>> Thursday, March 30, 2006

As far as I can tell, Giselle started, it then Kristie did it, then Tara and that's where I got it from.

1. FIRST NAME? María. I'm actually María del Rosario... "Mary of the Rosary", if you translate literally. But I'm usually just called Rosario, because way too many Uruguayan women are called María Something (the María is supposed to bring you the protection of the Virgin Mary, apparently), so it would get too confusing if everyone were called by their first name. Hell, even my sister is María Lucía, which causes no end of trouble. I keep getting stuff meant for her.

2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Strangely, no. My parents just liked the name. And I say strangely because my maternal granddad was originally from a small town in SW Uruguay called Rosario, but apparently that didn't influence my parents' choice at all.

3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY? Saturday before last, 9.00 PM. In church, during my sister's wedding. My eyes teared up the minute the doors opened and I saw Lu, and I really let loose when I had to go up to the altar and make this little speech giving thanks. Thankfully, it was a short speech, because I broke down a couple of time in the middle of it.

4. WHAT IS ON YOUR DESKTOP BACKGROUND? I've got webshots, so it varies every half an hour. Right now it's a picture of Machu Pichu, in Peru.

5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCHMEAT? I haven't got the slightest idea of what this would be in English, but it's something we call "lomito canadiense", even though there's probably nothing Canadian about it. We seem to have some kind of culinary fixation with Canada here. What's pretty much the national dish is a meat sandwich called "Chivito Canadiense" ("Canadian small goat", believe it or not), which you can see here or here. No idea what Canada has to do with that, either!

6. KIDS? Nope, just the cats.


8. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL ? You're on it!

9. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Yep, and it can sometimes be a bit too pointed. I have to take care with that.

10. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? No, I had to have them removed when I was 3. It got to a point where I could barely eat, so my granddad (who was an ear, nose and throat surgeon (won't even try to spell otorhyno...whatever!) took them out).

11. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? I don't think so, I'm not one for physical risks. Emotional risks, risks with my career, that kind of stuff, yes, but I just don't see the point in stuff like bungee.


13. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES ? I don't usually use shoes with laces, but when I did, I tended not to untie them.

14. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Strong enough to ask for help when I need to.

15. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR? When I could eat sugar, before I was diagnosed with resistance to insulin, I loved pistachio and marrons glacés.

16. SHOE SIZE? Oh, damn. Mine is 36 in the scale we use here in Uruguay. Let me see if I can find a converter... yep, seems I'd be a 6?

17. RED OR PINK? Red. I hate pink.


19. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? My best friend who moved abroad.

20. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? No pants, a knee-length dark blue denim skirt, with burgundy boots (it's getting cold here!)

21. LAST THING YOU ATE? Chicken and green salad.

22. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The murmur from the TV. I've got Spanish Television on, waiting for Saber y Ganar (a wonderful quiz show) to start.





27. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? No one sent it, I stole it from other blogs, but yeah, I like all the people in whose blogs I saw it!

28. FAVORITE DRINK? Red wine

29. FAVORITE SPORT? Football (the one you Americans call soccer *g*). Though I'm boycotting Uruguayan football this year and haven't gone to the stadium even once. *sigh*, the Centenario used to be my home away from home.

30. HAIR COLOR? Dark brown, with a few bronze-coloured highlights, only a couple of tones lighter, so I don't need to go to the hairdresser's to do my roots. Though I think I'll probably be visiting them more often, because I've recently been finding some gray hairs. It's weird how the roots are so much like my cat's whiskers'!

31. EYE COLOR? Brown


33. FAVORITE FOOD? Mentioned this one in my laste meme: hummus and tabbouleh on pita bread.

34. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDING? Happy endings, no doubt about it.

35. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? It's been a while. I don't think I've been to the movies since I went to see Brokeback Mountain in early February.

36. COLOUR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? Red and purple sweater.

37. SUMMER OR WINTER? I think probably winter.

38. HUGS OR KISSES? Can I have both?

39. FAVORITE DESSERT? Chocolate. Fortunately I've found this wonderful German sugarless chocolate at my local supermarket. The other sugarless choc. brands I tried didn't taste bad, but they just didn't taste like chocolate!


Shadow and Silk, by Ann Maxwell (aka Lowell): good so far. Reminds me of my fave Lowell, Tell Me No Lies.

Lord St. Claire's Angel, by Donna Simpson. I've read only a few pages. So far, I'm hating the arrogant ass of a hero, but I'm pretty sure he'll get his comeuppance.

Wish List anthology. I've already read the Kleypas (bad), Cach (great) and Sands (awful) stories. Still need to read the Claudia Dain.

41. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? Nothing, it's just red.

42. WHAT DID YOU WATCH LAST NIGHT ON TV? Saber y Ganar (it's on every week night)


44. ROLLING STONE OR BEATLES? Beatles, but I'm not a huge fan of either of them.


46. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? I read very fast?

47. WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU BORN? December 13th, in Montevideo, Uruguay

48. WY DID YOU ANSWER THIS SURVEY OF YOURSELF? Because I like talking about myself ;-)


Blue Smoke, by Nora Roberts

>> Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Even though I love Nora Roberts's books and she's in the very first place on my autobuy list, certain comments I'd read meant I didn't really expect much from her latest Romantic Suspense single title, Blue Smoke. That is, it never crossed my mind not to buy it, because even a NR that's not among her best is still very much worth a read for me, but I was eagerly waiting for it, ready to pounce on it as soon as it got here, as I often do with her books.

The blaze that night at her family's pizzeria changed young Reena Hale's life. Neighbors and relatives would help the Hales rebuild. The Baltimore authorities would arrest the arsonist responsible. But as Reena beheld the fire's brutal beauty and destructive power, her destiny began to take shape. She would understand and master its terrible force-and one day become an investigator herself.

But she is not the only one fascinated by the flames. Someone else sees their power-and is obsessed not with conquering the fire but with controlling it, owning it, using it to exact vicious revenge . . .

When Reena finally joins the arson unit, her strength and wits are constantly tested-although sometimes the job seems like a snap compared to her love life. But she can't always blame the men-after all, a soot-caked woman barking orders and smelling of smoke isn't the biggest turn-on in the world. Then she meets Bo Goodnight, who seems different. He's been trying to find Reena for years, and now that she is close enough to touch, he has no intention of letting go.

Nor does the man who has begun to haunt Reena's life-with taunting phone calls and a string of horrifying crimes. And as Reena tries desperately to trace the origins-of the calls, the fires, the hatred aimed in her direction-she will step into the worst inferno she has ever faced.
I needn't have worried. I absolutely loved Blue Smoke. It was a big, juicy story, one I could really sink into, with compelling characters and a lovely romance. I'd rate it an A-, and the only reason I don't rate it higher is that certain scenes were a bit too graphic and upsetting for me.

When she was almost 12, the restaurant owned by Reena Hale's family was torched by a neighbour who wanted to get back at Reena's father for getting in his face about his son hitting Reena. This episode worked to make Reena fascinated with fire, with its whys and hows, and cemented her decision to become an arson investigator.

So for the next few hundreds of pages, we follow Reena as she builds her life. We see her going to college, becoming a cop, then an arson investigator. We see some of her relationships with men. But we also get glimpses of the shadow following her, hitting at her by hitting at the people (the men, especially) she cares about.

It's quite a few pages before we get to the meat of the story. Only for Nora, do I tolerate 300 out of 760 pages (I've got the large print edition... seller at amazon listed it wrong, damn him! It weighs a ton!) before the story actually gets going. Hell, before hero and heroine even meet! But I have to say, I did get a kick from that first part. The background really does make the character of Reena much, much deeper and layered.

While this first half of the story is mostly about Reena, we do catch a few scenes about Bo, and in all of these we see his life barely touching with Reena's. Bo falls in love at first sight the first time he sees her. He catches a glimpse of her across a crowded room in a college party and is absolutely gobsmacked, but when he tries to get to her, she has disappeared. Same thing a few years later, when she sees her in a shopping mall. She becomes his "Dream Girl", and though he doesn't become a monk, or anything, his Dream Girl is always on the back of his mind, whoever he's with.

Something like this risks being a bit creepy, but I though Roberts handled it perfectly. Once Bo and Reena actually meet, there was never a question in my mind of Bo being in love with some kind of ideal image and not with the real woman. Sure, his initial overtures are about his having finally found his Dream Girl, but it was obvious to me that he would have fallen for this new neighbour of his even if this had been the first time he'd seen her.

Bo and Reena were wonderful characters. Reena takes her place right up there with my favourites Nora Roberts heroines, and that's no small thing. She's a strong and honourable woman, but not an annoyingly perfect one. Something I really appreciated about her was how her reactions to someone stalking her and taunting her as the villain did were perfect. I didn't realize until after I thought about it when I finished the book just how rare they were, and how sick I am of heroines (even cop heroines) always doing the "oh, it's nothing, I won't bother the police with this. I'll just hide it" thing. Reena doesn't. She does the sensible, right thing, and not just with the villain's actions. I stood up and applauded when I saw what she did when that other guy she was involved with hit her! Perfect!

Bo was the perfect guy for this tough, driven woman, an easygoing, lovely beta. But beta doesn't mean weak, and I though Bo was very strong in the way he wouldn't budge from certain positions. Someone says right in the book that he'll just go along until he reaches a certain line, but when he's reached that line, you'd need dynamite to move him from his position. He reminded me a bit of Declan, from Midnight Bayou, who I loved.

I also loved the family stuff, which was just vintage Nora. Reena's family is huge and they're all very close, and I loved that Roberts didn't make them a stereotypical Eye-talian meddlesome family but a realistical and three-dimensional group of secondary characters.

The suspense element of this book was one I thought was really well done. Throughout it all, we readers see the villain coming close, and that adds a lot of tension because we know and Reena doesn't. And that was good, because there really was no reason she should catch on, so she didn't look like an idiot. The villain's identity isn't a big secret, really, but this doesn't diminish the suspensefulness of the story in any way.

What didn't work quite that well was that the villains actions were a quite a bit too disturbing for me. Whenever he actually hit at people, it was truly horrific. All of them, really, but I think it was the first one and the cop's widow who hit me the hardest. The former maybe because I just wasn't expecting it (I read the reviews of the book months ago, so I'd forgotten a lot of what it was about) and the latter because I really think Nora gave too many details there. I really didn't need that much to know the villain was an evil, evil person. In those two, I actually had to consciously get out of the story and remind myself that these were NOT real people, but words on a page of a fiction book, one that wasn't even based on a real story.

For the most part, however, the balance between the chilling suspense, the sweet romance and the warm family stuff is pitch-perfect, and this is an amazing story. I'm very much looking forward to Robert's next single title, which comes out in a couple of months. The title of that one is Angels Fall, and if you want to know what it's about, take that link, since it's the only place where I've found a synopsis. I guess the good part of having waited so long to read Blue Smoke is that now I don't have that long to wait before the next book!


New Romancing the Blog column online

My new Romancing the Blog column went online today. Go forth and read! ;-)


Best of the Best

>> Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I just updated my menu bar with links to what I consider the best of the best... the 22 books I've rated A+ since I started blogging back in August 2002. It was interesting to reread those reviews. Some books I don't really remember as being so amazing as to get an A+ (He Shall Thunder in the Sky, for instance), but I guess I thought so at the time. And there are other books I was so sure I'd rated A+, but when I checked, I hadn't (say, Laura Kinsale's For My Lady's Heart... I can't believe there are no Kinsales there! I gave 3 of hers As, but no A+s).

I also noticed some of those reviews very definitely don't do those books justice. The one for Trust Me, for instance, is laughable. My posts have very definitely got longer and longer!


Passion, by Lisa Valdez

An author who wins Best New Author (over Lydia Joyce, no less!), with a book which wins Most Luscious Love Story and Guiltiest Pleasure and gets an honourable mention in Most Hanky Read, but also "wins" in Worst Read and Purple-est Prose... I've got to see what all the fuss is about!

I'm talking about Passion, author Lisa Valdez's debut, BTW ;-)

A woman called Passion. A man who would make her true to her name.

In her second year of mourning, lovely young widow Passion Elizabeth Dare never dreamed she would be with a man again--and certainly not a complete stranger. But amidst the crowds of London's Crystal Palace, Passion finds herself discreetly, yet insistently, pursued by a sensual gentleman who awakens her long-supressed desires. After a loveless marriage of restrained propriety, Passion abandons herself to true bliss for the first time.

Intoxicated by his encounter with the beautiful stranger, Mark Randolph Hawkmore, Earl of Langley, cannot wait to see her again. As a series of rapturous rendezvous follows, he and his mystery lover find something rare and wonderful blossoming between them. But a blackmail scheme against the Earl threatens to destroy everything. As a scandal brews, each will have to choose between duty and desire...their love for their families--and their love for each other.
Oh, dear. This certainly was an interesting read, and a compulsively readable one. But... didn't really work for me. Not the worst read of the year (nowhere near that, actually), and as for the purple prose... hmm, I don't exactly share that opinion, but I do see why people could have voted it. My own grade would be a C, and this is one C that doesn't denote a mediocre read, but an author taking a chance that isn't a hit with me.

The story is simple. Mrs. Passion Redington is a widow whose husband died two years previously. In London for a visit with her aunt, she visits the Crystal Palace exhibition and meets a stranger who sexually fascinates her. They end up having hot sex behind a screen in one of the exhibition rooms. And it's not just a one-time thing: they meet again at the same place in the following days, and once the man finds out where Passion lives, he starts visiting her in her rooms.

The stranger is Mark Randolph Hawkmore, the Earl of Langley, and he was originally at the Crystal Palace to look over the young woman he's being blackmailed into marrying. See, his absolute bitch of a mother was indiscreet enough to put in writing that Mark's younger brother Matthew is actually the gardener's son, not the earl's, and the other bitch she sent this letter to has been keeping it for years, and now she's blackmailing Mark into marrying her daughter, Charlotte, otherwise she'll publish the letter.

Mark refuses to even consider going through with this, but he's forced to pretend to agree to it, all the while plotting ways of getting hold of the letter. Thing is, Charlotte is coincidentally Passion's second cousin (something he doesn't know), and when Passion finds out, shit really hits the fan.

Talking about how the romance was simply requires talking about the sex scenes, because as in the best erotica, Valdez develops Mark and Passion's relationship through what happens between them in bed. And she actually does it quite well. Her love scenes never feel gratuitous; they always reveal something about her characters and push their relationship forward. That's not something that's easy to do, and Ms. Valdez should be commended for managing it.

So if I thought she did it so well, why the low grade? Well, it's just that the way that relationship develops completely icked me out. My main reaction to those sex scenes wasn't "oh, how sexy!". It was "ouch!" and "yuck", mostly. I think what got me was the constant and neverending emphasis on Mark getting his whole massive (ten and a half inches, and we're never allowed to forget it) cock inside Passion. He's perpetually banging against her cervix, trying (and eventually, succeeding) to get his cock through that opening.

I can't say I have personal experience with this, but my feeling is that has got to be painful! Do tell me if I'm wrong and it's a lovely, lovely feeling, but a quick google seems to suggest it isn't. And yet, Passion just goes wild when he does this. It's as if the woman has an extra G-Spot there.

And don't get me started on how Passion allowing Mark to do this is portrayed as a kind of proof of how she's so generous and loving, not like all those other women who didn't let Mark do it. It's true love because she lets him fuck her deeper than other women ever did and because his magic sperm impregnates her when her husband's couldn't.

On the purple prose front, as I said, I don't exactly agree, but I do understand the reasoning behind those votes. Cocks are cocks, not purple-helmeted warriors of love; cunts are cunts (and sometimes quims), not perfumed grottoes and fucking is fucking, not a dance as old as time, so I'd definitely say the prose isn't purple. But the book's sensibility... oh, yes, purple as hell, if you define purple as being over-the-top and melodramatic. Even the language is sometimes that way, with all those streams and rivers and jets of semen flying about!

Ok, so let's go outside the sex scenes. How about the rest of the book? I'm afraid I had plenty of icks there, too. For instance, the way Mark was so perfectly happy to share the details of his sex with Passion with his brother. I don't mean the fact that he told Matthew that he'd just been having sex with a woman behind a screen in the Crystal Palace (after all, as Passion says, she'd been planning to tell her sisters, too, so she can't very well complain). It's the level of detail I object to. Does he really need to share the exact number of inches he managed to cram into her?

Oh, and another ick! That image of Passion and her sisters showing each other their pussies and actually touching themselves and each other... oh, euwww! I love my sister, but I'm sorry, I draw the line at that! Call me uptight, but even thinking of it makes me really uncomfortable.

And I'm still talking about sex, aren't I? Right, something else that bothered me (and something that has nothing to do with sex), is that.... SPOILER AHEAD!!


...if Charlotte hadn't decided not to marry Mark, these two wouldn't have ended up together. Passion was much too ready to give up Mark, and I'm sorry, but what she actually did was decide that Charlotte's reputation was more important than her and Mark's child's. I mean, to all effects, she seemed to think that it was more important for Charlotte not to be jilted (which might ruin her chances with other noblemen, but most probably not with men of her class) than for her child not to be a bastard. Oh, of course she didn't put it this way, but really, that's what the real choice is! And of course, she's also condemning her cousin to a loveless marriage, or else, to a marriage in which the man she loves will never love her back, or even desire her. Yeah, that's a good fate.

And Mark, who was supposedly so all fired up to be with Passion and let Charlotte go screw herself, well, he never even considered other options. How about giving Charlotte a huge, juicy dowry? That would have softened the effects of the jilting, especially if they put it about that she had been the one to jilt Mark! Or maybe finding someone else for Charlotte to marry? Or, I don't know, inventing a story about how they'd discovered they were secretly related (plus huge, juicy dowry, of course)? There are so many other options, and yet Mark doesn't even try to think of anything!

The next book is about Passion's sister Patience and Mark's brother, and I don't think I'll be reading it. I wasn't particularly drawn to it before, basically because their relationship apparently centers on dominance / submission (check out Karen Scott's interview with Ms. Valdez... the very last question), and that's just something that doesn't rock my boat in fiction (nor IRL, but that doesn't necessarily mean it won't work for me in fiction... I mean, look at Emma Holly's polyamorous love stories. I absolutely love those, and group sex would really squick me out IRL!). Maybe if I'd loved Passion I would have given Patience a try anyway, but I didn't, and I didn't much like the glimpses of Matt that we got here. A guy who's got "a penchant for tears"? So not for me, even in fiction!


Dark Lover, by J.R. Ward

>> Friday, March 24, 2006

Was there any book last year that got as loud a buzz as JR Ward's Dark Lover (excerpt) did? I don't know about the wider world outside of the bloggosphere, but see those links to the left of the screen, the "Romance-centric blogs"? I bet that if you choose one at random, chances are you'll be able to find at least a mention of Dark Lover, and often lovingly detailed reviews. So here I am, late as usual, but I couldn't wait to see what all that enthusiasm was about.

In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there's a deadly turf war going on between vampires and their slayers. There also exists a secret band of brothers like no other - six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Among them, none relishes killing their enemies more than Wrath, the leader of the Black Dagger Brotherhood...

The only purebred vampire left on the planet, Wrath has a score to settle with the slayers who murdered his parents centuries ago. But when one of his most trusted fighters is killed- orphaning a half-breed daughter unaware of her heritage or her fate - Wrath must usher the beautiful female into the world of the undead…

Racked by a restlessness in her body that wasn't there before, Beth Randall is helpless against the dangerously sexy man who comes to her at night with shadows in his eyes. His tales of brotherhood and blood frighten her. But his touch ignites a dawning hunger that threatens to consume them both…
I had half-heartedly planned to make this post a minute-by-minute deal, like I did with Kiss of the Highlander, or A Thousand Roses. I even wrote an initial entry, around page 25, which went something like: "Uh-oh. The names are silly as hell, and I just don't find that dangerous posing sexy. The waist-long hair, the dark glasses, the violence, the weapons... not particularly sexy in my book. And I especially didn't find that "Human women are only acceptable in one position: on their back, and human males, face-down and dead" crack appealing. Racist creep."

Obviously, I wasn't really getting into it. But then, whoosh! Sucked in. I surfaced about 300 pages later, and only because I needed to eat (heh, almost wrote "I needed to feed". This book is getting to me). I just made myself a sandwich and dived in again. And when I closed the book, it was with a smile on my face. Oh, I still thought the names were silly and juvenile, but I didn't care. I'd had too good a time! A B+.

I'm feeling a bit lazy right now and I don't have the book with me, so I won't even try to write a coherent synopsis. I'd have to get into the whole mythology, and that would certainly take time and some fact-checking against the book, to make sure I'd got the names right. So I'll just direct you to Sybil's review at AAR, which does a great job with that, and in case you want one more, I'll do the "choose one at random" thing I mentioned above. Let's see... how about Bam? Yep, she's read it, and her review is hilarious. Go read it.

Ok, back? I think what struck me the most about Dark Lover was the energy and vitality with which it's written. The story just crackles on the page, with an enthusiasm that's contagious. The plot itself isn't much, just that our hero Wrath is asked by a fellow Brother, who then dies, to help his half-human daughter Beth with her transition. Beth has no idea she'll probably be turning into a vampire soon, but she's still powerfully attracted to Wrath. They begin a relationship, and Beth finds out the secret behind her parentage. And all the while, vampiredom is being stalked by their enemies, the Lessers, led by a new, very cunning leader.

I guess the storyline itself needs to be straightforward, because there is a lot of world to introduce here. Ward needs to explain about the whole complex mythology behind her vampires, who have some very crucial differences to the usual vampire (the ones which can "turn" humans by biting them, for instance). She also needs to introduce a big cast of characters, including all the other members of the Brotherhood of the Black Dagger.

I thought she did extremely well there. While all this is complex, I never had the slightest problem understanding what was going on and what this world was like, and Ward did this without including any obvious info-dumps. Having Beth be ignorant of the vampire world helps introduce some of the info, but whenever Beth was learning about vampires, I never got the feeling that Ward was crossing off points she wanted to convey to the reader. Those scenes just felt natural, with Beth asking the questions anyone would ask and the answers being phrased in the way a normal people would phrase them.

The introduction of the other members of the Brotherhood was well done, too. At first I had some trouble placing these guys... who was the one with the beast, Rhage or Zsadist? Who was Zsadist's twin, Vishous or Phury? But that pretty much took care of itself with time, and I was soon perfectly aware of who everyone was and what their personalities were like.

Well, what about the romance? I liked it, but in a guilty pleasure kind of way, because a lot of it was really, really over-the-top. Still, I did like to see the extremely alpha and tough Wrath become all soft and gooey because of his love for Beth. And Beth was really ok... I feared I might be getting a spine-free doormat, but even though she's at a disadvantage throughout most of the book, due to her ignorance of her parentage and what this will mean for her, she somehow manages to stop Wrath from steamrolling over her.

I'm not really sure whether I liked the whole atmosphere of the book. It's campy as hell, and the author sometimes feels like she's trying too hard to be edgy and extreme, but it does add a lot of freshness and originality to the book, and, well, I enjoyed myself reading it, so I'm going to vote for "liked".

Some extra notes... go read AngieW's interview with JR Ward. It's all good, but I was especially interested in Ward's thinking on the (to me, still silly) names:

Here's the story behind the names: they are traditional warrior names in the Old Language (thus the slightly off spellings). Over time, and in the English language, the names became associated with adverse or aggressive emotions. This paradigm was one I spelled out in my proposal to sell the series. It's the names that came to me with the rest of the brothers's characteristics like their hair and eye colors, their bodies, their minds, their emotional make-ups, their histories.

On her next books:

My publisher has purchased six books so far and here's the order: Wrath, Rhage, Zsadist, Vishous, Butch (yes, Butch gets his own book!) and Phury. There are four more thereafter in my head and then some subspecies in the world I would love to explore.

As for when they come out, the first three are every six months so that's March '06 for LOVER ETERNAL (Rhage) and September '06 for LOVER AWAKENED. It's my understanding that the next three will follow this schedule as well.
It is a relief not to see Tohrment's name up there, as one of my first thoughts about that was "Oh, no, if she means to write a book about him, it mean Wellsie will die!". This doesn't really make Wellsie safe (or Tohrment, for that matter... how about Wellsie as heroine of one of the other books? Talk about conflict for whichever brother is the hero!), but it's at least a chance.

I'm surprised to see Zsadist as the hero of the third book. I would have guessed he would have been kept for last! And I'm actually glad I waited so long to read DL, because that means I can start on Lover Eternal immediately (which I will probably do this weekend).

Sybil also has an interview with the author (in which the Wellsie question is posed, but not answered!), and from here you can check out what happened the day she had Ward as a guest blogger.

To summarize (because I really should end this post here!): if you like vampire romance but have become jaded after reading too many tired, half-hearted, cliché-ridden books, give this one a try!


One Good Knight, by Mercedes Lackey

>> Thursday, March 23, 2006

My first Mercedes Lackey was The Fairy Godmother, and it completely blew me away. Since I read it I've accumulated a few books from her backlist, but the next I've read is the following book in the 500 Kingdoms series, One Good Knight. Actually, this one arrived at about the same time as Moontide, a 500 Kingdoms short story published in the Winter Moon anthology, but I went for the long book first.

I'm loving the covers on this series. The colouring is gorgeous, and they really evoke the feel of the books (see the cover of The Fairy Godmother here).

Traditionally, marauding dragons are soothed only by a virgin sacrifice. And so practical-minded Princess Andromeda -- with the encouragement of her mother's court -- reluctantly volunteers to do her duty, asking only for a sword to defend herself. Well, her offer is accepted, but the weapon isn't forthcoming, and so Andromeda faces the dragon alone.

Until a Champion arrives to save her -- sort of. Sir George doesn't quite defeat the dragon, but as Andromeda finishes rescuing herself she discovers that beneath the Good Knight's well-meaning though inexperienced heroics lies a further tale . . .

Still, Andromeda can't leave her seacoast country in further jeopardy from the dragon's return, and so she and . . . er . . . George join to search for the dragon's lair. But even -- especially -- in the Five Hundred Kingdoms bucking with Tradition isn't easy. It takes the strongest of wills, more than a hint of stubbornness, quick thinking and a refusal to give up, no matter what happens along the way.

Somehow, though, none of this was taught in princess school . . .
I did like One Good Knight, but I thought it wasn't nearly as good as TFG. Still, this tale of princesses, champion knights and dragons has charm and sparkle to spare. A B.

Plain and studious, Princess Andromeda of the small trading kingdom of Acadia has spent her entire life being overlooked and neglected by her mother, Queen Cassiopeia. But Andie is sick of feeling useless, and so she manages to find a way of making herself useless by preparing well-researched reports... only to become a liability to her tyrannical mother and her right-hand advisor when her research unearths a bit too much of what's going on in the kingdom.

What better way to get rid of Andie than to make her one of the virgin sacrifices to the dragon that's been "terrorizing" the kingdom for the past few months? That will also kill two birds with one stone, since having the Queen's beloved daughter come up in the weekly virgin lottery will quiet all those pesky rumours that it's being rigged by the Queen to get revenge on the people who oppose her.

(BTW, who the hell writes these blurbs? Andie very defintely does NOT volunteer!)

So Andie is left at the sacrifice site, but she's not left defenceless, as the other maidens were. The members of her household and her loyal Guards give her the means to at least give some fight to the dragon. And when the time comes, she's given even further help by the arrival (finally!) of the champion that was sent for months before from the Glass Mountain Chapter-House (run by none other than Alexander, consort of Godmother Elena, from TFG).

Obviously, having survived the dragon and very suspicious of her mother, Andie can't very well return to Acadia, so she joins George, the champion, on his hunt for the dragon, and, after some interesting twists, joins with several others to rid the Kingdom of its tyrant.

What did I like? Well, I loved how Lackey played with different fairy tales, and I loved the way she evoked a charming, magical atmosphere. Andie is a worthy heroine and her hero (whose identity I will not give away here) is very definitely unique. The writing is witty and elegant and often very, very funny. And I did like the many interesting twists Lackey provided, though, even if I saw a few of them coming. SPOILER: [The description of the dragon's "sad eyes" in his initial appearance was a dead giveaway that he wasn't going to be evil. Then I latched on to the word "androgynous" when George was first described, and, together with the fact that she slept in her armour, I wondered if she might not be female. And I wrongly guessed that she and Andie were going to be falling in love, so I did get it right that there was going to be some kind of "forbidden" love there, only it wasn't a same-sex relationship, but an interspecies romance! That, BTW, I began to suspect when we first found out how Peri was so fond of books ;-)] END SPOILER

So why wasn't as crazy about this one as I was about TFG? I guess it might be unfair of me, but the main reason I didn't adore it was because some of the elements that I loved so much about TFG weren't present here (or were present to a smaller degree).

I think the main thing I found lacking here was the Young Adult feel the story had to it. TFG was just as much of a fairy tale, but it was still an adult, grown-up romance. Here we do get a hint of romance and a tiny bit physical desire, but I guess the very nature of the romance precludes something a bit clearer. The ending in this area felt to me as if it came out of nowhere, with a resolution that relied way too much on deus ex machina.

Also I wanted more about The Tradition. One of the things that captivated me in TFG was the many ingenious ways in which Lackey included The Tradition and its effects in the action. Here we do get a bit of how Andie and her friends manipulate it in order to get better chances in their mission, but it wasn't nearly as satisfying.

Don't lose sight of the fact that, for all my complaints, I'm giving this a B. It is an enjoyable read, and I'm going to keep reading this series. Next book? Fortune's Fool. Here's a link to a B&N newsletter, which contains an interesting interview with Lackey, in which she's asked about it. A little excerpt...

Can you give your fans a little teaser about Fortune's Fool, the next tale of the Five Hundred Kingdoms?

ML: I'm combining the Russian folktales of the Sea-King's Daughter -- which is like The Little Mermaid, only with a happier outcome -- with the legend of Sadko, who is another one of those "wise fools" from Russian folktales. The Katschei will make a reappearance on his home ground, there will be a touch of Japanese myth, and a reappearance of some old friends from One Good Knight. Now, because I'm not slavishly following the folktales, the Sea King's Daughter is not the pretty, passive girl-on-the-beach. She's her father's secret agent! She investigates and solves problems where the sea and land meet.
Well, I can't wait to see what she does with this!


Blood Moon Over Bengal, by Morag McKendrick Pippin

>> Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I would have bought Blood Moon Over Bengal (excerpt), by Morag McKendrick Pippin just because of its setting. I mean, how often do you get a romance novel set in 1930s India? But the storyline sounded interesting, too, kind of like one of those old MM Kaye Death In books.

Love the cover, BTW, even if the guy doesn't look anything like Nigel is described. It's attractive and it gives a very good idea of the feel of the book and of its physical and temporary setting.

Free-spirited and ultra-modern Elizabeth Mainwarring returned to the sultry, spice-scented land of her birth for one last go at mending the breach with her long-estranged sire. She met Major Covington-Singh, a prince and an officer in her father's regiment. The man was tall, dark, and utterly irresistible.

Yet there was peril in desiring him. He warned her against falling for a wog, a blacky-white, an Anglo-Indian. It might be modern times in England, but not in India. Even for the son of a duke and a maharaja. Why, even Elizabeth's father would disapprove! And then there were the recent happenings: the murders, the cruel strangling of those who were indiscreet.

For Elizabeth to love Nigel meant death. But she couldn't stop, even if there was a…

I'm giving this one a very, very qualified recommendation. I had many issues, especially with the characterization and the writing, but the vivid setting and a romance suspense subplot that became ok in the second half of the book, made up for it for me. A B-.

It's 1932 and heiress Elizabeth Mainwarring decides to have a go at reconciling with her estranged father before continuing on her way to her newly-inherited oil-rich sheep station in New Zealand. So off Elizabeth goes in her airplane to Calcutta, where her father holds an important military post.

The first person she meets when she crash-lands in the middle of a parade ground is officer Nigel Covington-Singh, son of an Indian maharaja and the English daughter of a duke. Elizabeth and Nigel are immediately very attracted to each other, but even with Nigel's very high birth, interracial relationships are still a no-no in British India.

Adding to the tension is the fact that Calcutta is being terrorized by a serial killer, who, after some murders among the Indian population (which no one paid much attention to), has started targeting British women, especially those who dare have contact with men of a different race. The investigation into the killings falls to Nigel, who needs to find the truth between huge pressures to find an (Indian) culprit and fast, and the need to protect Elizabeth as their relationship develops, because this makes her a prime target for the killer.

Pippin is a new author and I think that even if I hadn't known that as I started the book, I would have figured it out. There's just a certain awkwardness there, especially in the initial sections of the book. I think my main problem was with the characterization, with how most characters felt like caricatures, rather than like real people. Their reactions were way over-the-top, and the dialogue felt stiff.

Also, for all that I found Pippin's portrayal of her setting and her exploration of the main issues of the time fascinating (and, in fact, I thought this was the very best thing about the book), I can't deny that at times, this just wasn't naturally integrated into the story. Sometimes (and especially at the beginning of the book) you could see the author's hand very clearly, as she introduced characters solely for the purpose of expounding at length about this or that, whether it was believable or not that they would do so, usually using slang that felt self-conscious to me.

The romance didn't start out well, either. I very much liked Elizabeth, but at first, I just couldn't "get" Nigel. My first impression of him was that he was a seriously angry man, and it got tiresome after a while, even if I do wholeheartedly agree that he had reason to be angry. Just not at Elizabeth! I also got tired of the constant miscommunication between them, with each time and again assuming the worst possible interpretation of the other's behaviour. Did Elizabeth not throw herself at Nigel the minute he made an advance at her? Why, she's obviously disgusted because he's Anglo-Indian!

Plus, there's a whole lot of telling and not showing in the romance. We're told about how Nigel is sooooo lusting after Elizabeth, but it's just that: told. I didn't feel it, didn't feel I was being shown that.

This improved as the story advanced, though, and by the end of the book, both the suspense and the romance had acquired momentum and were proceeding very naturally and enjoyably. Nigel mellowed quite a bit, and I was finally able to understand him more, and I liked his pursuit of Elizabeth. As for Elizabeth, I especially appreciated how she was very much a creature of her time... a woman with certain aspects I recognized as modern, but with certain attitudes which would seem old-fashioned now.

Even with those problems I had with it, I found BMOB very promising. Pippin's new book, Blood Moon Over Britain, is out already, and though it's not related to this one at all, in spite of the title, it's got a setting that's just as unique: WWII Britain. I'm so getting it! Plus, Renée liked it!


A History of the World in 101/2 Chapters, by Julian Barnes

>> Tuesday, March 21, 2006

After reading and loving my first Julian Barnes novel, England, England, I made a mental note to keep an eye out for the intriguingly titled A History of the World in 101/2 Chapters. Of course, I forgot about it about 5 minutes later (which is the main reason why I'm so obsessive about my spreadsheets). I only remembered I wanted it when, while spending the day at the beach, the friend who was with me started reading bits out loud from the book he was reading. These were really hilarious bits, so I checked out the title, and it was none other than this book I remembered wanting to read. Unfortunately, it was in Spanish, but having it right there, I didn't have the patience to wait for a copy in English (plus, the translation wasn't that bad).

Connecting themes of voyage and discovery, History has become one of Barnes's most studied and talked about novels. The mixture of fictional and historical narratives provides Barnes the opportunity to question our ideas of history, our interpretation of facts, and our search for answers to explain our interaction and placement within the grand scope of history.

That "summary" doesn't say much, does it? Well, I can't say I'm surprised, as this is a book that's not easy at all to describe!

Ok, the 101/2 Chapters bit is accurate, and actually, so is the part about it being A History of the World. But we're not talking about a chronological account of important events and the like. Barnes jumps back and forth in time, narrating seemingly irrelevant stories which, nonetheless, give one a very clear picture of the times.

For instance, take my favourite chapter, "The Wars of Religion" (which was the one my friend was originally reading to me from). That entire chapter is basically just the account of a 15th century trial on termites for weakening the wooden legs of a throne, and causing a bishop to fall when he sat on it. Reading the verbatim arguments presented on each side doesn't just show how canonical lawyers might find ways to argue just about anything. I also got a fascinating glimpse into things like the role of religion in regular people's lives or into the everyday hardships faced by the French peasantry.

Most of the chapters were that way: fun in themselves, but also illustrative of a certain period. Some favourites include the one mentioned above; the first one, a mock account of the Deluge and Noah's Ark and the last one, a fanciful description of paradise (both of these were reminiscent of England, England, in the way the fantastical was described in minute, fascinating detail).

Others, as the "Parenthesis", were less effective, but the collection worked beautifully as a whole, as certain themes reappeared in every chapter in different permutations... the termites, Noah's ark, the separation of the pure from the unpure (sorry if this is not the term used in English, I'm translating from memory), the whole thing about the animals going in two by two... and I'm probably missing some :-)

A fascinating book, well worth the read! A B+.


Memory in Death, by JD Robb

>> Monday, March 20, 2006

book coverBy my count (that is, not counting the two short stories in anthologies, but counting the Nora Roberts / JD Robb combo Remember When), Memory in Death is book number 23 in JD Robb's In Death series. Does this make it the longest-running romance series ever?

Eve Dallas is one tough cop. She's got no problem dealing with a holiday reveler in a red suit who plunges thirty-seven stories and gives new meaning to the term "sidewalk Santa." But when she gets back to the station and Trudy Lombard shows up, it's all Eve can do to hold it together. Instantly, she's thrown back into the past, to the days when she was a vulnerable, traumatized girl-trapped in foster care with the twisted woman who now sits in front of her, smiling.

Trudy claims she just wanted to see how Eve was doing. But Eve's husband, Roarke, suspects otherwise-and his suspicions prove correct when Trudy arrives at his office, demanding money in exchange for keeping the ugly details of his wife's childhood a secret. Barely restraining himself, Roarke shows her the door-and makes it clear that she'd be wise to get out of New York and never bother him or his wife again.

But just a few days later, Trudy's found on the floor of her hotel room, a mess of bruises and blood. A cop to the core, Eve is determined to solve the case, if only for the sake of Trudy's bereaved son. Unfortunately, Eve is not the only one to have suffered at this woman's hands, and she and Roarke will follow a circuitous, dangerous path to find out who turned this victimizer into a victim.
Just when I think the In Death series has settled into a comfort, B-range series for me -very enjoyable, but without the sparkle that characterized some of my favourite entries-, there comes Memory, and I'm blown away yet again. An A-, and I'm almost tempted to give it a higher grade.

23 books and 2 short stories. One would think we know all there is to know about Eve and Roarke and their lives, both past and present. And yet, this book makes it clear that there is still plenty of new terrain to delve into, especially in Eve's past. If you've been reading the series, you'll know that Eve's early life with her evil creep of a father has been explored in depth already. We know quite a bit about how her life was until she was eight. After that point, however, we knew only the basics until Memory. We knew she'd spent time in the system (foster homes, etc) until she'd entered the police academy, but not much more.

Memory gives us a fascinating glimpse into Eve's life right after she became Eve Dallas. This is a life Eve has largely forgotten (or rather blocked, just as she'd mostly done with her earlier years), until a woman named Trudy comes to her office. Trudy ran the first of the foster homes Eve was sent to, and while her constant little (and not so little) cruelties didn't really reach the horrificness of her father's treatment of Eve, they definitely qualified as abuse and made her life hell.

Seeing Trudy is a shock to Eve (at least, once she recognizes her), but she recovers enough to throw her out of her office, in spite of Trudy's claims that she is just a loving former foster mom, so proud of what her former charge has made of her life. Trudy's luck isn't better when she goes to see Roarke and tries to shake him down in exchange for not ventilating the details on Eve's file about her early life. Roarke can get pretty scary when he wants to, and with Trudy, he definitely wants to.

A couple of days later, Eve has bounced back enough to actually want to go and confront Trudy, so she and Roarke go knock on the door of her hotel room, only to find Trudy's body there, savagely murdered. Being the first cop on the scene, Eve claims the case, and starts an investigation which will hit much closer to home than she would have liked.

I think what made Memory so amazing for me was that Robb kind of went back to the basics here. The mystery itself was less weird, less full of strange stuff than the ones we'd been seeing lately, and the solving depended more on some regular, normal police-work than on high-tech gadgets. Plus, it's been a while since we've seen a mystery which touches Eve or Roarke so personally. Would Eve have been allowed to investigate a case in which she was so personally involved? Probably not. Did I mind? Did this detract from the story in any way? Definitely not. For me, it added a lot of emotional tension to the story, and I thought Robb did wonderfully in showing the way Eve dealt with having to investigate the murder of someone she so despised.

Also, as much as I love the cast of secondary characters that Robb has created to surround our protagonists, I loved that Memory was more about Eve and Roarke than many previous books. Peabody and McNab, Mavis and Leonardo, the Miras, Nadine... they all showed up at some point, but they never drew the spotlight away from Eve and Roarke as they dealt with the case and the psychological ramifications it had on Eve.

Maybe because the mystery wasn't as horrifying as others we've seen, this was a particularly funny book. Eve's thoughts, especially, cracked me up. Oh, and there's one particular scene, with Galahad and the antlers, which had me practically in tears! Only someone who really understands and loves cats could write this scene so perfectly.

What this entry in the series has done is make me hungry for more, because it has made me realize that there's still a lot we don't know. This was a good start, but I'd love to hear more about Eve's life after leaving Trudy's house. I want to know about Eve the teen and about Eve the rookie cop. There's a hint of the latter here, in the photo she gives Roarke, and I would love for a future book to get into that. What I've read about the next book, Born in Death, doesn't look hopeful, but I'll still be there the minute it comes out!


Divine Fire, by Melanie Jackson

>> Friday, March 17, 2006

After reading Melanie Jackson's Traveller, one of the freshest, most original books I read last year, I added her to my "authors to look out for" list and picked up much of her backlist. The next book of hers that I tried was Divine Fire. This one isn't part of the series which starts with Traveller, but the premise sounded just as fascinating.

In 1816, Lord Byron stayed at the castle of Dr. Johann Dippel, the inspiration for Mary Shelley's Baron von Frankenstein. The doctor promised a cure for his epilepsy. That "cure" changed him forever.

In the 21st century, Brice Ashton wrote a book. Like all biographies of famous persons, hers on Lord Byron was sent to critics in advance. One Damien Ruthven responded. He suggested her work contained two errors—and that only he could give her the truth. His words held hints of long-lost knowledge; were fraught with danger, deception...and desire. And his eyes showed the experience of centuries. Damien promised to share his secrets. But first, Brice knew, she would have to share herself with him.
It's strange, but I've been noticing more and more in very different books that I have the same problem with them: abrupt switches in the very basics of how the story develops, which means I get two distinct halves, one of which works much better than the other one.

This is exactly what happened with Divine Fire. While the first half is a wonderful gothic character-driven romance, the entire second half is basically a bloody, gorey non-stop, break-neck action scene. I loved the first part, but the second one, not so much. My final grade would be a B-... the average between a much higher grade for the first part and a much lower one for the rest.

The basic premise of Divine Fire is that due to what was supposed to be a revolutionary treatment for epilepsy involving electricity and a Dr. Frankenstein-like physician, Lord Byron became an immortal being. His demise in Greece was only the first of a series of simulated deaths, and he's spent his existence ever since living 20 years here, 30 years there, moving as soon as people start thinking: hmm, it's weird this man is not looking any older!

In his current incarnation Byron is Damien Ruthven, a filthy-rich book reviewer living in an old gothic building he owns in New York City. One day he receives a huge biography of Lord Byron and is shocked at the way this unknown writer has managed to "get" him. Against all his rules, he writes this woman a letter mentioning there are a couple of errors there, and hinting he might have some papers which could throw some light on these areas.

When Brice Ashton receives Damien's letter, her first thought is that he might have a copy of Byron's famous autobiography, the one that was destroyed by his editors at his widow's request. So she impulsively flies into NYC (a couple of days before Christmas, no less!), and barges into Ruthven's office.

This first half that I liked so much gives us nothing more than Brice and Ruthven getting to know each other and working together. They click the minute they meet, and given that the weather is just filthy and there's a huge electrical storm coming in, and that he has plenty of space in the penthouse Damien offers Brice to stay there (and, he adds, there's no way he can allow her to remove the very rare, valuable and irreplaceable papers he shows her from his building, so if she stays, she'll be able to work on them as long as she wants).

It's all very quiet and low-key, and involves many long conversations, including some fascinating ones about authors like Lord Byron (Damien is again struck by how well Brice understands who he was) and Ninon de Lenclos, about whom Brice is writing her next book. But most of all, they talk about themselves and each begins to explore the other's bagagges.

I liked the way Jackson dealt with Brice discovering Damien's secret. It could easily have become a tedious issue, but just as she so easily sees the motivations of the original Lord Byron, Brice instictively latches on to the things that don't jive and leaps to some interesting (and correct) conclusions. This would have ordinarily felt like a bit too much, but the way Jackson had set up the almost mystical understanding between Damien and Brice, it worked.

Damian was an interesting, very engaging character. I'm not usually fond of having real historical personages show up in my romance novels, and that goes double if they are one of the protagonists! I guess I was ok with it here because it was just so out there (a plot line in which, say, the heroine is a Regency Miss who falls in love with Byron wouldn't have worked nearly as well!) Plus, fortunately I don't know much about Byron's private life, so I wasn't distracted by any preconceived notions.

Brice was a pretty cool character as well. She's a woman marked by a certain horrific tragedy in her past (and it really was horrific!), but while this does make her a bit skittish with men and Damien has to work to reach her, she isn't tediously stubborn about it.

I also loved the ambience in this part of the book. As I said, Damien owns this fascinating gothic building in NYC, and though he doesn't occupy all of it, the other tenants are all companies, so the building pretty much empties by evening. The setting, combined with the freakish electrical storm circling around the city like a bird of prey (which has some, ah, interesting physical effects on Damien), makes for some wonderful atmosphere.

So, what happens to ruin what was going so well? Simple: around the half-way mark, the physician who performed those experiments on Lord Byron shows up, an army of zombies in tow, determined to destroy his "creation". And so, from a lush, intense and romantic story, this turns into a campy bloodbath of a zombie movie. Not that I have anything about campy zombie movies (in fact, I actually like them!), but it just didn't go at all with the first part of the book, and it went on for much too long. After the nice, romantic first half, to have our hero and heroine dealing with being sprayed with brains and assorted body parts was a bit disconcerting.

Still, even this huge action scene was a bit better than the usual action scene, which basically puts me to sleep. I would have prefered that the story continue in the vein it had started, but I'd still recommend the book.


Lord of Sin, by Madeline Hunter

>> Thursday, March 16, 2006

AngieW's March TBR challenge was easy: I just needed to read a historical. So here's my choice. Not the only historical I've read so far this month, but it was the first! It's just taken me a while to actually write this down and post.

Title: Lord of Sin (excerpt)

Author: Madeline Hunter

Year published: 2005

Why did you get this book?: Madeline Hunter is an autobuy author for me. I first became a fan with her debut, By Arrangement, and I've bought all her books ever since. So even though Lord of Sin didn't get very good reviews online, I automatically got it anyway.

Do you like the cover?: I wasn't crazy about it initially, but it grew on me. I mean, at first sight it's very attractive, but it bothered me that I didn't get a "historical" vibe from it (probably because it has a black and white photo on it and because the female model's clothes just didn't feel 19th century enough for me). And also, you don't immediately understand just what male body parts you're seeing *g*.

As I read it and got used to it, I began to like it, though.


When carefree rake Ewan McLean inherits an earldom, his plans for his new fortune are entirely in keeping with his lifestyle: to expand his collection of erotic art and expensive mistresses. That is, until he becomes acquainted with his most intriguing new responsibility.

Bride Cameron is beautiful, unmarried, and sole caretaker of her three younger sisters. Now it’s Ewan’s duty to see that she is provided for. But to his amazement, the last thing the fiery lass wants is Ewan’s help. The simplest thing would be to walk away. But Bride, with her sparkling gaze and fierce wit, is the most bewitching woman Ewan has ever met. And he intends to have her—and to learn how she has managed to survive on her own. Even if he has to employ all the arts of seduction for which he is notorious. . .
Did you enjoy the book?:

A bit like the cover, not very much at first, but I liked it more and more as the story developed. I guess it took me a while to warm up to the characters. Bride was a bit too prickly and rude for no apparent reason and Ewan came across as just another spoilt rake (and I'm sick of rakes) who felt justified in preaching to others about how they should live their lives. Add to that some secondary characters I just itched to slap (*cough*Mary*cough*), and I worried the book might, in fact, be as lackluster as it had been reported.

But then, once Bride and her sisters arrive in London, things improved. Bride's behaviour started making a lot more sense once I found out exactly what that big secret of hers was, and her pricklyness and paranoia ended up feeling pretty justified. And even Ewan's rakishness began taking a different colour. I'd rolled my eyes at the mentions of his "special parties", which were basically orgies, but then I actually liked his motivations for throwing these parties. It did act a bit of depth.

And I also quite liked the way Bride and Ewan's relationship develops, with Ewan becoming increasingly fascinated and wanting more and more from Bride. The ending, the way the suspense subplot and the romance interact and come to a head together, with Ewan having to make an agonizing decision, was excellent.

I'd grade Lord of Sin a B.

Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again?: Not new at all, and I've already read the sequel as I write this. There was a very tantalizing excerpt from Lady of Sin at the back of the book, and I after I read it, I couldn't resist reading it immediately.

Are you keeping it or passing it on?: Keeper!


Four Meme

>> Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I've been tagged by Renée (might have been tagged by someone else, too, but I haven't been bloghopping much lately... my sister's wedding's on Saturday and I've been swamped this week!)

Four jobs you have had in your life:

The last 4:

Tour guide for English-speaking cruises arriving to Montevideo
Business analyst at an internet company which folded when the internet bubble burst
Product manager at a bank
Economist at the Ministery of Industry

Four movies you would watch over and over:

Four movies I have actually watched over and over:

Monster's Ball
No Retreat, No Surrender
Notting Hill
Dawn of the Dead

Four places you have lived:

Can't do this one, as I've lived all my life in Montevideo. I can't even come up with 4 different addresses in Montevideo!

Four TV shows you love to watch:

Changing Rooms
Narda Lepes' cooking show

Four places you have been on vacation:

Outside Uruguay:

Buenos Aires
Brazilian Northeast (place a bit south of Porto Galinhas)
Iguazú Falls (Brazil - Argentina - Paraguay border)

Four websites you visit daily:

All About Romance
Mrs. Giggles

Four of your favorite foods:

Hummus and Tabbouleh on pita bread
Pasta sciutta with hot red sauce with chopped black olives (and some grated parmesan on top)
Molleja (sweetbread -only part of the cow that I eat) - grilled crispy with lemon juice and mandioca flour
Grilled salmon with a nice green salad.

Four places you would rather be right now:

Home in bed (we had a bachelorette's party for my sister last night)
Punta del Este

Four friends you are tagging that you think will respond:

It seems to me everyone's already been tagged! (I'm late, as usual)


Maximum Security, by Tracy Montoya

book cover

Seems I was feeling a bit tired of straight romance, because Harlequin Intrigue's Maximum Security, by Tracy Montoya is the second straight romantic suspense I read.

She was the sole survivor of the deadly game of a serial killer—a man who'd ensnared women and eluded police for far too long. And since her daring escape from his clutches, ex-cop and bestselling crime author Maggie Reyes had remained locked in her beach house, paralyzed with fear until "the Surgeon" was caught.

Then FBI agent Billy Corrigan came to her, demanding her help in the hunt for a killer that wasn't just a job—it was personal….
It's books like this one that are hardest to blog about. With very good and very bad books, the reviews pretty much write themselves, because I just have piles of things to say about why they were so good or why they were so bad. But with this one, which was a C+, only slightly better than average, it's hard to come up with reasons for that averageness!

The suspense part of the Romantic Suspense here is a serial killer case. Eighteen months earlier, former cop and true-crime writer Maggie Reyes became the focus of the serial killer known as The Surgeon. He captured her and tortured her until she was able to escape him (we're never told exactly how). Knowing that he wouldn't give up, Maggie ran away to a friend's house in Monterey and hid there with a false identity the FBI helped her get. By the time the story starts, Maggie has become agoraphobic and fears she's losing her mind. When she realizes the Surgeon has discovered where she is and is coming to get her, Maggie fears the police won't believe her.

But even if they don't, Billy Corrigan does believe her. His sister Jenna was one of the Surgeon's first victims, and he wants revenge. Billy works for the FBI, but for the Computer Crimes division, so he's risking his career by butting in in this particular investigation. He doesn't care, however, and tracks down Maggie to ask for her help (though I never understood exactly why he thought it was worth the trouble to track her down).

Maggie doesn't welcome Billy's requests with open arms, but they soon become friends, especially when it becomes clearer and clearer that the Surgeon is there and stalking Maggie (and killing other women in town). And since Billy has a friend in the Monterey Police Department, he manages to involve himself in the investigation, in which Maggie is assisting, as well.

I thought the case had pretty interesting bones. There was some promise there, but I wasn't too crazy about the execution. The main thing that bothered me was that the investigation felt a bit off. I don't know if I can really pinpoint what it was that made me feel this way, and of course, I know nothing about the proper procedures, no more than what I've read and seen in movies or TV shows. All I know is that when I read about serial killer investigations in, say, the In Death books, it feels as if the investigators are taking all the precautions and exploring all the directions I can think of (and some I never even imagine).

Here, OTOH. it felt as if, for some reason, they were all going, as we say in Spanish, "a la guerra con un tenedor": off to war armed only with a fork. The resources devoted to this investigation were piddling, and it seemed to me the cops of the Monterey Police Department were the most inept ever. That, or the killer had superhuman powers. The guy slipped by hordes of police without even trying and knocked them out in droves without ever being seen!

The romance didn't work all that well for me, either. I've writen this about too many Harlequin Intrigue books lately: the characters were likeable enough, but their relationship just didn't capture my attention. And then there was the fact that I just didn't see any chemistry there. Don't know why, but the vibe I got from Maggie and Billy was almost mother-son, not romantic.

I guess Montoya does show some promise, and I'd probably pick up something else by her in the future, but Maximum Security just didn't hit the spot.


Under the Mistletoe, by Mary Balogh

>> Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Under the Mistletoe reprints four of Mary Balogh's old Christmas stories and adds a new one. I'm sure longtime Balogh fans who always made sure to buy the anthologies containing her short stories aren't happy to have to buy an entire book to get only one new story, but not having read any of them, it works for me! And at least the fact that four of the stories are old is stated right there on the front cover!

The new story is A Family Christmas, and it was one of my favourites. It tells the story of a couple who have been married for a year, have a four-month-old son, and have actually been in each other's company for no more than a few days.

Aristocratic Elizabeth married Cit Edwin Chambers because her family made it clear she must do so to improve the family's failing fortunes. As for Edwin, he married Elizabeth because his father wanted him to marry an aristocrat. Or, at least, that's why each thinks the other went into the marriage.

Two weeks after their Christmas wedding Edwin's father died, and after going to the funeral, Edwin went back to town alone, leaving the pregnant Elizabeth at their country estate. The only other time they saw each other was for a week after the birth, and all those meetings took place in the presence of Elizabeth's mother.

As the story starts, it's Christmas again, and Elizabeth's parents are still at her estate, and her mother, especially, has taken over her life. When Edwin decides to spend Christmas with his wife and son, Elizabeth will have to decide if she can be corageous enough to confront her mother and take her life back.

I was surprised at how much I liked this story. It's got two things that I didn't think were going to work for me: Elizabeth's passiveness in letting her mother completely dominate her and the fact that the only reason Elizabeth and Edwin are estranged is miscommunication and misunderstandings. Well, it all worked fine.

I completely understood Elizabeth's behaviour, as a product of her upbringing and a continuation of her trying to be what her mother always raised her to be. Given that, seeing her slowly begin to take control of things was wonderful. I especially liked that there weren't any loud, spectacular scenes, because that would have been out of character for her. She simply quietly asserted her will.

As for the situation between Elizabeth and Edwin, again, it was all perfectly understandable. Considering the circumstances surrounding their wedding and how very little they knew each other, it made sense that they would believe as they did of each other. And given that, it made sense that neither would dream of putting their real feelings out there. I loved seeing how they slowly began to see glimmers of the real persons behind the façades they saw, and I thought their romance was really sweet.

My grade for this story would be a B+.

The Star of Bethlehem is the oldest of the stories. It was originally published in the A Regency Christmas anthology in 1989.

We have another marriage-in-trouble story here, but it's one that's very different from the first story in the anthology. Estelle and Allan married for love, but that wasn't enough to make a happy marriage. Allan's jealousy and Estelle's flirtatious nature didn't mix very well, and after a few years, every exchange between them seems to end either in a fight, passionate lovemaking or (most usually) both.

As the story starts, Estelle and Allan are on the brink of becoming officially estranged, when Estelle's loss of their original engagement ring, and their rescue of a young chimney sweep (who isn't the perfect angel he seems to be) act as catalysts to Estelle and Allan becoming close again.

I quite liked this story. The plot is fun and the characters are interesting, and even when their relationship is at its worst, you never lose sight of the fact that they do love each other very much. However, I wasn't completely convinced that they'd managed to fix the issues that had come between them in the first place. I never got the feeling Allan's compulsive jealousy had completely gone away. Still, I was hopeful that they'd be ok, so I'm rating this story a B.

The third story is The Best Gift, from the A Regency Christmas VI anthology, first published in 1994.

When Viscount Buckley's sister and her husband decide at the last moment to spend Christmas in Italy, they stick him with their 15-year-old daughter, even thought they know he makes a point not to celebrate Christmas at all. Since he has no idea what to do with his niece, finding her some sort of companion seems like a good idea. So when he goes to pick her up from her school, he asks the headmistress if there are no other students or teachers who will be remaining there and would be willing to spend Christmas with them. There is: Jane Craggs, and she's very happy to go. An illegitimate daughter, supported by her aristocratic father until she was old enough to earn her own way, Jane has never been part of a Christmas celebration. But when they arrive at the house only to find Lord Buckley's illegitimate daughter waiting for him, after the death of her actress mother, Jane acquires a mission: to save her from a fate as lonely as Jane's.

This one wasn't my favourite. I never really warmed up to Jane, who seemed very nondescript to me. I get it that she was supposed to be that way at first, having had to hide inside herself all her life, but even when her personality was supposed to be emerging and making Lord Buckley fall in love with her, she remained just as grey and drab to me. What I did like, very much, was the thread about Veronica, Buckley's illegitimate daughter. I found the love growing between Buckley and Veronica much more convincing and affecting than the one between him and Jane. A B-.

Fourth comes Playing House. This one was originally published in the A Regency Christmas II anthology, back in 1990.

Stephen, Lord Bedford, has returned to his family estate after some 6 years' absence and an unhappy marriage which has given him a daughter he's not even sure is his. His first visitor is the person he most looked forward to seeing, his first love, Lilias Angove. But Lilias isn't there just to say hello. Her family was left with nothing after her father's death, and this is the last Christmas before she has to go to a governess post and separate from her young brother and sister. She wants their last Christmas together to be memorable, so she asks Stephen to repay an old debt and give them a goose and presents for the children, a request Stephen interprets as Lilias trying to make him feel sorry for her and ask her to marry him.

This was a good one. Lilias wasn't really particularly interesting (too much of a perfect, innocent, virtuous woman, incapable of asking for anything for her, but willing to risk humiliation so that her brother and sister can have a nice Christmas, yadda, yadda, yadda), but I just adored Stephen's internal dialogue, the way he started out cynical and resentful, only to slowly start wanting to believe in Lilias, and then doing so. The ending was beautiful, and so was the atmosphere of classic white Christmas. A B+.

No Room at the Inn comes last, and it was not a particularly successful close for the anthology. This is a story which was originally published in the A Regency Christmas V anthology in 1993.

Rather than concentrating on a single couple, No Room at the Inn ambitiously tries to knit together multiple storylines. It's a couple of days before Christmas, and the rain is pouring down and making the roads impassable, with the result that a number of people who were travelling to different places for Christmas find themselves stuck at an extremely unprepossessing inn.

There's the young governess going home to spend the holidays and the rake who sees her as potential prey (he was going to a house party and refuses to allow this Christmas to be a loss, carnally!); there's the young estranged married couple; there's the older married couple; there are the two spinster sisters travelling together; there's the single, mysterious man no one knows anything about and finally, there's the poor young man and his unmarried pregnant girlfriend, who's about to give birth in the stable.

Some of those storylines had potential, but there just wasn't space enough for development here. The governess and the rake story was ridiculously underdeveloped, and while the thread about the young, estranged couple did have a bit more substance, I hated that the man had been keeping mistresses for years. The other storylines were pretty much ignored. And then the was the birth in the stable thing, which I thought was much too heavy-handedly preachy. This one was a C for me.

No perfect stories here, but I did get a couple of extremely enjoyable ones and two which were pretty good. With only one story that failed, this was a good anthology. A B.


Unexpected, by Lori Foster

>> Monday, March 13, 2006

I didn't like the few Lori Foster books I've read, but for some reason, her books keep accumulating in my TBR. I guess her stories sound interesting, so I always end up picking them up used when I see them cheap. That's what happened with her Unexpected. In fact, what tempted me here was that it sounded really close to the story I've always wanted to read in a romance novel... a kind of romantic suspense but with the heroine being the tough warrior and the hero being the regular guy who's caught in a situation that's out of his depth.

Eli Conners expected hired mercenary Ray Vereker to be a tank of a guy with forty tattoos - not a gorgeous creature with considerable karate skills. While Eli certainly needs Ray's help, he thinks she could use a little of what he's offering...a down-and-dirty, body-scorching passion of the forever kind.

Ray's as good as any man when it comes to storming enemy compounds and loading an AK-47, but Eli's strong sensuality and gentle touch leave her shaken and stirred. And really, who could blame a girl for succumbing to mind-blowing temptation in the steamy jungle? But now it's back to business. If only Ray wasn't feeling hot, bothered, dizzy, and just a little bit, well, queasy.

The last thing either of these unlikely lovers expects is to be expecting. Suddenly, Ray's precise, no-nonsense mission is veering wildly off course, derailed by raging hormones, out-of-control desire, and a delirious love that is completely unexpected.
I think when I decided to pick this one up I mustn't have read the blurb in detail, because I really didn't remember the pregnancy angle. When I opened my box and saw that stork there in the cover, my jaw dropped. Uh-oh, I thought, is there any way Foster can get a HEA ending without... er... emasculating (you know what I mean) Ray, given the premise? Without her having to give up what made her different from other romance novel heroines in the first place? And I do NOT like stories which are all about the pregnancy.

Turns out both my worries were the least of my problems with Unexpected. It was awful, but not because of these issues.

Ray does give up her mercenary gig, but that was ok with me, because right from the beginning you know she's burnt out, only doing this one more mission because she needs the money. So her giving it up didn't bother me at all because it didn't feel like one more woman giving up the career she loves because hubby disapproves.

The pregnancy thing? Ehhh, I didn't actually like what Foster did with it, but it wasn't that bad. And actually, this happens late enough in the book that it's a bit puzzling that Kensington decided to make it such an upfront thing in the packaging. It shouldn't have been mentioned at all in the back cover blurb, as far as I'm concerned.

So what makes this such a bad book? Well, basically that Foster takes an interesting premise and then totally chickens out. She goes out of her way to reassure us that Ray isn't that strong and competent, that Eli can totally overpower her if he wants to and didn't really need her to rescue his brother, that in bed Ray is very "womanly" and submissive... it went on and on. She starts out with characters who might be interesting and original and beats them over their heads with a stick until they've squashed themselves into stereotypical "romance hero" and "romance heroine" molds.

Reading this book felt like experiencing the Death of a Thousand Cuts. Every couple of pages there was something so incredibly irritating that it threw me out of the story (and nearly made me throw the book against a wall). None of these problems were fatal in themselves, but they accumulated until the book was deader than dead.

Stuff like getting to meet Jane, for instance. Jane, whom, even having read only a couple of Lori Foster books, I recognize. She's totally "the other woman". Foster's "other women" (and by "other women" I mean any woman who's not the heroine or maybe the heroine of a previous book or the hero's mother -though sometimes the mothers are like the "other women", too) are all cut out of the same cloth. They're shrill and hysterical and they're all money-grubbing whores.

You know what? Even thinking about this book makes my head hurt, so I'll stop this review right here. My grade? A D.


On The Edge of the Woods, by Diane Tyrrel

>> Friday, March 10, 2006

book coverOn my neverending quest for gothics, especially modern gothics in the tradition of some of Barbara Michaels' books, someone suggested Diane Tyrrel's debut novel, On The Edge of the Woods. And seeing the comparison made right there on the back cover was a good sign.

And speaking of covers, I quite liked this one. Even if I hadn't heard anything about the book, it would have made me pick it up...I'm a sucker for "mysterious house" covers! ;-)

It was a white elephant of a house -- a turn-of-the-century rambling manor in the shadows of the Sierras, full of intriguing nooks and crannies, rich with architectural details and delights. Architect Stacy Addison knew that she had come home the moment she saw it. And even though it needed months of renovations, nothing would stop Stacy from buying this beautiful house on the edge of a fairy tale-like forest. Not the fact that it was hours from her life and job in San Francisco, or that her intriguing new neighbor Brand Vandevere had wanted the house first. Especially not that.

But then come the threatening notes, the phone hangups -- and the harassment. Someone doesn't want Stacy in the house, and will stop at nothing to see her leave. But not just the house, Stacy slowly realizes. Someone wants her gone -- permanently ...
Even though I don't really see the resemblance to Barbara Michaels, OTEOTW was actually pretty good. I'd rate it a B-, even though I'm pretty sure people who aren't as tolerant as I am when it comes to modern gothics would rate it lower.

Architect Stacy Addison has a vague desire to buy a summer and weekend residence in the Californian Sierras. She is half-heartedly looking at some houses, not really sure if she really means to go ahead with her plans, when she sees the house she somehow knows is meant to be hers. Conscious of the fact that it's too big, too run-down and probably too expensive for her, she makes the best bid she can afford... and it is accepted.

But as she begins to spend more and more time there and getting to know her neighbours (the very welcoming Tessa, the outwardly charming Saul, the rude but very attractive Brand, who everyone tells her was very anxious to buy the house himself), the weirdness begins. From strange phone calls harassing her at work in San Francisco to creepy messages written on the wood floors under the carpets, from strange sounds to cryptic and mysterious letters left behind by the previous owner, Stacy starts to get the feeling someone doesn't want her there.

The story encompasses a long time, about a year, and that works well, because it's a leisurely book. It's also a book that feels much longer than the barely 350 pages it is, not because it's boring, or tedious, but I think partly because of the long time it covers, partly because the story is not at all fast-paced. It's a story of the slow development of Stacy's life in the house, with some shocking events, yes, but all spaced out enough that it makes sense that she's not running away screaming into the woods. That said, at times it did feel to me that Stacy wasn't worried enough, or not taking enough steps to figure out what was going on, or not talking to people she should be talking to and demanding the truth. It didn't really make her TSTL in my eyes, because I kind of could see why she'd act the way she did, but at times I got a bit frustrated by her lack of proactiveness.

The slow pace and the long period covered also made Stacy's relationship with Brand work better than it might have (in the gothic tradition, who exactly the hero is isn't exactly straightforward from the beginning, but since the fact that it's Brand is mentioned right on the back cover blurb, I'm not going to hide it here). I guess I could have been more irritated than I was by the way her relationship with Brand seems to stall after each apparent step forward. I know I was, at some points (especially when NOTHING happened after that Fourth of July!), but I was also very aware that this is how it sometimes is in real life. I've had things like that happen... one night it looks like the guy is SO into you, and you expect for things to progress in the next few days, and then... nothing. And part of your mind says "call him", but the other says "what if he just had had too much to drink and really isn't into you at all?", so you end up not doing anything yourself and things just fizzle out. And sometimes you just don't ever find out what was going on, but sometimes you do, and it turns out the guy really *was* into you, but your ex-boyfriend's friends warned him off, and... er, sorry, going off on a tangent here. I just meant to say I understood this more than I would have liked to, really.

Brand's attitude wasn't so easily excusable. I especially detested seeing him with Alana. The revelations at the end do make it all a bit better, because you kind of understand where he was coming from, but just as with Stacy, I think I would have appreciated a more proactive attitude on his part. In some parts of the book, the constant, never-ending lack of communication got to be a bit much. Both Stacy and Brand seem always content with either what other people tell them or with the half-things they hear, and they NEVER ask each other for clarification.

Ok, so why, if all I seem to be able to write are criticisms, did I mostly enjoy the book? I guess the house. Tyrrel's story has a wonderful sense of place, and the process of seeing Stacy build a new life in the Sierras, just as she rebuilds and restores the house, is immensely satisfying. And the whole mystery of what can be going on, why someone wants Stacy gone and how they imagine they might benefit from it, was very intriguing. The actual ending wasn't perfect, but it did explain things well.

I already have Tyrrel's second book, On Winding Hill Road, in my TBR, and it sounds pretty good as well.


A Scandalous Situation, by Patricia Frances Rowell

>> Thursday, March 09, 2006

book coverI picked up A Scandalous Situation (excerpt), by Patricia Frances Rowell after seeing it mentioned in CindyS's blog. She listed it as one of her "great reads", and it sounded really good.

Browsing in Rowell's website, I see this one is part of a series, one in which each book is one of the four elements of nature. A Scandalous Situation is supposed to be Air, while A Perilous Attraction would be Fire. Then there's A Dangerous Seduction, which is Water, and finally, A Treacherous Proposition which is... Earth? Nope, Moonlight. Er... ok.

Her past was a dark country...

Iantha Kethley was a lady with a past--one not of her own making. Still, she found herself in a very difficult position. The English nobility would never forget what had happened to her, and marriageable gentlemen were not understanding at all of that sort of, uh... situation.

But that was neither here nor there. Iantha's ordeal had left her unable to bear being touched at all, let alone able to endure the intimacy of the marriage bed.

That is, it was neither here nor there until Robert Armstrong, Baron Duncan, plucked her out of the path of a snow slide and sheltered her in his home.

And asked her to marry him.

Recently returned from India, the widowed Rob found himself with an empty, aching heart, holding only grief for his lost wife and daughter. That is, until he rescued a wraith-like damsel in distress and fell under her spell.

And determined to make her whole, one touch, one kiss, one embrace at a time.
I really have to thank Cindy for this rec. This is an author I'd never even heard about, so if I hadn't seen Cindy's blog, I would have missed out on a very sweet, emotional story. A B.

Iantha Kethley endured a traumatic gang rape six years earlier, and this has left some understandably deep mental scars in her. She's uncomfortable being with people, especially men, and she pretty much can't stand to be touched, even by her loving parents and brothers and sisters, with whom she lives a very quiet life in the country. Her recovery isn't helped by the fact that all this time she's been receiving taunting letters, presumably from the rapists, who every clue seems to indicate are from the upper classes.

One day, as she's out painting in the snow, she's rescued from an avalanche by her new neighbour, Robert Armstrong. With a big storm approaching, there's no way she can get home, and Rob takes her to his. Iantha is obviously very scared, especially by the fact that since Rob has just arrived back home after many years in India, there's no female staff at his castle. However, Rob is kind and patient from the beginning, even if he doesn't understand why this lady is so cold and skittish, and his men are perfectly respectful, so Iantha is soon at ease and they establish somewhat of a rapport.

Once the storm is over, Rob returns Iantha to her house, and makes the obligatory offer of marriage, since she's spent a few days with him without a chaperone. Even though he's attracted to her, he's not completely sure he wants such a cool woman for a wife, but well, it can't be helped. But when Iantha's father feels honor-bound to reveal what happened to Iantha all those years ago, before he can accept Rob's proposal, Rob finally understands Iantha's behaviour. He's still not sure if he'll be able to build a real marriage with her, but he's determined to give it his best try and convince her that she doesn't have to spend the rest of her life hiding.

What I loved best about this book was how Rowell slowly builds a real relationship between Iantha and Rob. The process of Iantha completely trusting her husband and being completely comfortable with him (in bed and out) was a long, gradual, laborious one. I loved that while Rob was all that was kind and generous and patient, this didn't come effortlessly to him. It was difficult for him to control himself and he had quite a few doubts about whether he was ever going to succeed completely, and even, at some dark times, about whether all that very hard work was worth it. But he persevered, the adorable man!

I also liked how Rowell wrote Iantha. She's a truly strong heroine, not in a physical, outgoing way, but in the way she is so quietly determined to get over her fears and make a life with Rob. Even when the rapists step up their campaign to terrorize her and she starts having to face many of her fears head-on, she doesn't flag in her efforts and still tries to keep all this from taking over the life she's started to get back. I've read too many books in which being a survivor of rape is all there is to the heroine's personality, but this is not the case here. Iantha is a well-rounded character, and the effects the rape had on her are not all there is to her personality.

A long, careful process like the one Rob and Iantha embark on isn't as satisfying without some major emotional payoff, and A Scandalous Situation has that in spades. When Iantha finally shows she's comfortable even with a certain sexual position, when she finally lets go of her feelings and risks all those emotions she's had bottled up inside her for all those six years, Rowell makes these scenes so powerful and satisfying that I was really affected.

Something else I enjoyed was Rowell's writing, the way she created a very vivid atmosphere for her tale to take place in. The beginning, especially, was lovely, and the cover reflects this mood wonderfully. Oh, but speaking of the writing, I have a tiny nitpick: Rob "pulsed" every time they made love, which I found a bit distracting. Well, I did say it was a tiny nitpick, didn't I?

Where I had some bigger trouble with the book was with the villains' motivations. It just stretched my credibility that they would spend so much time and effort taunting Iantha and torturing her by sending her letters. I mean, they seem to have had other victims. Why not them? Or were they sending them all letters like that? And how much time were they spending on their correspondence, if that was so?

Compared to what worked here, though, that was not important, and the book was a success for me. I wonder how the other 3 in the series compare? I may have to seek them out!


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