other notes: I loved that there wasn't a villain, this was a good character-driven book. I also enjoyed the setting, a house party. I can't think of why authors don't use this more. On the "dislikes" column, the irritating matchmaking solicitor, manipulating Cam and Gina to defend the Girton lineage. Idiot man.

Finally, I adored the cover on this one. It was one of the runner-ups in AAR's Cover Contest last year, and I'm pretty sure I voted for it.


>> Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Ever heard of Project Gutenberg? They offer, among other things, text versions of books whose copyrights have expired, and so are now in the public domain. The site is easy to navigate and the files they offer are pretty light, so if you ever want to read a classic now!, or need to check some reference, and don't have the book on hand, this should be your first destination.

Right now I'm reading their copy of Jane Eyre (right click and choose "Save Target as". This will download a zipped 406 KB htm file of the book to your hard disk).


>> Monday, September 01, 2003

I swear the creators of Lilo and Stitch must have met my cat O'Neill.

Stitch and he have the exact same personalities.


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