Wednesday, February 11, 2009
By J.D. Robb
G.P. Putnam’s Sons (2009), 342 pages, $26.95 (hardcover)
In a beloved series that only gets better with age, “Promises In Death” is perhaps the best of the 28 books about Eve and Roarke.
And that will probably last until the 29th book is released.
The “In Death” books have everything a romance suspense fan could want: A gritty and gutsy heroine, with just a tad of vulnerability known only to her true love; an unbelievably charismatic and gorgeous hero who happens to be the richest man in the universe and always knows the right thing to say and do.
And their complete and total devotion to each other.
These books have wit, humor and a support cast of intriguing, beguiling and lovable characters that reach through the pages and bring you right in there with them.
The books are set in the future – we’re up to 2060 in this one. While the stories are in no way science fiction, it does allow J.D. Robb – aka Nora Roberts – to have a bit of fun with futuristic devices.
And “Promises In Death” is definitely a fun read.
And much more.
There’s no tension between Roarke and Eve in this book – well, except when Roarke leaves a panicked Eve “alone” in their house-full of women gathered for a bridal shower, while he takes the groom and friends to Las Vegas for the bachelor party.
Like many other parts of the book, the repartee between Eve and Roarke in that scene is priceless and worth marking to read over and over and over again.
In fact, better find lots of markers – there are many scenes you’ll want to re-read.
Overall rating: 5 of 5 hearts. The romance is endearing, witty and memorable. Eve and Roarke are in definite sync and their passion and love wafts from the pages. The suspense is riveting, and will keep you enthralled and guessing until the end.
Hunk appeal: 10-plus and beyond. Roarke is the measure that all other heroes fail to measure up to.
Steamy scene grade: XXXX. And beyond.
Happily-Ever-After: Very good. The worst part is, you don’t want it to end. However, Eve solves the murder investigation – with the help of Roarke, of course, and some of her friends. And as always, Roarke is there to take Eve home. It’s like he says, “We’re perfect for each other.” Just like these books are perfect for romance readers.
Also this week…..
Montana Creeds: Logan
by Linda Lael Miller (2009 paperback) 3-plus of 5 hearts.
Linda Lael Miller has crafted another set of cowboys to woo and wow her readers. Although the advertised connection to her McKettrick series is rather tenuous, the Creed brothers stand on their own rather well. The first of the trio of rugged former rodeo heroes is Logan. He’s the first to return to his family ranch, which has been sorely neglected since the brothers parted ways, and left town, years earlier. After making his name on the rodeo circuit, becoming a lawyer and making a fortune with an online legal service, he’s determined to return the ranch to glory, and make his family name a proud one. To do that, he has to make amends with his brothers. A much more pleasant task, though, is wooing Briana, a single mom and neighbor. The next two installments of this series will come out in consecutive months.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
By Suzanne Brockmann
Ballantine Books (2009), 418 pages, $25 (hardcover)
Once upon a time, Suzanne Brockmann wrote sweet, undiluted romances that were not tainted by suspense or intrigue. They were full of passion and tenderness, and brought tears to the eyes of romance readers.
Then she veered into military romance, and her first squad of Navy SEALs still managed to produce touching, tender stories that were heavy on romance.
But she’s evolved away from books that are heavy on romance, to stories that focus more on suspense. She’s also delved a bit into social commentary and burdened characters with some disturbing emotional baggage. As a result, her current novels are a bit more complex to read.
Having said that, her newest book about members of the Troubleshooters private security group – comprised mostly of former SEALs, spys, etc. – has a bit more lighthearted romance than some of her more recent books.
“Dark of Night,” revives recurring characters from those recent books, and pairs them up -- Sophia with Dave, and Decker with Tracy.
Sophia and Decker are two burdened with the aforementioned emotional baggage, and Tracy has a bit of a tragic past of her own. So while we have to be reminded of that, which is a downer, it’s nice to see them distracted by love and even nicer to see Decker and Tracy even dabble with frivolity at times.
The intrigue in this story focuses around Jimmy Nash (hero from “Flashpoint”) whose death was faked to protect him and those close to him. Nash found himself involved with some sort of ultra-evil bad guys and his friends think it’s a good way to keep him safe, and catch the bad guys.
Tracy figures out that Nash is still alive, so Decker decides to bring her into the fold. Which ends up putting her in danger as well, but also makes her an unlikely asset in the investigation.
And ends up pairing him with his soul mate.
Overall rating: 3 of 5 hearts. Well written, and the byplay between Tracy and Decker is really fun to read. The suspense? Well at the risk of spoiling the ending….it would have been more interesting if the bad guys had actually ended up being someone we knew.
Hunk appeal: 10. It’s hard to embrace Decker too much, but you definitely like it that Tracy does. As for Dave? A likeable geek, but not someone you’ll cast for your dreams.
Steamy scene grade: XXXX.
Happily-Ever-After: OK. Decker and Tracy have a touching ending, as does Dave and Sophia, but the intrigue? Well, the ultra-bad guys ended up coming across more like keystone cops gone bad than the ultimate evil machines they were supposed to be.
Also this week…..
The Nanny Solution
by Teresa Hill (2009, paperback) 3 of 5 hearts.
A February Silhouette offering tells the story of a woman betrayed by her husband, who is still being punished for a short-term breakdown. She gets a job with Simon and it’s love at first sight. Only Audrey won’t let herself trust love, or a man, again. Simon is rich, powerful and used to getting what he wants. But the problem here is that he completely understands why Audrey is reluctant to trust him, and can’t blame her for her reasons. It doesn’t stop him from trying, though.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
By Christie Ridgway
Silhouette Books (2009), 212 pages, $4.99 (paperback)
The plot has been used before, the hero’s story written before, and the heroine’s plight read before.
In “I Still Do,” Christie Ridgway manages to blend those used-before plot devices into a sweet, easy-to-read romance that is perfect to cuddle up with on these chilly winter days.
It’s simple, without twists, suspense or other distractions.
Will and Emily were childhood and teen-age “summer” sweethearts. They attended camp together, and were exclusive during those months.
During the other months? Emily was a reclusive bookworm, while Wild Will sowed his wild oats.
Emily went on to become a librarian. But a family tragedy re-routed Will’s life, forcing him to become a fireman so he could support and raise his five siblings. During those 13 years, Emily and Will didn’t see each other.
When Will’s youngest sister graduated from high school, he went to Las Vegas with pal Owen to celebrate his newly reclaimed bachelorhood. He found Emily there with her best friend, Izzy. One night, they all got married – Emily to Will, Izzy to Owen. The next morning, Izzy and Emily ran away.
But Emily didn’t run too far. She had just taken a new job in Will’s hometown. They both agreed an annulment would be best. But something always seemed to prevent their discussion of the matter.
In the meantime, Emily tries to fight her attraction to Will because she doesn’t want to ruin his long anticipated emancipation from responsibility. Will tries to deny his feelings for Emily because he doesn’t want to give up that freedom.
The result? Emily gets definite mixed signals. “You want good times,” she told him. “To play. And even then, you’ve run hot and cold on me….”
But then something happens to make Will realize that wild bachelorhood lifestyle was only something he thought he wanted, only a mirage of something he thought he’d missed.
I wanted to have good times,” he told her, adding, “You are my good times.”
Overall rating: 3-plus of 5 hearts. Nothing complicated, nothing that will make your pulse race. Just a wonderfully simple, easy and fun to read romance.
Hunk appeal: 10. Will is a too-good-to-be-true sort of guy. But while he’s never rude, crude, nasty or the least bit mean to Emily, he doesn’t really shower her with hearts, candy and love either. He’s conflicted. But once he realizes he needs to let his heart make life decisions, he’s OK.
Steamy scene grade: XXX. Better than OK at times.
Happily-Ever-After: Very good. It’s a bit of a corny ending – which sets up a sequel (Izzy and Owen’s story) – but since romance readers like the corny and sappy, it’s good.
Also this week…..
Naked in Death (In Death, Book 1)
by J.D. Robb (1995 paperback) 5 of 5 hearts.
With another installment of the series due out in February (“Promises In Death”) this would be a perfect time for folks who haven’t read these books, or those who are new to them, to catch up a bit. “Naked In Death” was the story that introduced fans to Eve and Roarke, and started the series 14 years ago. Eve is a homicide cop in 2058. She meets Roarke, perhaps the richest, most powerful and most handsome man in the universe, during a murder investigation. Roarke, who is usually linked romantically with the most gorgeous models and celebrities, recognizes Eve has his fate almost immediately. He just has to convince Eve. Read this book, and perhaps the one that follows (“Glory In Death”) and you’ll be in pretty good shape to pick up the series. Although chances are, you’ll want to read every other book as well.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
By Stella Bagwell
Silhouette Books (2009), 213 pages, $4.99 (paperback)
As Silhouette books are designed to do, “Cowboy To The Rescue” gives readers a hefty dose of romance in a small, easy-and-quick-to-read package.
And it’s quite a delightful one.
Even if you haven’t read about the other Saddlers finding their loves, you’ll enjoy watching Lex find his soul mate. The book is full of tender moments and caressing words as he and Christina sort through the confusion of falling in love.
Lex has a playboy reputation and has pretty much given up on finding true love. Christina always has yearned for hearth, home and a soul mate but a disappointing relationship has her doubting she’ll ever find those things.
So while their brains send out love-at-first-sight signals, their hearts are reluctant to believe they actually have found what they’ve spent their lives looking for.
Christina arrives at Lex’s family ranch to investigate the suspicious death of Lex’s father, who drowned 12 years earlier. Lex’s mom hired Christina, a private investigator, to find out the truth behind his death.
At first, Lex is resentful of his mother’s plan but agrees to serve as the family liaison to Christina. Immediately, he is drawn to her and is confused about what he’s feeling.
Is this love? he keeps wondering.
Of course it is, foolish man. But it takes him about 200 pages to finally figure that out, and a few more to utter the words Christina longed to hear.
Those caressing words? How about when Lex finally realizes he does love Christina and thinks, “She was the very thing his heart, his soul, had been searching for…. He wanted her to be happy, deep-down happy. He wanted to love her. Really love her.”
One of the most tender moments was when he realized he loved Christina, but opted to wait to share that because he knew she wouldn’t believe him. Yet, he knew she was hurting because she didn’t think he did. So he said, “Don’t worry, my sweet. Everything is going to be all right.”
And it was.
Overall rating: 4 of 5 hearts. Just a pure, simple, romance full of those tender moments and ahhh-inspiring words. There is a bit of suspense to add to it, but the romance is the main feature.
Hunk appeal: 10. Lex isn’t extraordinary. He’s just a rancher who is a good man, a man who wants to be sure he’s found his true love even though at some level, he recognized her the moment he saw her.
Steamy scene grade: XXX. At several levels.
Happily-Ever-After: Very good. Once Lex tells Christina “everything is going to be all right,” the romantic ending just spiraled to a very satisfactory conclusion with a nice epilogue. The suspense portion of the book had to be wrapped up, and perhaps it was a bit distracting, but all’s well that ends well. And this does.
Also this week…..
by Linda Howard (2000, hardcover and paperback) 5 of 5 hearts.
Even though I rated this at 4-plus nine years ago, it keeps improving with age. This has become a favorite classic. Linda Howard manages to insert a healthy dose of humor into a book fraught with evil and murder. The murder of characters you know and like. Still, the heroine, Jaine, is quite possibly the most fun romance heroine you'll ever read about. And Sam is her perfect mate. You're likely to dog-ear the pages of "Mr. Perfect," the binding becoming creased and its hold on those pages growing precarious. The repertoire between Sam and Jaine borders on hysterical at times. You'll be reading portions aloud to loved ones and friends.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
By Jayne Ann Krentz
G.P. Putnam’s Sons (2008), 337 pages, $24.95 (hardcover)
Jayne Ann Krentz is such a talented writer, she can make readers believe and enjoy virtually anything.
Even a series about heroes and heroines with special paranormal talents.
Her “Arcane Society” series continues with “Running Hot,” a story about Grace and Luther finding love while using their unusual aura-reading talents to capture some dastardly bad guys.
Some readers may be tiring of the whole aura-reading, crystal-using, siren killing type of stuff but Krentz just seems to be having some fun with it. There’s not a lot of jargon to muddle the story and the fact that the good guys are trying to thwart paranormal bad guys doesn’t diminish the intrigue or the romance that “runs hot” between Luther and Grace from the time they meet.
Grace is forced to start a new life. Won’t ruin the small surprise there. She gets a job as a reference librarian with the Arcane Society, and her unique ability to spot bad guys from their auras becomes known to paranormal investigative boss Fallon Jones.
Jones sends her on a mission, and tags Luther – an aura manipulator – as her bodyguard.
Of course they meet, they become attracted to each other, fall in love and live happily ever after.
As with most of Krentz’s books, it's quite simply a well-written, fun read that will entertain you from start to finish.
Overall rating: 4 of 5 hearts. The whole paranormal, aura-reading bit is a somewhat off-putting at times. But if you regard it as a touch of spice in an otherwise normal suspense, it doesn’t distract.
Hunk appeal: 10. Luther is open, honest and doesn’t play games. He understands Grace and takes very good care of her.
Steamy scene grade: XXXX. Very good care.
Happily-Ever-After: Good. Even though you know who the bad guys are, it winds up pretty well. The ending does have a fun little twist for long-time Krentz fans, and Luther and Grace embark on that happily-ever-after.
Also this week…..
by Nora Roberts(2008 paperback) 4 of 5.
Even though the two stories in this book are 22 and 24 years old, their timeless romantic qualities make them worth reading in any decade. First is the Roberts’ classic “Opposites Attract,” when tennis stars Ty and Asher discover their ill-fated love might not be so destined for doom after all. The couple was in love, got shoved apart, then managed to fix it years later. Eventually. In “A Will and a Way,” Pandora and Michael are forced to live together to fulfill a beloved uncle’s last wishes. They realize they’re in love but have a few other problems to contend with as they make that fall.
Monday, December 29, 2008
By Julie Garwood
Ballantine Books (2008), 320 pages, $26 (hardcover)
The strengths of Julie Garwood’s books are the engaging characters she brings to life, and the chemistry she brews between the hero and heroine.
“Fire and Ice” fit rather nicely into her well-honed formula.
Sophie was peripherally introduced in “The Murder List.” Don’t remember? No wonder – it was written four years ago.
So to save yourself the frustration of not being able to remember Sophie – or other characters – from that book, you might want to read it again before you start “Fire and Ice.” Or, you can read this brief synopsis:
Regan and her friends Cordie (perhaps within the next decade we’ll read about her romance with Regan’s brother Aidan….or maybe not) and Sophie go to hear this quack self-help guru, to help Sophie (a reporter) expose him as a fraud. He tells everyone to write a “Murder List,” names of people they’d rather not exist.
Regan scribbles down a few names so he doesn’t suspect her of being a spy.
The next thing she knows, people on her list start getting killed. And she receives threats. She’s assigned a bodyguard – Alex Buchanan – who is a few weeks away from leaving Chicago and returning to Boston to work for the FBI.
They fall in love.
So in “Fire and Ice,” Regan and Alec are back, and so are some of Alec’s police buddies. But the new guy is Jack – Alec’s partner, and the hero of this piece.
Jack loses a bet and consents to a favor, which results in him sticking close to Sophie. Of course eventually he sticks real close.
Sophie is a strong heroine and Jack makes a good match for her. Their chemistry is good and it’s obvious to everyone that they’re head-over-heels – everyone but Sophie and Jack. And that just makes it fun to watch.
The suspense is intriguing and will keep you guessing in some aspects. The trip to Alaska is rather fun to read about – but keep a blanket handy. You’ll get cold when you read it.
Overall rating: 4 of 5 hearts. Garwood doesn’t release books very often, but when she does it’s a must read. This book has ties to the Buchanans (the modern day ones), which gives it additional appeal for fans of that series. But it’s also well-written, with engaging characters and a suspenseful storyline – which will appeal to all romance fans, and perhaps even to some mystery readers as well.
Hunk appeal: 10. Jack isn’t the flowers and candy romantic type. Thank goodness. His toughness, eventual protectiveness and capability give him a gruffy appeal. His reluctance to accept his love for Sophie is endearing as well. It’s just fun watching him fall.
Steamy scene grade: XXXX. And fall hard.
Happily-Ever-After: Good. Garwood has a knack for fun endings (who will ever forget Laurant’s and Nick’s finale in “Heartbreaker”) and while this one doesn’t match that one, it’s still a good one. Maybe a bit predictable, but that’s OK too.
Also this week…..
“When the Duke Returns,” by Eloisa James (2008 paperback) 4 of 5. This fourth book in the “Desperate Duchesses” series is just fun. Isidore, who we’ve watched not-so-patiently wait for her husband to return from Africa, finally gets to meet the man who made her a duchess when she was just a child. Their families arranged the marriage, and they were married by proxy when Isidore was quite young. Simeon returns looking to start a life with his docile, biddable wife. He was in for quite a surprise when he discovered his beautiful Isidore was a lot of things – intelligent, quick-witted, opinionated and stubborn – and most definitely not docile and biddable. While they struggle to decide whether to stay married or not, they can’t ignore the passion that sparks whenever they’re together – even though at times, both would like to. Then again, at times they both rather enjoy that passion.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
By Linda Lael Miller
Silhouette (2008), 217 pages, $4.99 (paperback)
Take a veterinarian who talks to animals, a lost reindeer named Rodney and a Christmas tree vendor named Kris Kringle and what do you get?
A delightful holiday romance worth reading.
Olivia O’Ballivan is a small-town vet who spends more time with animals than people. She’s got trust and abandonment issues – thanks to her mother’s desertion when she was a child, and even her beloved famous brother’s leaving to find fortune and fame – but that doesn’t stop her from becoming attached to new-guy-in-town Tanner.
Tanner has definite commitment issues.
So when they embark on a no-strings-attached affair, it seems the best for both. But it doesn’t take long for each of them to realize they’re in love – and no-strings isn’t best at all.
In fact, they both discover they want strings. Lots of strings. And not just the strings of lights they buy to decorate for Christmas.
The simplicity of the plot, and the fun that Linda Lael Miller has with entwining Christmas magic in the story, should put it at the top of holiday reading lists. But Olivia’s sadness about missing her grandfather, and her angst over those abandonment issues thanks to dear old mom, make her less than a cheery and fun heroine to read about. Tanner doesn’t help matters – he’s still grieving for his deceased wife, misses his grandmother, and is conflicted about whether he should be forcing his daughter to live in a boarding school for protection.
All of this soul-searching, angst and sadness makes for a rather somber read much of the time.
But the romance between Olivia and Tanner is touching, endearing and sweet. It’s also fun to read about Brad and Meg (“The McKettrick Way”) as they enjoy their happily-ever-after.
Overall rating: 3 of 5 hearts. Perhaps a bit too somber at times, but still a touching and sweet romance full of Christmas spirit.
Hunk appeal: 10. Perhaps a bit too somber at times….but Tanner is a good man who treats Olivia well and tries to do the right thing for his family.
Steamy scene grade: XXXX. Not too somber.
Happily-Ever-After: Good. Perhaps a bit too somber….but Tanner and Olivia are well on their happily-ever-after way and seem to be a bit perkier.
Also this week…..
by Fern Michaels, JoAnn Ross, Mary Burton and Judy Duarte
(2008, paperback) 3 of 5.
This is a collection of short, holiday stories that are easy, quick reads. In “Silver Bells,” by Michaels, movie-star Amy discovers she can go home again – thanks to high school boyfriend Hank. In “Dear Santa,” Holly discovers the magic of Christmas – and love – thanks to Gabriel. In “Christmas Past,” Nicole discovers love is worth trying again – thanks to David. And in “A Mulberry Park Christmas,” Jillian goes home again, and discovers love again – thanks to Mac.