Tag Archives: 2011

Guest Review: It Happened One Season by Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D’Alessandro and Candice Hern

It Happened One Season by Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D’Alessandro and Candice Hern
Historical Romance released by Avon March 29, 2011

We asked our readers what story they would most like to see from four bestselling authors. They responded . . .

A handsome hero returns from war, battle-scarred and world-weary. But family duty calls and he must find a bride.

A young lady facing yet another season without a suitor never expects to find herself the object of his affections.

It Happened One Season

Four amazing talents

Stephanie Laurens
Mary Balogh
Jacquie D’Alessandro
and
Candice Hern

have come together to create one of the most unforgettable events of the year. The results are spectacular—each story is as unique as a lover’s first kiss.

It Happened One Season is an Anthology with the same four Avon Historical Romance authors that wrote It Happened One Night in 2008. In It Happened One Night, there was a common theme that the authors Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D’Alessandro and Candice Hern created. Each author wrote a story about a proper young lady free from society’s constraints due to being stranded at a remote inn where she comes face to face with the one that ends up being her HEA (Happily Ever After). This time around, the publisher had readers suggest what themes they would most like to read. A winner was picked, and they had the above mentioned story lines as well as:

  • The hero must find a bride because and produce a male heir.

The big difference with It Happened One Season, versus It Happened One Night is that there are several requirements in the story while the previous one was more open. So for me, reading one story after another, felt too much of the same story at first. Once I put aside repetitiveness, I enjoyed the next three stories more. They were focused on the hero and heroine rather than the circumstances and changed my opinion of the book. Since these four authors are all favorites of mine, I rarely have any criticism. I’m a huge fan of historical romance so I’m never one to have much of any issues with what I read since I love a variety despite having favorite themes (beauty and the beast, marriage of convenience, etc). After a bit of a slow start with the first story, the rest pulled it up.

First up was The Seduction of Sebastian Trantor by Stephanie Laurens. Our hero Sebastian Montgomery Trantor, is very well read and indulges in hieroglyphics, which I believe is decoding hidden words through codes.  He resides in an Abbey healing both physically and emotionally from the war. Sebastian’s brother, Thomas, interrupts his serene life with a visit. Thomas and his wife have five children, all girls, so he tells Sebastian to marry so their cousin- a wastrel- won’t inherit. Thus, Sebastian goes and attends the Season. Sebastian hides out in the library at a ball and discovers the heroine, Tabitha Makepeace searching a desk. Tabitha has discovered that engaged girls are being blackmailed and she is determined to discover who the culprit is. Sebastian and Tabitha end up working together to solve the crime. Sebastian figures a fictional engagement to Tabitha would benefit them both. He wouldn’t have to attend any more balls and Tabitha could use his decoding skills to find who is blackmailing the ladies.

Tabitha feels she is a plain un-marriageable female on the shelf. Even though Sebastian lets her believe it’s a fictional engagement, he plans to convince her that it would solve both their issues if they enter a marriage of convenience. Stephanie Laurens story was one of the longest in the anthology. It was adventurous and fun to read about the sleuthing. Although the HEA does happen, and they declare their love for one another, it didn’t truly click with me- that spark that I usually can sense from the hero and heroine wasn’t quite there. Beautiful wording by this author, very poetic, but that feeling of ‘real and breathtaking’ when they came together just wasn’t there for me.
Grade: C

The second story is Only Love by Mary Balogh. Cleopatra Pritchard, Cleo, is a young widow that was married for five years and widowed for five years. Now 27, she believes that she will never marry again, as no one wants or wanted her. Cleo also thinks she’ll never have a lover. She was married to Colonel Aubrey Pritchard who was 23 years her senior. He didn’t want to court her, and wanted a biddable, plain lady to minister to his needs and not be a distraction to his men. Cleo felt so plain and overweight at that time of her life, she would have married anyone. Cleo has matured and gained confidence in the past decade, but her manner and behavior can still be awkward especially around men. Cleo has spent the last 4 Seasons with no suitors. Just as Cleo is about to give up and focus on her volunteering she meets Jack Gilchrist.

Cleo had met Jack once before when she was married as he was in the Colonel’s troop. Jack’s brother Matthew, informs Jack that he must find a wife and marry. Although Jack’s physical scars have healed, his emotional ones from the war have not. He hasn’t recovered from his aversion to being in the public and loathes others calling him a hero. He saw so much devastation in the war, that when he returned, stories about him and the adoration that society subjected him to had him re-living the war over and over. When Jack sees Cleo at the ball, he’s happy to see someone there he knows that isn’t a young marriage minded miss.

Cleo never forgot a kiss they shared some years back, the only passionate kiss that she’s experienced. Jack  remembers it as well and never understood why he reacted to her that way at their one and only meeting. When together, Cleo’s shyness nearly disappears. Jack blurts out a proposal, because he thinks they would suit. Mary Balogh has a way with bringing different things, people, and events into the story that bring smiles and chuckles as well as sadness- almost tears. The relationship shows in the hero and heroine’s words and behavior. I thoroughly loved Cleo and Jack’s story! Even now, a couple weeks after reading, I still smile when I think about them. Another huge positive of each of these stories is being able to read an Epilogue that held a beautiful future for them. Especially so with Only Love.
Grade: A-

Hope Springs Eternal by Jacquie D’Alessandro gives us the story of Miss Penelope Markham, who was involved in a scandal due to her art. Penelope is witty and often gets herself into trouble because of her carefree ways. As a gifted artist, she’s been dismissed from being an art teacher and returns home where she meets the hero for the first time. Alec Trentwell served in the war with Penelope’s twin brother, Edward. Penelope often wrote to Edward who shared his letters with Alec. Thus Alec felt he got to know Penelope – so much so that he feels responsible for her. Edward died in the war, but during his life he was Alec’s commanding officer and best friend. Alec feels guilty for Edward’s death, so he plans to tell Penelope what happened to her brother in the war and apologize. Alec then plans to spend his time secluded in the small cottage he purchased. Alec is suffering from flashbacks and nightmares about all he experienced in Waterloo and Penelope senses Alec’s emotional scars.

Alec enjoys Penelope’s company, so he puts off his original plan and conversation. Alec is enjoying his new life and is afraid he will lose Penelope if he tells her how Edward died. Alec is told to wed to provide a heir, and conveniently, he and Penelope are in love with each other. Despite that, he’s terrified he will lose her. This story by Jacquie D’Alessandro may at times bring you close to tears. It is a beautifully emotional novella. Jacquie is presently writing contemporary romances. I dearly miss her historical romances and hope she comes back to writing more of her wonderful historicals.
Grade: B

The last story, Fate Strikes a Bargain by Candice Hern, brings us Captain Nathaniel Beckwith and Philippa Reynolds. Again following the “being required to marry and have a heir” theme, Nat’s brother, Lord Dearne interferes with Nat’s matrimonial plans. Philippa and Nat meet when Nat discovers her hiding in an attempt to escape the crush of a ball. Nat finds Philippa refreshingly candid and tolerant of his dark mood.  Philippa’s herself and her respect for his emotions leads them to having very open and frank communication. Philippa is empathic as she’s dealt with her physical disability all her life. Philippa was born with a severe limp.  She tolerates her over-protective parents but doesn’t limit herself or let it hinder her enjoyment of as active a life as she can physically handle. But Philippa’s disability often causes a sort of social ostracism. Nat sees past that much in the same way she sees past his manners (or lack thereof). While they both feel like they don’t fit in with society, they realize that they fit together!

Nat can be harsh with his words, but not towards her, and Philippa is too eager for confrontation and very blunt! It was refreshing to see how they meshed. A bargain of marriage is made, though Philippa’s parents force some courting where they get to know each. During this time they begin healing together, and find so many strengths between and within them. Nat had loved the army, but grew increasingly melancholy as he realized that the fighting at Waterloo had left him traumatized with nightmares and flashbacks of the battle. This is very evident through the story and emotional to read.  The author details the feelings that Nat and Philippa are experiencing nicely. As their relationship grows, the bargain is sweetened! And the epilogue is bittersweet! Well worth reading. It ends up that fate and love brings Nat and Philippa together after all.
Grade: A

When the book started I thought it would end up too similar, but they end up being so unique and special stories. I hope the authors do this again!

Overall Grade: B+

Caffey (Cathie)

Review: Tempt Me by Shiloh Walker

Tempt Me by Shiloh Walker
Contemporary Romance released by Shiloh Walker Inc. Feb 15, 2011

Tempt me…
She’s a temptation he can’t resist…
Roxanne ‘Rocki’ Monroe’s life is full of secrets and hidden heartaches. Cole Stanton would love to heal her pain and chase away the ghosts of her past, but she’s just a complication he doesn’t have room for in his life.
Or so he thinks.
It doesn’t take Cole long to realize he’s more than willing to let temptation get the best of him, more than happy to deal with complications if that’s what it takes to get her.
What he has and what he needs are two different things…and what he needs is Rocki.

Rocki Monroe is a heroine many people will like. She’s smart, savvy, and strong willed, but human. Rocki also owns her own lingerie store, and designs many of the products sold. I liked that she had well developed interpersonal relationships and a core group of friends. Rocki is independent, but knows when to ask for help. She’s happy with herself, and that’s a character I think we can all enjoy reading about. Her warmth and personality come through clearly, and within the first few pages, if not chapters, you know exactly what kind of person she is – and would love to have a friend like her in your corner.

Cole Stanton seems like, and almost reads like the perfect hero… (well, other than you know, being engaged to another woman at the start of the story), but I actually don’t feel like I know him that well. We know he’s a District Attorney (and yes, cue the lawyer jokes – there’s some of that), but otherwise… not much about him. We know he’s loaded. However, I just got the feeling it wasn’t a huge city, so… I expect Cole is independently wealthy. It seemed like he had no base. It’s hard to explain, but all I knew about Cole was how he felt about Rocki, really, and that he’s generally a good guy. That’s probably enough for most people, and it was definitely sufficient for the story, but I would have liked more. I think part of it is due to his ex-fiancee Mara – I found her to be too one dimensional. I know there are straight up evil bitchy people out there, but if it/she was so bad I don’t know why Cole stuck around so long. Yes, it’s “explained” and I understand sometimes it’s hardest for us to see the people around us clearly… Still.

There is one “throwaway” line that I loved, and I think will resonate with many readers.

“That’s because you are beautiful.” Rocki lifted a brow. “Beauty doesn’t have anything to do with the size of your clothing.”

Which she says after a woman in the store admits the corset she bought makes her feel beautiful – a nice surprise as most of the other corsets she’s tried haven’t worked for her. Speaking of corsets, perhaps it’s my unfamiliarity with them, but sometimes the descriptions were a bit lost on me, which made me sad because Rocki is almost always wearing corsets in this book. (Which is a nice touch and fitting considering her occupation…)

There’s a slight blip when an “ominous voice” is heard in a crowd, and I didn’t quite believe that. Personally I think if you know someone well, even after a period of time you’ll recognize his/her voice. (Or at least, I’ve noticed that.) Anyway, there were a few such instances that took me a bit out of the story. I’ll say the “suspense” is the sub plot, and unfortunately for me it detracted from the story. I felt that there wasn’t enough focus on Cole and Rocki. The other events seemed to diverge from Cole and Rocki’s budding relationship. I don’t want to give spoilers, but I felt an effort was made to “hide” who the “villain” was, and that it was a bit too coy.

Over all, I liked the characters. Rocki and Cole are personable, as were most of the secondary characters. As an aside, I expect some of the groundwork laid for Lacey’s story will come to fruition. The characters were very human, and they had definite depth. The interaction between Rocki and Cole was fun, and I enjoyed reading it, but for me it was missing that extra something to make it click in that “perfect story” way. There were, however, some nice touches of humor and I actually laughed a few times.

What I’m trying to say is that I liked the characters, but less so the story. I think the ending has something to do with it – it’s just a smidge too… tentative for my taste. Granted the story takes place over the course of only a few days. I guess I just wanted more about and on Rocki and Cole, not the other events that took place, with stalkers and hospital trips, etc. It would’ve been nice to see them react to each other, not to circumstances.

I can see Ms. Walker writing more stories set in this town – possibly with the characters from Tempt Me making only cameo appearances – or even just being mentioned. If you’re a fan of Ms. Walker you’ll want to check it out – it’s a novella that would be a nice read when you have a free evening.

Grade: C –

Getting to Know Y̶o̶u̶ M̶e̶ Us?

Of course what came to mind first (and inspired the title) was:

Granted there have got to be so many things wrong with that but… let’s not get into them here.

I would like to get to know all of you. Some I know in passing, some I recognize by name, and some I’ve had the luck to meet in person. 🙂 However, my original intent for this post was… about me. That sounds so selfish and aggrandizing, doesn’t it :X so I didn’t really like that. But I also realized, I have no idea how some people found this blog, and my assumption that most if not everyone clicks through from twitter shouldn’t be. Additionally, my “About” page is rather pathetic.

So here goes. Is there anything you’d like to know about me? What do you think should go on my “about” page?

And just for kicks… I’ll list five “quirky” things about me.

1. I hate butterflies. All insects, really. But yes, butterflies, ladybugs, dragonflies… hate. Sadly butterflies love me.

2. I melted many a night light (or other similar item) while hiding under my comforter reading instead of sleeping as a child.

3. Up through high school I made sure my closet doors were shut each night before I went to sleep.

4. I took piano lessons for a number of years but it never really worked out because I can’t quite reach an octave >.<

5. My family (well, dad) has banned me from the use of blow torches.

Now it’s your turn! Got questions? Or any fun quirk or personality trait you’d like to share? Please do! As I said – I want to get to know you too, so please think of something 🙂

Guest Review: Jeweled by Anya Bast

Hi all! I’m Cathie, a reader who met Limecello in chats over the last couple of years and always enjoyed getting recommendations from her as well as giving her recommendations books to read. We’d have some in common and then some we’d be on the opposite ends of. Its all about us being our own reader with our own likes and dislikes as well as what works for one, might not work for another. So this made it fun with Limecello. I had told her I was reading a book to review and was thrilled she asked me to post on her blog. One thing I love to do is to try to tell other readers, as many as I can, what they are missing reading. So thanks Limecello.

book cover Jeweled by Anya Bast
Historical Fantasy released by Berkley Heat Nov 2, 2010

A new series of erotic magic and fantasy from the New York Times bestselling author.

In the Court of Edaeii, magic-imbued Evangeline is rewarded for her gift in manipulating emotion with a sapphire stone set into the perfect curve of her lower back. Her greatest rival in the royal court is the enigmatic Anatol, instilled with the power of illusion. He may best her in magic, but he is her absolute equal in passion.

They share something else—they’re both targets of low-born revolutionaries. Rescued by Gregorio, the brilliant revolutionary mastermind, they’re given sanctuary. But in this warm refuge, Evangeline soon finds herself torn between the magic of one man she has always desired, and the excitingly new and radical moves of another. For her, there is only one choice: indulge in pleasure without limits.

I had the opportunity to review JEWELED by Anya Bast and grabbed that chance! I’ve read various books of Ms. Bast’s but never have read a erotic historical fantasy. I have read very little of fantasy romance, and pretty much none of straight fantasy, so I then worried I wouldn’t do so well with a review of this genre. I started out with taking notes and it was taking away time from the book, but also, being able to enjoy the book. So I put all the notes away and just sat and read this book from beginning to end in enjoyment, and so glad I did!

JEWELED is an oh so fascinating read! And so passionate! I firmly got caught up in this world and still haven’t left it. Its set in no certain time period that was indicated, thus, an ‘alternative historical’. There’s some indications with one of the themes of the heroine being fascinated with the inventions that were happening (sewing machine, printing press). But as you read, its just ‘the time it is’ in the story and works! Set in a unique and creative world, I could feel that Ms. Bast really had a world planned out and everything flowed smoothly into it. Its set in a country called ‘Rylisk’ and they are in the city called ‘Milzyr’. The heroine, Evangeline has been in a palace called ‘Belai’ where all those with Magick in their blood reside . Evangeline was taken from her family at age 4. She is isolated within the Palace with others who work on their Magick over the years. The Magicks started with the family of ‘Edaeii’ but with very little family left, they relied on finding those with any Magick and building on it through the years by isolating them. This family of the Edaeii also took over the city with their wealth and power, leaving the poor not taken care of.

Evangeline’s Magick is consisted of feeling both physically and emotionally cold, but no other emotions are with her. She instead draws emotions from those around her and weaves those feelings back to those around her to manipulate what feeling they have. In other words, she can control and change the emotions around her. Anatol’s Magick consists of illusion and light.

As Evangeline comes of age, she becomes jeweled by performing her Magick skills in front of the Edaeii family. Once she is chosen to be part of their Magick family, she is jeweled with a sapphire stone placed in her back. In the men, its placed on the back of their neck. Its here we meet one of the hero’s, Anatol, who goes through the ceremony to be jeweled but wants nothing to do with the Edaeii family as he has heard the rumors of a possible revolution happening to take out this family and palace. When this does happen, Evangeline is totally unprepared to live outside of the palace while Anatol plans to survive through this. Anatol has falling in love with Evangeline from afar for many years. As the city takes over the palace, there’s violence that occurs which I do tend to skip over. But its necessary to the story in the power of how this city took over.

As Evangeline and Anatol survive trying to blend in as well as hide at other times, Evangeline has a difficult time dealing with not using her Magick but also learning to be herself, to feel herself for basically the first time in her life. As their relationship grows strong, Evangeline has strong feelings for Anatol but its not complete. Its here we meet Gregorio who is helping the city take back their home and life and make their government for everyone. Gregorio may be the missing part that makes Evangeline complete. Evangeline struggles with her own self esteem and feeling emotions again, especially determining what love is, and mostly wondering if she’s good enough for both Anatol and Gregorio.

As a reader I was enchanted by Anya Bast’s JEWELED. Evangeline goes through so much within this story that I felt I could see her grow from the beginning of the book to the very end. I could feel empathy for her feelings of her being worthy. Both Anatol and Gregorio are so different but with the same goals. I did look up to both Anatol and Gregorio for their protectiveness of her. She had her own strengths and other times her strengths were with them and I didn’t find this as a weakness of her. I found it made her stronger knowing she could depend on others in her life but also that she could include them as part of her life as well. The passion that was shared through this story grew from two to three and it worked. I realized that it couldn’t be any other way but the way it was told. I found this book not only a gripping adventure with an exciting fantasy to read, but also breathtaking in the love that grew between them all to become one in love. Ms. Bast has created an erotic historical fantasy that I’m already waiting for the next book. Its been awhile since I read the book and I can still visualize as well as see the scenes still within me as a reader. This one’s a keeper, an A for me!

*ETA: Oh and thanks to Anya Bast for linking the HuffPo article that talks about this… it’s awesome – as in the original awe-inspiring tone of the word. And so damn perfect for this post.

Because We Care + AN UPDATE

We all know what’s going on in Egypt, and various other parts of the world. There isn’t too much for us to be done there, but here’s something that you can be proactive about, and it’s so easy. I first heard about Pastor Marrion some time this past summer – I want to say ~July? From Megan F. I’ve been tweeting about it, but it’s high time it was made concrete. (Twitter can be so transient…) In this case, I don’t really think what religion you are, if any, should play a part. Maybe because he’s Pastor Marrion you find it off putting. Get over it.

Why does this only have 445 views? I want to cry.

Pastor Marrion P’Udongo has been called the “Oskar Schindler” of Congo, a man who’s dedicated himself to saving and nurturing the lives of others in one of the world’s most deadliest wars.

You can read more about the fund and Pastor Marrion and also donate if you wish here. (And I hope you will.)

As for something easily done, Shiloh Walker is an amazingly generous person, and she’s doing a fundraiser of sorts, where if she gets 400 comments, she’ll donate an additional $400. All you have to do is comment – it doesn’t cost a thing. If you’re interested in donating, she’s also having a contest.

********************************

In your lifetime, there are few moments when you’re given the opportunity to directly save another person’s life.-Bryan Mealer, HuffPo

If you had a chance to save somebody’s life, and it didn’t take all that much… would you do it?  Well, here’s that chance.

Check out Shiloh Walker’s blog for a chance to read how you can help save a man’s life…

********************************

And a thank you message – this man is ill, and has done so much to help the world… people like him should be helped in return.

*ETA: I’m not much help monetarily – although I’m doing what I can – but I’m also in the process of contacting people about places in Johannesburg. So did you comment? Going to help the cause?

**Double ETA: The winners have been chosen by randomizer.org! They are: Liza, Bella F, and Mary Froelich.

Liza and Mary, you both get a copy of All Night with a Rogue, and Bella, you get a copy of After Dark with a Scoundrel. You have until Tuesday to send me your info [mailing address etc]. And of course there’s the handy dandy contact form for these occasions.

Ah yes- and because I felt like it… I also gave StacieDM a kindle copy of Eternity Embraced by Larissa Ione. Why? Because randomizer.org chose her from people who comment on my blog. See? Being a regular has its benefits 😉

Review: Yours for the Night by Jasmine Haynes

book cover Yours for the Night by Jasmine Haynes
Contemporary romance released by Berkley Nov 3, 2009

Enter Courtesans:  A glitzy, sensual world of powerful people and the courtesans they’ll pay anything to have.

An exclusive and secret agency, for over two hundred years Courtesans has specialized in providing entertainment of a sexual nature.  Its clients are rich, powerful, and influential men and women, and one only meets a courtesan through referral from trusted sources.  Courtesans facilitates bringing together men and women to satisfy any sexual need imaginable, matching the perfect courtesan with just the right client.  The agency prides itself on training its courtesans, male and female, to interpret and fulfill its clients greatest fantasies, even the secret ones no one dares to say aloud.  The price is high, but everyone who’s ever had the pleasure of a date with a courtesan will agree, the fantasy is worth every penny.

These are their tales…

This is a book that got my attention based on the author. Well, the cover raised my eyebrows so I paused to look, and Jasmine Haynes’s name on it was what made me pick it up. I actually browsed it at a bookstore, put it down, but it stayed in my mind for months. I actually had some trouble hunting it down (poor memory), but bought it in e, and have read it multiple times since. I think I enjoy the anthology despite the premise, in a way, but it’s not the focus. The heroines of each story are courtesans. So… yes. A fancy way of saying hookers. Extremely high class, exclusive ones, but … anyway. The way in which the anthology progresses, is brilliant, I have to say. (I’ve been thinking about it a lot.) The first story is practically a straight sweet romance – all of what you expect… along with heat. But the emotions are the focus, and the last one is wild and kinky and what you might expect.

So with that random intro, I feel like more information is necessary. Let’s get on with the specifics.

The Girlfriend Experience
Marianna becomes a courtesan because she’s in a bad place financially, and her friend who is also a courtesan suggests it. (Convenient, no? Even more convenient is the fact that Marianna is beautiful, well rounded, and grew up wealthy and privileged.) Marianna is 35, and in a way I think her age makes this a bit less smarmy. Although she’s still a bit unsettled in life, at least she’s got the maturity to figure things out in a more rational way than say a college aged girl.
Chase is… well, I found him to be adorable. He’s lived with a lot of guilt and hasn’t truly been living life. He has a fantastic daughter, and… well I’m not sure how do describe him, but he cares. (And Chase’s friend is the one who hires a courtesan for him…)
I like that things start out relatively slow, and essentially, what Marianna and Chase have is a normal budding relationship. It’s almost sweet, and they go on dates, and are emotionally involved and really care for each other.

Payback
Dominique and Gabriel are a perfectly matched pair. Dominique has been hurt by a failed marriage, and is looking for validation. Few things top being the most coveted and highest paid courtesan. Dominique is trying to find her self worth again, and tangible means is a very concrete way to go about doing it. Gabriel is a dream hero. Sure the two of them have some major sexytimes, but Gabriel cares. He goes through a ridiculous amount of effort to set something up for Dominque that is special and tailored specifically for her. While it costs him a lot, money isn’t the issue, and he shows Dominique that what she really wants isn’t being coveted.
Dominique also does care, and has an eye opening experience when she runs across a previous client. This novella felt very complete to me, and everything came full circle. It was believable, and the romance was satisfying.


Triple Play

I have to say this makes me think sports, and in a way some athleticism is required O_o but really it’s all kink, but with a satisfying level of emotion and authenticity. Noelle and Dax are meant to be together, in a twisted kinky perfect sense.
Noelle needs variety, which three failed marriages has taught her. She feels bad about her past, but knows herself. The novella definitely isn’t hung up on her previous relationships. It also goes into much more detail about other clients, because Noelle continues to see them. Dax is someone who ultimately cares about a woman’s pleasure. He wants to orchestrate it, and be in control – and without going into deep psychological analysis… I like that the characters, or at least Noelle owns to a double standard. She will continue to see clients, but doesn’t want Dax to be with another woman. Perfectly, Dax doesn’t want that either. (And I don’t consider that a spoiler because after all this is a romance – we all know how it’ll end.)
I liked that while so confident and outrageous sexually, Dax and Noelle are still uncertain of their emotions and budding relationship, where they stand with each other, and what the boundaries are.

~*~

I enjoyed all three novellas, and as I said at the beginning, the fact that the heroines are courtesans is almost a gimmick. (Although perhaps not in Noelle’s case as that is integral to her relationship with Dax.) Nevertheless each ends up in a committed relationship. I really enjoy Ms. Haynes’s writing, and have to admit I was impressed with how she crafted her stories. They could so easily be tawdry and over the top, but aren’t. I’m definitely looking forward to her other courtesans books… and I’d never have thought I’d like stories with that premise. Kudos to Ms. Haynes, and I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes romance with heat.

*NB: This review was written awhile ago, but never posted. I’ve read all three anthologies in this “series” and will be talking about it more in the future 🙂

Grade: B+

“Best of 2011?” Honorable Mentions

I think there are one or two books I wanted to have on this list and… I lost them. I didn’t copy and paste properly (which is yet another reason why I shouldn’t be writing these posts in the wee hours, like 2:30 AM, and yet here I am at 1:30 clicking away.) I’m sorry for not searching for them again, but I just don’t have the fortitude to go through thousands of titles again. I browsed through something like 200+ amazon pages for my books post. Will not do it again. I am weak. Forgive me.

And, I’d like to remind you, before anyone gets all het up about this list… these are books I think are going to be super awesome. I’m just… explaining why they aren’t on my other post. Because I’m stupid and feel the need to explain and shoot myself in the foot, obviously.

So without further ado and in no particular order… here are the honorable mentions:

The Seduction of His Wife by Tiffany Clare
I LOVE the premise of this book. I’d actually been thinking “I wish there were more books about couples after they’re married.” And here is the perfect set up. I’ve also been meaning to read one of Ms. Clare’s books, because I’d heard so many wonderful things about them. Also, they’re unique. The characters, plot, setting, of her books all stand out in my mind. I had a really hard time taking this off my “10” list.

_____________________________________

Mesmerized by Lauren Dane
I have to admit, the book by Ms. Dane I really really really want to read is Never Enough – which is Adrian Brown’s book. (The setting, his character… *drool*) But I think his book won’t be out til 2012, so I guess I’m not allowed to talk about it. Anyway, this book sounds awesome. Not just because the heroine is bad ass. And yes, these Phantom Corps books focus on the heroes. I’m all for that. but the heroine here, Piper – sounds awesome. And, here comes the confession. I couldn’t in good conscience put this book on the other list because well… I haven’t finished Insatiable yet. Which actually makes me really sad. No, honest. I LOVED his sister Abbie’s story. SO! LOVED! And I thought Daniel was fantastic, and I was so eager for his story. I just… can’t seem to get into it. I’ve started it a few times, from the beginning to make sure I don’t miss anything, and each time I get a little bit further, but I just… haven’t managed to get to the end yet. And I know a big part of it is and was my reading slump. In my defense, another reader friend I was talking to said she LOVED Insatiable but when I asked her about it a few months after she read it she couldn’t remember a thing. So maybe, in the tiniest, darkest, smallest corner… it’s not entirely me.
However, I seem to like Ms. Dane’s second book to a series more than her first – and as Mesmerized is the second Phantom Corps book… I’ve got really high expectations. I’m probably going to read it, then kick myself for not reading Daniel’s book faster so I have all the background.
_____________________________________

Sweet Possession by Maya Banks
This book … sounds awesome to me, and not. I love Conner. He’s an awesome character and I’ve liked him throughout all the other Sweet books. And considering how I feel about series these days, that’s huge. I’ve been waiting for his book. And based on his personality, I expect this story to be more like Sweet Seduction which was hands down one of my favorite books of 2009. What kept it from “the list”? The heroine. Lyric Jones, “outrageous and out-of-control, is a spoiled pop star who lives hard and fast.” This falls way too close to the heiress heroine and I just… no. Just thinking about it now is annoying me. I find it very difficult to like and sympathize with the bratty heroine. “Oh no. I have so much money. Everyone loves me. My life is soooooo hard.” Yes, I bet the story will be great and I’ll enjoy it. But how I feel about the heroine just edges out my “yay Conner!” feelings… And honestly – did you see the ten I posted? All these books were neck in neck!
_____________________________________

Never a Gentleman by Eileen Dreyer
The premise of this book sold me. 100%. Also, on the amazon page, the description of the heroine: Miss Grace Fairchild is under no illusions about her charms. Painfully plain, she is a soldier’s daughter who has spent her life being useful, not learning the treacherous ways of the ton. She may have been caught in a scandal with society’s favorite rogue, but how can she marry him when it means losing herself?

Grace Fairchild is not beautiful. She has few social graces, having spent her life following the drum with her father. Diccan Hilliard is society’s premiere bachelor. Suave, elegant and witty, he barely notices Grace exists….until she wakes in his bed, naked. The situation might have been orchestrated by Diccan’s enemies, but the outcome is the same. Marriage. Now the two most mismatched people in the ton will have to learn to live together  as they seek the traitors who seek to overthrow the throne.

The whole “traitors seeking to overthrow the throne” might have me rolling my eyes a tiny bit. I’m sure it fits in the plot, but based on the blurb it seems like a bit much. I suspect there will be a lot going on in this book. Also there’s no excerpt on the author’s page, which doesn’t reassure me. But the point is – zomg! The heroine! The hero! He’s going to fall head over feet and it’s going to be wonderful. I just know it!
_____________________________________

Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson
This book is an honorable mention, because hello it’s Rachel Gibson. However, it’s also on this list because I don’t know anything about it. Aside from  a tiniest excerpt. And the whole “my ex wife hates me and I was a jackass but I guess I love her…” : And I really don’t want a re-hash of an already written hockey story. (I felt that the most recent was perilously close to her first book.) As a side note it must be said… I still super hate her website. I just hate it. But the point being, I am excited about this book. I’ll probably be even more excited once I read the book blurb and a longer excerpt. But at this point, knowing so little, it doesn’t get to be a most anticipated book.
_____________________________________

[Cover Not Yet Available] Collide by Megan Hart
For many of the same reasons as Any Man of Mine, Collide by Megan Hart is on this list. I think I’ve seen one line teasers from it, that Ms. Hart tweeted while writing or editing, but that’s obviously not enough. It’s here though, because it’s a Spice book, and an erotic romance. I’m big on those happy endings. Also, I love the song by Howie Day. This book always makes me think of it, and I’m sure the song is like the perfect soundtrack for much of this book. It’s so perfect it’d almost be disgusting if it weren’t so damn awesome. I have to say that Deeper was a bit much for me, and I couldn’t get into it, and I haven’t read Naked yet… but Stranger, Dirty, and Broken are always on my “books I recommend” list. The books just gutted me. What comes to mind first is “guh” – as in my reaction. After finishing them, I’m just speechless and… well… guh. I expect the same thing from Collide and I’m almost as nervous as I am excited about it.
Also, it comes out on my sister’s birthday. Which is exactly one week before my birthday. It’s fortuitous.
_____________________________________

A Lot Like Love by Julie James
I have to say that Ms. James absolutely gets the best covers ever. It’s probably because she’s always so perfect her publisher’s art department is scared to give her anything less. (Have you ever seen her? She’s the cutest thing and always put together. I think I hate her.) But seriously – pretty much everyone and her mom absolutely gushes about Julie James. So much so that I have all her books. Yes, I bought them. (And one I was lucky enough to win in a contest – thanks!) But uh… I haven’t read them yet. :X I discovered her during my reading slump, okay?! Also, I tried to start one, and it was going well, until there was this tiny throw away less than one sentence thing that… stopped me in my tracks. I just… no. And it’s not a big deal and I totally realize it’s entirely a personal thing but I just… haven’t worked up the nerve/will to go back. I have no idea if it’ll even bother me now, but it’s been built up in my head so much… and also with the slump I have a TBR pile/list of like 1,000 books (and I’m actually not exaggerating) so it hadn’t been a priority to race through her books. However, the premise to A Lot Like Love sounds like something right up my alley, so I might just have to move Ms. James’s books up in my pile. Or just read out of order, which totally doesn’t bother me. (And yes, I realize this last statement just horrified a bunch of you more than anything else I’ve said.)
_____________________________________

Dreams of a Dark Warrior by Kresley Cole
I have, well not exactly mixed feelings about Regin, but I’m not sure how much I like her. I mean she’s ok, but I’m not dying for her book. The whole reincarnated bit for the hero sounds interesting… also DoaDW didn’t make the “10” because >.< I haven’t read the previous book in the series yet. (Although I have it.) And okay, I’m really starting to hate series. If I keep going, how long will I be sucked in? I’m one of those people who does her best to follow something through. Even to the bitter end. And let me tell you, some ends get really bitter. Not that I’m saying Ms. Cole will write her series into the ground, or even that I expect her to – I mean hello this book is on my honorable mentions list! It’s just… I’m scared, okay? And that’s making me react aggressively and defensively.
_____________________________________

Heat Waves by Susan Lyons
I loved Susan Lyons’s books. The Fantastic Foursome quartet is a set of books I happily recommend to anyone looking for books with some heat. But not only does Ms. Lyons write sizzling stories, there’s so much to them. Amazing characters, all these wonderful emotions, and depth. So much content. It’s delightful. I also have to say, I’m super psyched that she’s writing under the name Susan Lyons again. (She writes under Susan Fox for Brava because I guess they made her change her name – which personally I think was silly…) but anyway. I have to say I’m behind on her Susan Fox books. I just… enh. So… while I am very eager to read this book, I have the tiniest shadow of apprehension. Also there’s the fact that I don’t know a darn thing about it. No blurb or excerpt on her page-  so add the reasons behind Collide and Any Man of Mine to this book as well.

Almost Honorable Mentions…

Her Ladyship’s Companion by Evangeline Collins is a book of interest but … I’m not sold on it. The cover is extremely eye catching, and Ms. Collins has a lovely site as well… but… the premise. It’s… I’m just not sold on it. The hired lover part could be interesting, but the fact that the heroine is still married really gets me. Even though she fals in love with her hired lover… they can have no happy ending. Or, there’s that whole legal/moral aspect that is setting off my spidey sense.
.

.
_____________________________________

[Cover Not Yet Available] Merciless by Diana Palmer is another book of interest because… well, in 2007 I started on an almost quest of sorts, to read every book Diana Palmer has ever written. At the time I’d run out of romance authors, and I was really excited to find one who had a back list. Little did I know she has the mother of all back lists. If I had been smart I would’ve checked before decided on my little endeavor. But I didn’t, so now I’m stuck. Nevertheless, she’s something of a romance powerhouse. Like the modern day Barbara Cartland. And some of the books Ms. Palmer has written rank right up there with my favorites. Unfortunately, some of the books she writes make me consider giving myself papercuts on my eyes with the pages. Ok, so none of her books have been that bad [yet] … but close. So this choice is rather personal. I’m a Diana Palmer addict, and that’s not going to change. I don’t expect you to put this book on your list, but it’s here on mine.

Wishful Thinking On My Part

[Doesn’t Exist But Should] by HelenKay Dimon I don’t think Ms. Dimon has any sort of [non category] single title romance coming out in 2011… other than the HCI book and I’m sorry. While I’ll read it, and I’m sure it’ll be good, I just… I just can’t be that excited for a “based on reality” book. I firmly believe “reality tv” can be blamed for a number of society’s ills. However, all too often I’ll be late to the party in reading one of Ms. Dimon’s books and I’ll be kicking myself for the delay. My general thought is “how could I have been so stupid and let so much time pass before reading such an awesome book?” Holding Out for a Hero is a great example. If you haven’t read it, go. Do so. So any publishers, editors, if you’re reading this, please offer Ms. Dimon a contract for a single title.
_____________________________________

[Doesn’t Exist But Should] by Dee Tenorio. Ms. Tenorio has been one of my “people don’t know about her but should” authors since 2009. I recommend her stories, or suggest her as an author to look into, and generally the response is “who?” Or “oh, I really should… sometime….” I really enjoy Ms. Tenorio’s contemporaries – and her writing and stories appeal to a number of different people. What doesn’t work for one person does for another. There’s just something that… seems to be missing, at least in my opinion, this tiny unnamed indescribable aspect that keeps one of her stories from being the best book ever. But you know, I have faith it’ll happen, and in the mean time, her stories are still wonderful. And you know, there’s nothing wrong with wonderful. So I hope she gets to write this book – and that it’s made available to us readers.

~*~

So there you have it. My books that I thought about, and want, and really want… but they’re just a smidgen off. We’ll see though. Maybe I’ll be wrong. I hope so. I hope the majority of all the books I read knock my socks off.

What about you? Am I wrong on any of these? Who would you put on this list?

Best of 2011?

No – that’s not a typo. Bring on 2011! So apparently I do this every two years. This being the second time – so I can say that. I’ve seen a lot of people’s “Best of 2010” posts. Well, I’ve been in a reading slump since 2009. Perhaps this will end it? Anyway, this list is my most anticipated books of 2011. Because I only like following the herd so far.

First, I’d like to list some disclaimers. By no means  was this based on a comprehensive list of all romances to be published in 2011. I did the “best I could” – using an advanced search via amazon, with the parameters of romance, print, and 2011. (You can’t choose more than one format type and I definitely didn’t want to be getting calendars, etc in my search.) I searched through 100 pages, and then amazon cut me off. I ended around March 1, 2011, so I did another advanced search for the same, only limited to March 2011, and repeated it for January and February.

There are some books I considered at first glance, but I’ve had books by those authors and never bothered to read them, and I figured if I had a book that others seemed to like and based on what I read (back cover, excerpt etc) and I couldn’t bring myself to read it, I probably shouldn’t put it on my “most highly anticipated” list.   Sorry, authors, my reading slump hasn’t been any fun for me either. I also admit I looked a lot at author names, titles, and book covers. I never thought book covers would catch my eye quite so much, but when you’re scrolling through thousands of titles, it helps.

I was super excited to learn that I had more than ten books I to look forward to! In fact, paring down the list was extremely difficult. I did my best- and please don’t anyone mention anything about cheating because I didn’t okay?!

The order of the first [two] well, I’m sure you can figure it out. Although they are somewhat chronologically done. And the rest, well, this list isn’t ranked in any way other than date. And the two books that have the same release date I just listed alphabetically. There’s a method to my madness.

1. A Tainted by Temptation by Katy Madison

Yes, the title is less than desirable. (I can’t help it okay? Law school and professional responsibility broke me. Broke me, I tell you!) I can’t help but look at the title and think “oh dear” but the premise is great. And I almost don’t even care that there’s no excerpt because… well… Katy Madison is Karen L. King! I found her! I bloody found her! Karen L. King is an author I’ve long mourned the disappearance of (that sly minx, she’s been around!) I’ve recommended her to many friends, and the response has always been “who?” so now – you can find out for yourself. And I’m going to be absolutely gutted if this book doesn’t live up to my expectations. No pressure, of course, Ms. Madison. :X

1. B An Unlikely Countess by Jo Beverley

This also counts as one because… well the premises are slightly similar, and I couldn’t choose. Also while I’m not 100% sure if I’ve read Ms. Beverly’s books before, the excerpt for this was fantastic. Also, the basis of the book! I love the blurb too, how Prudence is … well, reasonable. Rational. Do you know how very rare that is in a heroine? Especially in a historical romance? And the hero’s name is Cate. Well, Catesby. Which I actually like, much to my surprise. And he drinks gin too! Lots of it. Honestly, I don’t see how this book can go wrong. I’m very excited to read it, and join the masses who absolutely adore Ms. Beverley’s writing and clamor for more.

2. A Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

SEP is one of my favorite romance authors. Although I haven’t been quite as in love with her more recent releases, she has written some of my most favorite romances of all time. And more importantly, this is Teddy’s book. Teddy! The wonderful character we all know and love! I’m totally apprehensive of an entirely grown up Teddy, but I have high hopes. And almost as important, the heroine is not Lucy, and is indeed Meg. Many people don’t like Meg, but I never liked Lucy. Didn’t even like the book she was in – First Lady – though I guess I should give it a re-read. I’m hoping Call Me Irresistible has a heavy romance focus, and it makes me fall in love with SEP’s writing all over again.

2. B The Chase by Erin McCarthy

Evan Monroe hasn’t been my favorite character in the Fast Track series… but Ms. McCarthy has been making me enjoy all these books about NASCAR despite myself. (Still so not my “sport.”) I’m undecided as to how I feel about the heroine. Female race car driver? Pretty cool… though I fear a gimmick I suppose. Also the whole former flame story line is generally hit or miss for me, but considering who the author is, I have high hopes. I’m scared, but I’m still definitely going to read it, and anticipate loving it. I’m sure Evan will grow up and surprise me, and that Kendall will keep him on his toes – after she knocks him on his butt.

3. When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

Well first of all, Eloisa James is one of my favorite romance authors. Second of all, who doesn’t love the story of Beauty and the Beast? Then there’s the fact that I was a kid when Disney came out with their animated version, which was still during the “Golden Age” of Disney, meaning I’ll love this fairy tale forever. Forever. Then it’s got a great premise – and… I have to say… a baby daddy scare. A regency royal baby daddy rumor! And a historical House, M.D.! Crotchety men – heroes especially – can be so much fun because they fall so hard, and I know Ms. James is a master at making the men she writes grovel. It’s delicious. I sped through the excerpt and just knew I had to get my hands on this before I’d even finished two paragraphs.

4. Everyone Loves a Hero by Marie Force

I have to admit, this book choice surprised me a little – but I chose it based solely on the author. (And ok, the publisher too – but let me explain.) The cover, the title… almost even the premise aren’t things I’d normally go for, but I’ve learned my lesson with Ms. Force. I absolutely adored both her previous books with Sourcebooks Casablanca. I know I can expect a fantastic story with surprising depth and incredibly well developed characters who come alive while reading. The whole hero pilot bit almost seems too cliche, but I love that his world is going to be turned upside down. (We’re not surprised that I like the hero to suffer a little, right?) Also, this story just seems unique. I’m expecting something surprising and delightful.

5. The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton

If you know anything about Jaci Burton, you’ve seen this cover. Hell, possibly even if you don’t. She  – and others – have been posting it everywhere. (And with reason, yes?) I’m not usually for the half naked man covers but just… look at this one! And if you know anything about me, you know I’m er, fond of football. (Ok, I’m rather mad for it.) I read romances. A LOT of romances. I watch football. Basically as much as I can. An entire romance novel about a professional football player? You’d almost think Ms. Burton wrote this story for me. If only she had. Then I might already have a copy so I wouldn’t have to wait until bloody February 1st.

6. Deadly Vows by Brenda Joyce

Well first off, Brenda Joyce is a rockstar romance author – she’s written so many books I love. But even if that were not so, this is a new Francesca Cahill book. I’ll say it again so you have time to process. A new Francesca Cahill novel. Francesca is a kick-ass heroine. She’s an amateur sleuth, smart, and really, you just need to read the books. Finally! A new one! We all thought this series would be left hanging forever! This series is also wonderful because it’s a historical romance set in America – which is so rare. We’ve been waiting for years for Francesca and Calder to get married. Of course they still run into delays in this book, but hey – at least they’re one step closer!

7. Saddled and Spurred by Lorelei James

First of all, Lorelei James is a fantastic author. But this book is part of my list because I loved the previous book in the series Corralled. It was one of my favorite reads last year. The fact that this book is here is telling because it’s the second book of the series. And… well I’m starting to hate series. So that says something. Also who doesn’t love a book where the heroine is a curvy cowgirl? (Ok, so I haven’t read many – if any – books with that characterization, but I’m looking forward to it.) I also love when the heroine exceeds the hero’s expectations, and makes him eat crow. Based on the premise of this book/the blurb… that’s going to happen. And of course it’ll be a wonderfully written, extremely sexy story as well.

8. The Sweetest Thing by Jill Shalvis

Well, it’s Jill Shalvis. Really, that should be enough said. But obviously I’ll say more. Wait for it… it’s Jill Shalvis! This is going to be a good book. Then, we have the characters. Sisters are evil, but they can be really entertaining in fiction. All that bickering, the warm fuzzy childhood memories… the way they understand each other. And the big draw for me – the love triangle. I’ve been missing that. I’ve never burnt out on that device, likely due to when I “entered” romance world, so I’m super jazzed to see it. And of course, it’s two guys and a girl. The way it should be. Angst all around, with a difficult decision for the heroine to pick which man is best for her. I expect a lot of humor too, and for this book to be a feel good read.

9. A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran

Well, there’s no cover for it yet – [if I remember] I’ll add it once it’s posted. The premise was awesome. And although I haven’t liked Ms. Duran’s following books as much as her first, others praise them highly, and I still anticipate a fantastic story from her. Who am I kidding. Beyond fantastic. I expect lush settings, interesting characters, and if I’m honest, an unusual story as well. But in the best way possible. Which is why I hope – and believe – this will be one of the best books I read all year.

10. Seven Years to Sin by Sylvia Day

I love Sylvia Day’s historicals. Love. So excited she’s writing them again and… while I know she has one being released sooner, this is the one that made me squee when I read about it on her webpage. It’s going to be a sexy, emotional, awesome romp. I just know it.

(ETA 5/19/22: And… considering how much I freaking loved Pride and Pleasure I’m totally excited. Especially when *shh* when I read P&P’s blurb I was like “enh, okay…” so I’ve got incredibly high hopes :D)

ETA: #Not Eleven. This list isn’t going over 10, dammit, and … I can’t kick one off now… but… Never Enough by Lauren Dane it’s not even listed on Amazon yet. (Which is how I missed it, and never you mind the fact that I even visited her web page a few times throughout the course of writing these posts to check.) Z-O-M-G. Adrian. Brown. Gah. And… Seattle. And I don’t even so much care he’s an musician. And he’s like selling me on tattoos and… My analytical and intelligent reasons for putting this book on the list are as follows: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Well, actually, now I kinda hate Lauren for letting me know I can’t have this book for another eight months. Thanks a lot for nothing, Ms. Dane!

So… that’s my list. And there are a bunch of “honorable mentions” but… this post was getting too long, at least in my humble opinion so I’ll talk about them in a future post. And who knows – if one of these books does meet my expectations maybe I’ll buy a copy for one of you! 😀

But my question is – what books are you most looking forward to this year? Have you got one pre-ordered already? What do you think should be on this list that isn’t?