Ulterior Motives, by Laura Leone

>> Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Years ago, Laura Leone wrote quite a few categories, which stand out as some of the most original and fresh that I've ever read. I've bought quite a few and I allow myself to read one every now and then. Earlier this week, I read Ulterior Motives, from 1989.


Language center director Shelley Baird thought she had just lined up the biggest contract of her career. Then corporate troubleshooter Ross Tanner came along, and suddenly nothing was the same. Not only did Ross work for Shelley's biggest competitor, he was after her client. But that didn't stop Ross from trying to romance her.

Shelley couldn't resist Ross's casual elegance or his spine-tingling kisses. She knew she shouldn't mix business with pleasure, but when he uttered his words of love she wanted to believe he was telling her the truth. Should she trust him? Her head said, "No way!" But her heart spoke a different language ...
A few days ago a friend returned a book I'd lent her and told me she'd loved it (it was All Night Long, by Michelle Jerott, BTW). When I asked why, she simply said that the characters were very much people. Well, Laura Leone writes people, too. Not contrived, walking clichés, but real people; grown-ups who you wouldn't be surprised if they existed in real life. I enjoyed this one so much I have to give it an A-.

Shelley and Ross' relationship had an emotional element that made it a joy to read. They had really wonderful chemistry, and Leone succeeded beautifully in showing us how they fall in love and why. She didn't simply tell us about their feelings, she showed us, and they came across very clearly to me. Oh, and they were quite steamy together. ;-)

As the characters, the plot was very un-contrived. There was nothing here that smelled fishy, or screamed "only in romance novels!!!". Just people who liked each other immensely, but who happened to work for rival companies and had to try to juggle their growing relationship with doing the best job they knew how to do.

I especially enjoyed the fact that Shelley was great at her job (if she had had the tools she needed, Ross wouldn't have had an easy job) and had very firm work ethic. I very much respected her refusal to take the easy way out and simply resign and go to work for her company's competitors. I know I would have resigned in a minute, so it wasn't that I would have done the same, but I understood and respected her choice.

Oh, and as a final note, I really enjoyed the language schools setting, and the way this book was more "conscious" than most to the fact that there is a wide, wide world beyond the US. Most romance novels are terrible insular in that respect, which makes me appreciate the ones that aren't all the more. And it's kind of funny, but I believe this must be the only romance I've ever read where there isn't even one mistake in the foreign languages that I could detect. I've read too many which try to insert foreign phrases and fail, so this is quite an accomplishment.


Baby Vs. The Bar, by M.J. Rodgers

>> Friday, March 26, 2004

After reading the very neat mystery in The Dream Wedding, last month, I decided to look for M.J. Rodgers' backlist. A friend happened to have Baby Vs. The Bar, part of the Justice Inc series, which received a good review at AAR.

She had a billion-dollar baby . . .

Remy Westbrook didn't want a man in her life-she wanted a baby. But the sperm bank made a big mistake ...and now Remy's baby is heir to a billion-dollar fortune and Remy is up to her ears in men.

Attorney Marc Truesdale was prepared to pull out all the stops to protect the interests of his cute eighteen-month-old client. But the confirmed bachelor was not prepared to fall for the little guy or his contrary mom. Nor was he prepared to enter a courtroom where conspiracy was the name of the game ...and love and honor were best left unspoken.
Not bad at all. A B-.

The legal mystery, thriller, or however I should call it, was very nicely done. It was interesting and compelling, and quite twisty. That part of it was enjoyable.

The characterization, however, was a little lacking, especially Remy's motivations. I really didn't get why she ended up cooperating, when she actually would have prefered for Marc to lose the case. I'm not saying she should have boycotted his case, but to actively help him, when there was no need for it and it went against her own interests (or rather, her child's interests, as she saw it), was incomprehensible to me. And don't get me started on the way she rejected the possibility of the money out of hand, without even considering it. At least, though, she had better rationalizations than these hard-headed heroines usually have.

The romance itself was nice, if not too remarkable. I kind of liked Marc, even if it did bother me the way he pretty much butted into Remy and Nicholas' life, all intent on what he thought should be done and never even considering their POV. Oh, I musn't forget: there was a moment where I despised the guy: when he was destroying on the stand a person who to me was quite sympathetic, and completely for nought.

All in all, quite all right. I think I'm giving this one to my lawyer sister to read :-)


Damned Free Hosts

I'm sick of having to change the image hosts for my banner every month or so. First I tried Village Photos. Ok, worked fine for a while, then they started to charge, so I moved the images to Ripway. A month later they simply stopped loading right, and when I tried to see my account I got a notice that it was slated to be removed. Why? I've no idea. So off I go to Geocities. At least I know they work well, but I've got my wish and trade lists there, so I don't know, I'm afraid with the visits to the blog, I'll overpass my allowed bandwidth... not that I have so many visits here, but oh, well. We'll see.

In the meantime, does anyone know a free, dependable host where I could store my images?


The Dancing Floor, by Barbara Michaels

>> Thursday, March 25, 2004

I'm fast running out of Barbara Michaels books that I haven't reread in the last year or so. The latest was the last "real" Barbara Michaels the author wrote (I don't count Other Worlds, I'm afraid), The Dancing Floor.

For years, Heather Tradescant had dreamed of the journey she and her father would take to England--a pilgrimage to the great gardens of history.Now that her father is dead, Heather is determined to fulfill his dreams. Unfortunately, her request to see the fabled 17th-century garden of Troytan House is denied by the owner. Though unwelcome, she braves the walls of briars and reaches the Victorian manor house beyond. She senses a strange mission of evil lurking, tainting the manor's peaceful beauty. Only then does Heather begin to wonder whether it is only stories of long-vanished witchcraft that haunt Troytan House or whether there is some more modern horror, hearer at hand, and far, far more dangerous.
I enjoyed it immensely. Michaels later books have a very different flavour from her early "ghost" stories. I adore both. A B+.

This is not a book for action junkies, very definitely NOT a page-turner. The pace is leisurely, and often long stretches go by where nothing really exciting happens, but it happens to be a style I enjoy very much, at least when done by this author.

It has a bit of a gothic feeling, though less than other titles, and it's narrated in first person by the heroine, Heather, which adds to the gothic tones. This POV succeeds very well because Heather is a lovely character, and one interesting to read, with a witty, sarcastic voice. I suppose she might come across as a bit too brash and blunt to some people, but I cheered every time she spoke her mind and refused to put up with any shit or refused to be condescended to and to be treated like a "little woman". Something else I enjoyed about her was how she was very self-aware, and good-naturedly accepted when she was being ridiculous. Added to that, an enjoyable sense of humour, and this makes for a really good narrator. Oh, and I also loved how she'd eat with great gusto, even though she knew she was a little overweight. Good for her!

The very interesting cast of secondary characters was quite well done. I actually thought the characterization of Bobbie, a child who was really monstrously bad-behaved, was remarkable. There are kids who are sweet and kids who are just that... monsters, but authors tend to portray children as inherently good, while here, Michaels doesn't do that at all. Bobbie is written in all his horrible glory, and yet he never comes across as a caricature, but as a real person.

The only kind-of exception to this was Heather's love interest, who I thought was a little underwritten. This meant, of course, that the romance wasn't so good. Being a Michaels fan, I knew from the start who this love interest would be, so I took note of the little details which showed an attraction. Still, it was all a bit too subtle, even for Michaels.

More tangentially, I was interested in the way romance novels were portrayed here. After some of the Jacqueline Kirby books, where romance novels were pretty ridiculed (Die for Love and Naked Once More come to mind), here the attitude has changed. Heather reads romance (she actually shares a Regency with the other women in the house), and at one point, when Jordan asks her where she got a certain obscure knowledge, well, it was from a romance novel. That was a nice touch, I thought.

Oh, and a last note: I always enjoy the nuggets of specialized info Michaels offers the reader as part of the story (it never sounds like she's just quoting from a reference book). This time, there was some fascinating stuff about old English gardens and about witches, both the 17th century witch trials and the modern wicca. This made for very good setting and atmosphere.


Satin Sheets and Strawberries, by Marcia Evanick

I used to love Loveswepts before I went online and was able to pick and choose more. I'd buy pretty much every one of their releases that made it to Uruguayan bookstores. One of the titles I kept was Satin Sheets and Strawberries, by Marcia Evanick.

The sign said FAIRYLAND--ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK, and Logan Sinclair couldn't imagine what his aunt Ruth and uncle Henry were doing living there in Snow White's cottage! Then Kelli SantaFe appeared, a golden-haired water nymph in pink costume and wings, and he knew he'd truly lost his marbles-and his heart! He was intrigued by her laugh, infuriated by her stubbornness, and downright bewitched by her sweet, seductive mouth... when it wasn't suggesting that he stay out of her business.

Logan didn't want to fight a tug-of-war with Kelli for his relatives, whom shed taken in and treated like the family shed always wanted, but his guilt at not being there when they'd needed him made him determined to make a home for them now. Kelli had fallen hard for Logan, who could laugh at himself and rescue damsels in distress, but who also had the power to shatter her happiness. Could fairy magic help them weave their dreams together?
Well, this was a very nice, cute book, if a little unremarkable. A C+.

I'm wondering now why exactly I found it so remarkable. Probably because what was available to me then was all big, cruel alpha mules + doormat heroines... lots of Catherine Coulter and authors like that, so the fact that this one had a hero was usually nice to the heroine was enough to make it stand out in a very good way.

Anyway, this wasn't a bad way to spend a couple of hours.


When It's Perfect, by Adele Ashworth

>> Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Adele Ashworth wrote one of my top favourite romance novels ever, the wonderful, wonderful Winter Garden. The last one I read, though not bad, wasn't nearly as good. Unfortunately, neither was When It's Perfect (excerpt).

When the mesmerizing Marcus Longfellow, theEarl of Renn, comes striding into Miss Mary Marsh's life,her world is set spinning. The ladies of London's ton clamor for the lacy confections Mary creates, but the earl is seeking something more from her. And he is very persuasive in his pursuit. Gentle, quiet Mary has always avoided romance, but her strong attraction to theadventurous nobleman is immediate and irresistible.Dare she trust the dashing lord with her secrets?

She is hiding something -- Marcus is certain of it -- a clue, perhaps, to explain his sister's untimely death. A sensuous seduction will surely loosen young Mary's tongue,and the determined earl is eager to oblige -- for in all his world travels, Marcus has found no treasure moreexquisite than she. But is his growing passion for herinterfering with his search for the truth?
I wanted to love it, I really did! But though it was at least readable, and there were certain things I liked, it ultimately didn't really work for me. A C+.

Ok, I liked that mixed with the romance we had a mystery (definitely not a suspense subplot, but a bonafide mystery), and one with Gothic undertones, to boot. It was a cross between a cozy mystery and a gothic, actually, and this is a combination I love. But I didn't think it was developed well, I'm afraid. The investigation felt a little slap-dash, and almost too easy. They kept ignoring it, and neglecting to take the most obvious steps, and then it was all revealed by speaking to a person they should have spoken to right in the beginning.

As for the protagonists, I did like Marcus and understand him, but Mary... I found myself very distant from Mary. I never got to understand her and what made her tick, I'm afraid. Why had she felt drawn to design sexy lingerie? Why did she feel the need to work? Why had she done what she did in Simply Irresistible? Why did she finally decide to give in to her attraction to Marcus? And near the end of the book, why did she refuse Marcus? I haven't a clue.

And then the ending wasn't very good. First, I wanted more info about what the hell had happened to Mary. The way she revealed it to Marcus just didn't cut it for me, and I ended up with no idea of how it had affected her. And second, even though it was probably very realistic, what had happened to Christine left me with a bad taste in the mouth. I simply didn't feel the villain (and a certain someone who had known what had happened) got punished enough.

All in all, not too good.


Night Watch, by Suzanne Brockmann

When Suzanne Brockmann's Night Watch (excerpt) came out, I was really anxious to read it, but it took so long to get here (and the one who got her copy first was a friend of mine), that I lost all sense of urgency, and I actually kept it around for a couple of weeks before I found the right mood to read it.

When U.S. Navy Seal Chief Wes Skelly was sent to L.A. on assignment, he agreed to go on a blind date with beautiful single mother Brittany Evans, sister-in-law of a fellow SEAL. After all, he had been secretly in love for years, albeit with a woman who belonged to another man. So what did he have to lose?

Plenty, it turned out. Because suddenly the woman he thought he could never have was available. However, so was Brittany -- and not only that, she was in danger. Because of him. He knew he could keep her safe. But why was he increasingly certain that he was the one in danger?
I think I'm a Suzanne Brockmann slut. I enjoy pretty much everything the woman writes, in any genre, with any plot.. it doesn't matter, I devour the book. Night Watch wasn't by any means her best, but I still liked it enough to give it a B+.

What I adored about the story was the way the relationship between Britt and Wes was developed. These two enjoyed each other, warts an all, and Brockmann was very successful in showing that. I love reading relationships like that. Also, usually I'm not fond of plots where the hero starts out in love with someone else (it's a little double standard of mine: I adore books where it's the heroine who is in love with someone else), but this one works well, basically because I really bought that Wes wasn't "settling" for Britt, he really was crazy about her, and not just sexually. At one point, he tells her that he loves being with her because she likes him even when he's not pretending to be a better behaved someone else, and I could just feel his delight in being with someone who actually liked him.

This element was good enought that it more than compensated for the problems I had with the plotting. Basically, I thought the book was a little bit too crowded by different subplots, and some of them came out underdeveloped, like the one about Dani and Britt's son Andy. It was an interesting one, don't get me wrong, but there just wasn't space for it here, and it got shortchanged. Actually, I would have also cut the suspense subplot, all that thing about the stalker, and concentrated on the Lana-Quinn thing. That one was the most important one, as far as I'm concerned, but it was crowded out by the very unoriginal stalker thingie.

Oh, and a final note: 5 foot 10 is supposed to be "short"?? And so much is made out of this supposed shortness? That's just ridiculous, that's not short, it's just average.


A Novel Approach, by Emma Jane Spenser

>> Tuesday, March 23, 2004

This weekend I read A Novel Approach, by an author I'd never heard of, Emma Jane Spenser. This was apparently her first novel.

Dani Courtland was extremely frustrated. Every time she came close to pulling off the perfect crime, some pinhead in a three-piece suit stepped in to thwart her. If she was ever going to finish writing her latest murder mystery, she'd have to get him out of the way first.

But PI AdamWinters wasn't willing to be written off. After witnessing Dani in action, his profesional curiosity -among other things- was aroused. As for Dani's response... She decided he was more Adonis than Pinhead, beneath that suit, and rather fun to have underfooot. Sooner or later, though, he was bound to discover that pseudomurder wasn't all she was guilty of...
It was a cute book, with a fun premise. My grade for it: a B.

As I said, I thought the premise was really cute (cute, in a good way). It was an original and fun way for these two people to meet. It only served as the "introduction", so the rest of the book had to stand on its own, but luckily the rest of the development was nice, too, with a hero who fell like a ton of bricks for Dani, almost immediately. I did think that these two fell "in love" a bit too fast, faster than I could buy, at least, but oh well.

The heroine, Dani, was cute, too. She was definitely quirky, and I liked how Adam took it all in stride and was actually fascinated by this quirkiness. I also liked how the author showed their compatibility, by emphasizing all those little details they had in common, like a fondness for Japanese beer, or their liking gourmet food but having a "fast-food fetish" sometimes, too, which all taken together, meant they were able to get along wonderfully.

I was so enjoying the freshness of it all, that I got a bit scared near the end, when it looked like a groan-worthy, contrived and clichéd Big Misunderstanding scene was going to provide a last-minute conflict. To make it worse, this scene was one I was able to see coming miles before. Well, the scene did happen, and though it was contrived (it involved Adam not telling Dani something that any reasonable person would have told her), what saved the situation was the way Dani reacted.

All in all, this was a promising first book, and I enjoyed it.


Getting Her Man, by Michele Albert

I loved Michele Albert's books when she was writing as "Michelle Jerott", so luckily, I found out about the name change in time to order Getting Her Man.

Private Investigator Diana Belmaine always gets her man-- and her hunt for a brazen, clever thief leads the cool blonde straight to Dr. Jack Austin. A globetrotting adventurer and shoo-in for "America's Most Eligible Bachelor," Jack is a pillar of the community--and guilty as sin. But while his gorgeous smile could melt nearly any woman's resistance, she's learned her lesson about sweet-talking men and won't be swayed by Jack's obvious charms, no matter how much the criminally handsome hunk turns up the heat.

Jack is used to living life on the edge and is drawn to smart, sexy women with a bite--but this lady is wickedly dangerous! Diana's vow to expose his secret could cost him his livelihood, his reputation, perhaps even his life. He should keep his distance, though closing in on her tempting curves is a risk he can't resist. With nothing left to lose, his beautiful adversary his only salvation, why not surrender to fate and steal her heart with a deep, lingering...larcenous...kiss?
Getting Her Man wasn't perfect, but the good things about it were outstanding, enough to make me forget my prejudice against thief protagonists. Enough to get a very solid A-.

The best thing about it was the heroine, Diana. It's as if the author had looked at my list of common features of romance novels that irritate the hell out of me, and gone through it one by one, avoiding them!

So, instead of having a heroine whose brain turns to mush every single time the hero kisses her, we have one who manages to remain cool, even though it's not easy :-) Instead of a heroine who's alone in the world, we have one who has good, supportive female friends, who she calls when she needs advice or just to vent. Instead of a ninny who is a knock-out but believes she's ugly, we have one who knows she looks good and plays up her looks (and uses them to get what she wants!). Instead of someone who is completely uninterested in fashion (I'm a bit like that myself, but having all heroines be like that gets old fast), we have Diana who likes to engage in retail therapy at times.

And she's also confident, even a little arrogant and cocky, intelligent, takes no shit from anybody and is very, very good at her job. How could I not love this woman? She even has enough profesional integrity that she's determined to bust Jack if he's guilty, whatever happens between them. She's done it in the past, having her thieving former lover arrested, which I found refreshingly wonderful. Anyway, it's only when she realizes that something strange is going on that they she joins forces with Jack. This is definitely not an "I'm attracted to him, so he can't be guilty" kind of situation.

Jack was a good match for her. Charming and extremely yummy, he's got an Indiana Jones thing going on which I found very attractive, and I very much respected his reasons for doing what he was doing (yep, this is one of those books where the thief has a very noble reason for what he's doing). He wasn't an omnipotent alpha, with never a doubt about he was doing. Oh, no, he was pretty much terrified about what could happen if things went wrong, and he was respectful enough of Diana's abilities to get nervous about the threat she represented. She also made him really nervous as a woman, which I found endearing :-)

And when they were together... wow! The chemistry was beautifully done, as were the love scenes, and the way they bantered reminded me of JAK in her best books (huge compliment, coming from me). I especially appreciated the fact that there wasn't a proposal right away, but that it was shown in an epilogue, some months later, after the relationship had been given time to develop in more "normal" times.

And now for the bad. Basically, the main problem was that the story bogged down quite a bit near the end. It lost all sense of urgency, and for a while it was almost boring. I almost didn't give it an A-range grade because of it, but then I got thinking that I'd enjoyed the characters so much that I couldn't not give it a keeper grade.


The Famous Heroine, by Mary Balogh

>> Friday, March 19, 2004

Still rereading, this time The Famous Heroine, by Mary Balogh.

When Lord Francis Kneller first sees Cora Downes, she is tripping over her own feet, shrieking, and laughing rather too loudly. His conclusion is that she is a frightful young lady. When Cora first sees Lord Francis, he is wearing a bright satin turquoise coat with silver and turquoise striped waistcoat and silver knee breeches and copious amounts of lace. She immediately thinks of peacocks. Cora has a habit of getting herself into dreadful scrapes, and Lord Francis always seems to be close enough to get her out of them--at the cost of compromising her once too often. Soon this ill-assorted pair is forced into a marriage neither of them has sought.
I haven't read many books by Balogh, but of the half dozen or so that I've read, The Famous Heroine is easily my favourite. An A.

I just loved the farcical feel of the book, very definitely not what I'd expected from Balogh, at least from what I'd heard and read. But in spite of the lightness of tone, the book didn't lack emotional power.

Francis and Cora were very definitely not the same old, same old. Francis, especially, was a delightful hero. Here's a guy who actually dresses like the dandified peacock most heros (all dressed plainly in black) feel so superior to, and he does it simply because he likes it and enjoys it. His character never loses any sense of masculinity for it. And Cora, clumsy and forthright, naive about the ton's rules and terrified of aristocrats, and with a wonderful sense of the absurd, was a delight.

The book shone in depicting their relationship, how they became friends and the way this friendship turned into love. This was done gradually, and believably, and succeeded in showing how these two people were perfect for each other. I especially enjoyed how Francis appreciated Cora's personality, quirks and all, and genuinely liked her and shared her sense of the absurd.

Oh, and for a Regency, this was a very sensual book. The love scenes were particularly explicit (only for a Regency, though), and the sensual tension was wonderfully done. Also, in the other Baloghs I've read the love scenes have never felt really good (there's a sense of awkwardness, usually), but that didn't happen here, and they flowed nicely.

I especially enjoyed the fact that the book focused completely on Francis and Cora's relationship.No suspense subplot whatsoever. These have become so common even in historical romances, that I treasure each and every one that I find that doesn't include this plot point and doesn't rely on soap-operaish melodrama to manufacture conflict. What this one did use was a "misunderstanding" plot, which is something I enjoy when it's an understandable mistake and played for laughs, as it was here. Cora thinking Francis was gay went on for a pretty long time, and yet it never felt old.

All in all, a beautiful comedy. This book inspires me to look for other similar Baloghs... do any more exist?


After Dark, by Jayne Castle (aka Jayne Ann Krentz)

>> Thursday, March 18, 2004

After reading a DIK review for the newly released After Glow, written by Jayne Ann Krentz (under her Jayne Castle pseudonym), which I'm planning to buy on my upcoming trip to the US, I decided to reread, After Dark. Apparently After Glow follows the same protagonists as After Dark, Lydia Smith and Emmett London, so I though I should refresh my memory, even though I'd reread it only in August 2002 for the last time.

A race of aliens once lived on the future Earth colony called Harmony, leaving behind them the ruins of a vast, beautiful, and mysterious culture that is still protected by the psychic illusion traps and eerie ghosts that they created.

Lydia Smith is an archaeologist who can resonate and dissolve the illusions, and those talents, combined with her lack of finances and questionable professional reputation, make her the obvious hire for Emmett London, who is trying to track down a lost antique and the nephew who stole it. Lydia's first consulting job quickly turns dangerous, however, as corpses, ghosts, and illusion traps start popping up--not to mention the rather unprofessional electricity between her and her first client.
The last time I read it (see my impressions HERE), I gave After Dark only a B-. I was irritated by how the ending lacked closure. This time, probably because I was reading it while conscious that the story would be continued, the ending, with its lack of declaration of love, didn't bother me. My grade would be higher, a B+.

I also enjoyed the book less last time because the setting was too similar yet different to the one of the Psynergy series (Amaryllis, Zinnia and Orchid). This time, no problem at all, probably because I read Castle's novella in the Charmed anthology only last January, so the setting was still fresh in my mind. I do still prefer the world in which the Psynergy books are set, but I was just fine with this one, too.

All in all, very good, a wonderful comfort read and I'm looking forward to After Glow.


Welcome To Temptation, by Jennifer Crusie

>> Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Welcome To Temptation (check out this page at the author's site. It has some fascinating stuff, like the movie quotes used in the book), by Jennifer Crusie

All Sophie Dempsey wants to do is help her sister make a video of a washed-up actress and get out of town before they get into trouble. The daughter of generations of con men, Sophie's trying to walk the straight and narrow, but it's, well, difficult.

All Mayor Phineas Tucker wants to do is run Temptation with as little fuss as possible and win his upcoming election without cutting into the time he needs for his real passion: playing pool. The son of generations of mayors, Phin's trying to be an upstanding citizen, but it's, well, boring.

It only takes one look before Sophie knows that Phin's the kind of boy her mother used to warn her about-- a fast-talking town boy-- and Phin knows she's the kind of woman his father told him to stay away from-- the devil's candy.

And in no time at all, boredom is the least of their difficulties. Gossip, adultery, and blackmail; pornography, politics, and murder; vehicular abuse of a corpse and slightly perverse but really excellent sex: all hell is breaking loose in Temptation, Ohio, while Sophie and Phin fall deeper and deeper in trouble . . . and in love.
Oh, wow! This was Crusie at her best. A solid A.

This is definitely my kind of humour. Intelligent, not afraid to poke fun at some sacred cows, a little black, at times and lots and lots of witty banter. Also, Crusie has a very distinctive way of writing, especially dialogue, and I enjoyed every word.

The plot was entertaining. Even when it turned into a murder case, this served to continue the general wackiness. And the running gag about the cause of death was black humour at its best!

As for the characters, well, Sophie wasn't particularly original, as the girl from the crooked family who wants to go straight, but who is capable of sacrificing everything for her grown sister who should know better. Still, the doormat behaviour wasn't as much as it could have been, so I did enjoy her. Phin, however, I adored. He felt fresh, especially in that he was an unambitious guy, who doesn't really want the responsability of being mayor, but would rather prefer to run his bookstore in peace and play pool. This all makes for a most excellent ending ;-)

I especially liked, too, that for a small-town romance, this was remarkably anti-conservative. I'm showing my bias here, but that was a definite plus for me, even though I freely accept Crusie sometimes does cross the line into preaching.

The sex here deserves a separate mention. This was also a steaming hot read. The "slightly perverse sex" description in the blurb is spot-on. It was borderline kinky, and very, very exciting.

I'm afraid this was the last Crusie book I enjoyed, but I'm looking forward to reading her next, Bet Me, which I'm hoping I'll like.


Secrets of a Perfect Night, by S. Laurens, V. Alexander & R. Gibson

>> Tuesday, March 16, 2004

I'm reading many more anthologies this year than I previously did. I've had good luck so far, but of course, sometimes I run into some lackluster books, such as, for instance, Secrets of a Perfect Night.

The first story was the best, IMO. It was by Stephanie Laurens, SCANDALOUS LORD DERE.

The tales begin with Laurens's scandalous Lord Dere as he arrives on Abigail Woolley's doorstep in the midst of a blizzard. Dere and Abigail share a past that neither can forget. They've both gone far too long without love and if propinquity and passion have their way, a blissful future awaits them.
This one was pretty inoffensive, that's the best word for it. The setup, with Dere arriving at Abby's during a snowstorm, half frozen, was one I enjoyed, but I was less than overjoyed at the very typical situation of Dere having had thousands of lovers in the years they were apart, while Abby has been chaste. Why is it never the other way?

Ultimately, the story was just barely ok. A B-.

The second story was THE LAST LOVE LETTER, by Victoria Alexander, an author I haven't had much luck with in the past.

Beautiful Rachael Gresham had given all the love in her passionate young heart to handsome Jason Norcross. But treachery and greed tore them apart, their hearts shattered with betrayal and despair. Now fate has brought them together again, the truth at last revealed. Will Rachael and Jason have the courage to put the past behind and reclaim the love that has endured the long years spent apart?
This one was boring. Very boring. It simply didn't engage my interest. The setup was was too melodramatic for my taste, and I just didn't see enough conflict in the present-day events. A grade of C-.

The third story was by Rachel Gibson, NOW AND FOREVER, and it was the only contemp novella in the lot.

In Rachel Gibson's "Now And Forever," high school friends Brina McConnell and Thomas Mack come together again at a class reunion. They may both have changed for the better on the outside, but inside, they're still as passionately attracted to each other as when they were teenagers. The fire that threatens to scorch them now is very adult, but whether it will last past New Year's Eve is anyone's guess.
I never warmed up to these people, especially Thomas, and their relationship felt much too hurried and thus, unbelievable. Also, I found myself irritated by the little games they played with each other. A C is the best I can give it.

The book as a whole gets a grade of C from me. Off to my Trade List it goes!


The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy L Sayers

I've now finished # 9 in Dorothy L. Sayers's Wimsey series: The Nine Tailors. I'm very anxious to get to the next one, where I know the Harriet-Peter relationship will finally go somewhere, but I'm planning to save it for a plane trip in April - if I can resist!

When a disfigured corpse is discovered in a country parish, the local rector pleads with Lord Peter to take on what will become one of his most brilliant and complicated cases
This was a fascinating book. It wasn't the one I enjoyed the most, but I think it might easily be the best of all the series, for the sense of place and atmosphere, at least. Still, I'm grading for my enjoyment, so I'll give it a B+.

Such a dark, moody book! Like most of Sayers' books, The Nine Tailors gave me a glimpse of a world I knew very little about, this time a small town in the Fens, its church and bells. Fascinating, every word of it, though a lot about bell ringing (or was it change ringing?) went right over my head.

Unfortunately, I remembered the way the victim had died, from the last time I'd read the book, some 10 years ago, so I had this knowlege present in my mind the entire time, which meant some less suspense for me (only some, because I remembered nothing more than the method). This didn't ruin my enjoyment, or anything, but well, I always prefer to remember nothing, in mysteries.

And BTW, any Sayers fans reading this should seriously consider joining the LordPeter discussion group at Yahoo!. They are reading a book a month (Strong Poison, in March), and the discussions are wonderfully enlightening. I hope that when the time comes to discuss The Nine Tailors, I'll be finally able to understand about bell-ringing! ;-)


Where's My Hero, by Kleypas, MacGregor and Quinn

>> Friday, March 12, 2004

I've been very lazy lately. I finished the Where's My Hero? anthology on Monday, and only now do I get around to posting about it :-)

The first story was by Lisa Kleypas, titled AGAINST THE ODDS. This one's related to Dreaming of You (the heroine is the daughter of the protagonists of that one) and to Someone to Watch Over Me (the hero was the yummy doctor who attended the heroine).

Lydia Craven is a beautiful, absent-minded but brilliant mathematician newly betrothed to a handsome, sweet, understanding man. Unfortunately, she doesn't love him. Jake Linley (Someone to Watch Over Me) is a doctor who has been in love with Lydia for longer than he is comfortable with and cannot stand idly by while she makes an enormous mistake in marrying for companionship instead of adoration. When fate lends a helping hand, he eagerly takes advantage of the situation and passionately attempts to convince her of his argument... (blurbs from: Curled Up With a Good Book)
This was one of those stories which should have been a whole novel, or at least a longer novella. At under 100 pages, it felt much to crammed and hurried. It's a testament to Kleypas' talent that she was able to create some poignant moments and made me care enough about the characters to find the love scene steamy. Oh, I would have loved for it to be longer!

Especially irritating, given the fact that the story was already short, was the pages and pages devoted to Derek and Sara, from Dreaming of You. Maybe it's just that though I liked their story, I wasn't bowled over by it, but I could have done without the distraction.

My grade: a B-, verging on a C+, but not quite.

The second story was my least favourite: MIDSUMMER'S KNIGHT, by Kinley MacGregor

Lady Kenna McRyan is not a typical romance heroine. She isn't beautiful, she isn’t tall, she isn't thin. But she is everything Simon of Ravenswood (Born in Sin and Master of Desire) has ever dreamed of. She is equally besotted with him, but because he is writing as his close friend Stryder of Blackmoor, Kenna is convinced it is Stryder she loves. It doesn't take her long to realize that Simon is the sweet, sensitive man she has spent so long corresponding with.
Now, I haven't read Master of Desire but I did read Born in Sin pretty recently and no, it didn't really help me understand this story. I finally did understand a little about the group these men had, but I would have appreciated a little more consideration for readers new to this author.

As for the story itself, so many things happened here that it was hard to get excited about them, because I never really got to know the protagonists. A C.

The third entry, by Julia Quinn, titled A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, was one of the best novellas I've ever read, if not THE best.

Ned Blydon (Splendid, Dancing at Midnight and Minx) is about to marry the wrong woman. In fact, even if he didn't know who the right woman was, Lydia Thornton would still and always be the wrong woman. But he does know. It's her sister, Charlotte. She is certainly intrigued by the dashing lord, but her loyalty to her sister is a constant nagging noise in her head. When Lydia reveals her intention to elope with someone other than Ned, Charlotte suddenly realizes that a future of love and laughter with the man of her dreams is a very real possibility.
Oh, this was a beautiful story. I wouldn't change even a letter of it. I suppose it helped that it was a bit longer than the other 2, and that the author kept the references to characters from Splendid and Dancing at Midnight to the minimum, so as not to overcrowd the story, but that doesn't explain why it was so much better than the other entries.

The characters were real, likeable, and just perfect for each other. Their interactions were full of emotion and poignancy, and the plot was one I really liked. Plus, it was written in Julia Quinn's wonderful style.

I don't want to rave too much *g*, but this story was easily worth the price of the book. An A+.

In spite of the first 2 stories being mediocre, the third one was so good that I'll give the entire anthology a B+.


Now You See Her, by Linda Howard

>> Tuesday, March 09, 2004

I have quite a few Linda Howard books I'd like to reread. The first, Now You See Her.

A talented landscape painter and portrait artist in her early thirties, Paris Sweeney has achieved enviable success: her work sells at an exclusive New York City gallery owned by her friend, Candra Worth, and her popularity is at an all-time high. Sweeney, as she is affectionately called by those close to her, loves her work and is content with her life.

Then she begins to notice odd changes: traffic lights turn green when she approaches. Her plants are in full bloom out of season. Perhaps they're jist coincidences, but she can't ignore her dreams -- lush, vivid, and drenched in vibrant hues -- which are influencing her artwork. And she can't deny her growing restlessness....Suddenly, impulsively, Sweeney finds herself unable to resist a night of intense passion with millionaire Richard Worth, Candra's estranged husband. But the true dangers of her all-consuming urges are about to be revealed where Sweeney least expects it: in her paintings.

After a creative frenzy she can barely recall, Sweeney discovers she has rendered a disturbing image -- a graphic murder scene. Against her better instincts, she returns to the canvas time and again, filling out each chilling detail piece by piece -- a shoe, the body of a victim, and soon, the victim's face. But when a shattering, real-life murder mirrors her creation, Sweeney is thrust into suspicious light. Now, with every stroke of her brush, she risks incriminating herself with her inexplicable knowledge of a deadly crime. And every desire -- including her hungry attraction to Richard -- is loaded with uncertainty and terrifying discovery as Sweeney races to unmask a killer.
Now You See Her had a plot somewhat reminiscent of Dream Man, but it was a very different book, both in tone and in the characters. A B-.

As much as I was intrigued by the suspense subplot, with the neat paranormal touches, I just wish there had been a little more emphasis on the romance. It's just that I thought these two characters were a bit of a departure for Howard. Richard, for one, is one of Howards less Howard-esque heroes. I mean, the guy is almost beta in certain ways. He's always supportive and kind to Sweeney, always reasonable and low-key. Strange that what I liked best about him was precisely what made him different to most of this author's heros :-)

An interesting, enjoyable book.


FridayFive questions of the day

>> Friday, March 05, 2004

I haven't done the FridayFive questions of the day in ages...

What was...

1. ...your first grade teacher's name?

Mrs. Apolant. I hadn't thought of her in ages.

2. ...your favorite Saturday morning cartoon?

Well, that varied. The one I remember most fondly is the Gummy Bears. I still watch it, when I catch it ;-)

3. ...the name of your very first best friend?

Daniela. We were best friends until she moved abroad.

4. ...your favorite breakfast cereal?

I didn't eat cereals for breakfast until recently. I ate toast, with butter. My favourite cereal now is Nestlé Fitness.

5. ...your favorite thing to do after school?

Well, my absolute favourite was when I didn't have any extra-curricular activities planned, but of the things I did, I believe I liked tennis class and Scottish dancing best. My least favourite were swimming, (which is weird, because I'm planning to start swimming again now) and hockey practise.


A Notorious Love, by Sabrina Jeffries

>> Thursday, March 04, 2004

A Notorious Love, by Sabrina Jeffries, is the second in the Swanlea Spinsters series. I've read the first, A Dangerous Love, and liked it. I was pretty intrigued by two secondary characters, Daniel and Helena, who star in this one.

Lady Helena Laverick is at her wits' end! The only man who can help her find her eloping young sister is that scoundrel Daniel Brennan—the man who played with her emotions last summer and then left. And he used to be a smuggler! Although Mrs. Nunley's Guide to Etiquette for Young Ladies would never approve, Helena is forced to go after the runaway in Daniel's company. But something about being with him feels oddly freeing—and a delicious tingle warns Helena that more than her reputation may be in danger. . .

Daniel finds most of the prim lady's rules ridiculous—but when she has to masquerade as his wife for appearance's sake, he immediately envisions the delights of sharing a bedchamber. The unexpected passion smoldering beneath her proper exterior ignites his desire, and the vulnerability hidden beneath her cool control makes him want her even more. Yet Helena's a lady, and he's the son of a highwayman. How can he ask her to share his world?
I don't know what it is about Sabrina Jeffries, but all her novels draw me in immediately and keep me reading like crazy. A Notorious Love was no exception: a B+.

The emphasis is firmly on the hero and heroine, Daniel and Helena, and since this is a road romance, they are together pretty much all the time. This makes for a relationship that develops very nicely, and not abruptly. Helena was a bit tiresome, at first, but she loosened up satisfyingly.

I especially liked the fact that this was not a stereotypical noble lady - lower class man romance, full of self-flagellation on the part of the hero about how the heroine is too good for him and boo-hoo. No, Daniel does have some doubts about whether Helena could be interested in him, at first, but once it becomes clear that she is, in fact, attracted to him and considers him a valid prospect, he has pretty much no qualms about it. There is a moment near the end when he has doubts about whether she should marry him, yes, but not because he thinks his past per se makes him unworthy, but because he worries it will create in the future the same problems it was creating at that point with the smugglers. Made sense to me, but I was glad this wasn't too drawn out.

This was a very hot book, with wonderful love scenes and a fair amount of mental lusting (which I confess I do enjoy, when done right). My only problem with this aspect of the story was that Daniel's terms for his penis were, quite frankly, groan-inducing. "Pego", "John Thomas", "St. Peter"... oh, please! This was much too distracting.

As far as the suspense subplot goes, well, I'm afraid the "villain"'s motivations didn't really make much sense to me. I mean, what he did was a really stupid thing to do, much more trouble than it was worth. Still, I found myself, if not enjoying this, at least not minding it. I liked that there was never much doubt that the worse thing that could happen to Daniel and Helena (and Juliet) was being inconvenienced until the ransom was paid. Yeah, I know, most people would feel the exact opposite way, that this decreased the suspense, which for them is something bad, but what can I say? I'm weird that way.

What I didn't like was how this book, didn't really stand alone very well. A lot of space was devoted to Helena and Daniel in A Dangerous Love, and I don't think their story would really have felt complete if I hadn't read that book first. It seems the same thing will happen with the third sister, Juliet's story. There is a lot about her and her abductor, Morgan Pryce here, and this is a thread that is left hanging, which usually bothers me. I was already going to buy their book, After the Abduction, but I feel a little manipulated.


Long Time No See, by Susan Isaacs

>> Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Long Time No See (excerpt), by Susan Isaacs is the sequel to her Compromising Positions, an excellent book she wrote almost 20 years ago.

Judith Singer is back! After twenty years Susan Isaacs brings us back the heroine from Compromising Positions, her first and most beloved novel and returns to a great suspense story set in suburbia. Judith's life has changed. She now has her doctorate in history. Her workaday hours are spent at St. Elizabeth's College, mostly squandered in history department shriek-fests. She is also a widow. Her husband Bob died one half-day after triumphantly finishing the New York City Marathon in four hours and twelve minutes. And although twenty years have passed without seeing him, she still cannot get her former lover, Nelson Sharpe of the Nassau County Police Department, out of her system.

With Courtney Logan's dramatic disappearance, all eyes turn instantly toward her husband, Greg Logan, son of Long Island mobster Philip "Fancy Phil" Lowenstein. But since there is no body, there is no arrest. Then, in the less-than-merry month of May, Judith comes home from work, turns on the radio, and hears the Logans' pool man telling a reporter that he opened the pool and found . . . a raccoon? Not quite. "I see, you know, it's a body! Jeez. Believe it or not, I'm still shaking." The woman in the pool turns out to be Courtney, and now it's officially homicide. And Judith comes alive! She offers her services to the police's chief suspect, Greg Logan, but he shows her the door, thinking her just another neighborhood nut. But his father isn't so sure: Fancy Phil may have other plans for her.
A pleasure to read. A B+.

Isaacs is one of the few authors whose writing style is so wonderful, I'd read them in any genre. I kept going back and rereading witty paragraphs, smiling to myself, needing someone to read them to and share the amazing way with words this author has.

Her characterizations are always especially beautiful. With a couple of phrases she'll completely capture a character's personality, in a way you actually see him or her in your mind. I cheered every time it looked like Judith was going to interview a new person.

I especially appreciated the fact that Isaacs doesn't just skewer and ridiculize characters, as some authors with such a witty, acid pen would be tempted to do. Oh, of course, she pokes fun like the best of them, but you can always detect some humanity in every minor character, however horrid that character might be. And not all of them are horrid, there's a good share of sympathetic secondary characters, genuinely likeable people.

The plot itself... not that good. I was intrigued, a bit, but it's not the kind of thing I really enjoy. Isaacs writing + a story I enjoy would be a definite A+, but still, any excuse is good to read Isaacs' writing.


Uneasy Alliance, by Jayne Ann Krentz

>> Monday, March 01, 2004

I'm back in Montevideo, boo-hoo! I wish I were still in Punta del Este, but oh, well, everything good has to end at some point, right? Anyway, I read a couple of books in my last days of vacation that I haven't posted about. One of them: Uneasy Alliance, by Jayne Ann Krentz.

He had a definite eye for beauty

Meeting Torr Latime was the last thing Abby Lyndon expected from her Japanese flower-arranging class. He was dynamic, good-looking, sexy - and he created much better floral arrangements than she did! He was also the distraction Abby needed in a time of crisis, for someone was stalking her...

Discovering her plight, Torr gallantly offered to protect her. He took Abby to his secluded cabin, where the atmosphere was intimate and safe - and conducive to seduction. Abby found all thoughts of the stranger menacing her melted away when Torr drew her yielding lips to his...
Not a very good one, I'm afraid. A C.

Uneasy Alliance started better than it finished. In the first part of the book, Torr was a guy who was trying his best to be considerate, to find a way to succeed in having a relationship with Abby, the woman he was so attracted to. He was conscious of the fact that she had a problem with possessive guys (a well-justified problem, IMO), and he contemplated that fact when dealing with her. I liked that part of the book, enjoyed how Torr was not completely sure of how to conduct himself and how Abby responded to him.

In the second half, though, all Torr's good intentions were apparently discarded, and he became all heavy-handed caveman. "You're mine, you belong to me", not allowing her to leave when she wanted to, and all that nice behaviour. He frustrated me. He kept insisting that he was not like the guy who'd scared her before, but I'm sorry, as far as I'm concerned, he acted very similar.

And that ending! I found it reminiscent of the one in Loving Evangeline (one of the worst I've ever read), with the hero drawing a picture of what their life together would be, a life which sounded revolting to me. All that crap about how she needed a man to protect her against her recklessness and keep her in line... yuck!

Oh, and please, how more TSTL could Abby be to do what she did to precipitated the final confrontation. And about that final confrontation: the suspense subplot was much too predictable, telegraphed miles before, and I didn't like it.

It's too bad the entire book didn't continue in the same vein in which it started.


Blog template by simplyfabulousbloggertemplates.com

Back to TOP