Tag Archives: Grade C

Guest Review: Beyond Valor by Lindsay McKenna

James’s Review

Beyond Valor by Lindsay McKenna
Romantic Suspense released by Harlequin on January 22, 2013

Luke Collier knows his duty. A marine corps combat medic, his job is to save lives-not satisfy his own desires. Megan Trayhern is his corpsman, but the beautiful redhead can’t be anything more. Luke has already given his heart once, and he understands the toll the corps can take on a woman, on a romance…on a marriage.

Megan has her own mission. While she doles out medical care in the nearby village, she’s also gathering intel. It’s a dangerous assignment that the onetime military brat undertakes without fear. She needs to focus-and be careful-and the growing passion she feels for Luke can only put them both at risk. Honor binds them both, but the heart gives its own orders….

I was immediately interested in this story, a continuation of the Black Jaguar Squadron storyline. This book takes us to the mountains of Afghanistan, and we meet two Navy Corpsmen assigned to a combat command. They soon discover they are kindred spirits mutually haunting the other’s thoughts. The persistent danger only draws them closer together.

Megan Trayhern is a demure redhead who arrives at a Marine base near a small village. She is trained to speak the local language Pashto and gather information from the local women. A trained medic, she is eager to do her duty. She also has an unwavering desire to help people in need. After college she joined the military to fulfill her families’ tradition of service. Upon arriving at the base she is looked at as a liability by her commanding officer. Soon she changes his opinion by gaining the friendship of the village leaders’ wife, and gaining valuable knowledge of the Taliban fighters.

Luke Collier is a seasoned combat medic. He doesn’t think twice about going out on another patrol, or putting himself between a wounded Marine and enemy fire. He shares the same unwavering desire to help people with Megan. Until she had arrived he was the only medic in the area. He’s well-liked by anyone who meets him. Still he has a slightly heavy heart, since his career in the military destroyed his marriage. He prides himself as a ‘scrounger’, which means he get hard to find items better than anyone.

Lindsay McKenna doesn’t overload the front chapters with backstory. There are Black Jaguar Squadron characters in the periphery of the narrative, but this book easily stands alone. Megan and Luke rarely interact with the Marines at the base. The most significant secondary character is Mina the wife of the village leader. She is almost too courageous to be believed, even considering her rare formal education. She is unexpectedly open to Megan’s progressive suggestions.

Megan doesn’t have much time to get used to her surroundings. During the night the base comes under attack. She has to stand there in terror until Luke comes back to check on her. His calmness is soothing to her and deepens her growing attraction to him. When they aren’t in danger they mostly talk about their common views of duty and war. Their single-mindedness is only thing that takes me out of the story. Navy Corpsmen are the salt of the earth. I know this from my 5 years in the Marines. Many of them were my close friends. One thing they didn’t do was sit around all day lamenting their place in the world.

The action definitely wanes in the middle chapters as their relationship builds. Megan does have to watch as Luke goes out on patrol, but he isn’t gone long. After an attack in the village they travel with wounded children to a large Air Force Base. The carnage makes Megan retch in horror. She’s surprised to learn that Luke has the same problem. He asks her to spend the night off-base, but don’t get the opportunity until the end of the book. There are constantly hindered by the military’s rules against fraternization.

In my opinion this book suffers from the matter-of-fact dialogue from all the characters. I can forgive this of Mina, since English is not her first language. I can’t always forgive it from Megan and Luke. They come off a little wooden. This could’ve been offset by some raucous secondary Marine characters, and made the story more interesting. The lack of contrast is lessened when the action picks up. I don’t want to include spoilers, but I’ll say someone is put in a dangerous situation. The situation is then mitigated in a blazingly fast fashion that makes you forget it soon afterwards.

Our lovers finally find themselves away from prying eyes at an off-base apartment. Exhausted from their trials they put sleep ahead of lovemaking. I know it’s realistic, but it’s boring. They could’ve and should’ve tried harder. They’re romantic tension had been building for months at this point, and the first time they are truly alone they shower and pass out. Finally the next morning they (and the reader) wake up and embrace each other. The story ends with them heading back into the fold together.

Their concern for each other and everyone else does help the narrative along. I would have liked to see more in their hearts than just their aspirations. They look at each other in brief moments without allowing fantasy to enter their thoughts. This might go along with their practical nature, but I don’t think it was intended that way. Without the constant danger and taboo of their relationship, I wonder if they would be interested in each other at all. Megan and Luke could’ve run into each other on Main St. USA, and after looking each other over kept walking by.

Still they are in this situation. They go thru it together courageously devoid of malice. They come out of it with a few scratches and in love. They promise to marry after serving their country. It would be interesting to check in on them a few years down the road. I’d like to see if their love lasts after the bombs stop exploding around them.

Grade: C

You can read an excerpt here, or buy a copy here.

Review: A Bride by Moonlight by Liz Carlyle

Cheryl’s Review

A Bride by Moonlight by Liz Carlyle
Historical Romance released by Avon on February 26, 2013

Royden Napier, Baron Saint-Bryce, is tall, dark, and ruthless—and on the hunt for a dangerous beauty . . .

On the eve of her escape to the Continent, bold, beautiful Lisette Colburne accepts a proposal she dare not refuse: masquerade as the future bride of the steely-eyed Royden Napier and help him solve his most dangerous case. Soon Lisette is in even greater danger—of losing her heart to the one man with the power to destroy her . . .

Estranged from his aristocratic family, the enigmatic Napier has forged a reputation as Scotland Yard’s most relentless police commissioner. He’s vowed to bring Lisette to justice—but with every forbidden kiss and every tantalizing touch, he finds himself becoming less convinced of her guilt . . . and more certain he must have her. But when danger touches Lisette, can he save her?

It isn’t often I come across a romance where the hero is an assistant police commissioner for Scotland Yard, so I was immediately intrigued. What made this book even more tempting was a lawman who blackmails the heroine into posing as his betrothed. I snapped this one up, super excited for the adventure.

Lisette Colburne is my favorite kind of heroine. She’s a feisty redhead who is highly intelligent and extremely cunning when she needs to be. But most of all, she is a survivor. At a young age, she lost everyone dear to her. Shipped off to relatives in Boston, she learned the newspaper business from her uncle. Upon his passing, she returned to her native England, seeking revenge on the one man she held accountable for her great losses. She goes to drastic lengths, posing as a man and working for a London paper, all the while tracking her foe. Sadly, her backstory is far more exciting than her current situation of a 27 year old spinster who volunteers as a teaching assistant.

Royden Napier is the kind of man who sees most everything in black and white. But when he learns his father (the assistant police commissioner before him) may not have been the most honorable of men, his outlook begins to change and Royden is forced to admit he’s had a bit of a blindspot where his father is concerned. As you would expect any detective to be, he is smart, intuitive and has an ability to read others extremely well. A man who was raised to dislike the aristocracy comes to realize they might not be as bad as he one thought.

Admittedly, this is my first Liz Carlyle book, so perhaps if I’d read those that preceded it, I wouldn’t have been as lost in the first several chapters. A large cast of characters along with unexpected point of views created additional confusion. These opening chapters, albeit integral to the story, were work to read. Not until chapter four do Lisette and Royden have their first real interaction without the distraction of other characters. But I was immediately taken with them as I felt chemistry between the two leapt off the page.

However, it wasn’t long for my excitement to wane once again. After Royden and Lisette arrive at his family’s estate, they are soon separated, each focused on the mystery at hand. Again, another large cast of characters are introduced, understandably because the estate houses many of Royden’s relatives. As a result I found myself irritated when Royden would converse with one of his many cousin’s for pages and pages and Lisette would be busy with another relative. In my opinion, there was very little romance between the two. As a matter of fact, they spend a great deal of time purposely avoiding one another.

So somewhere in the middle of this all, I lowered my hopes as the romance became more of a subplot. Also, not having read the previously released title, I felt a certain couple were given far too much attention in the opening and ending of this book. Afterwards I looked up the book released prior to this one and found these people were indeed the hero and heroine of that title. If I’d read their story, perhaps I wouldn’t have minded their appearance as much. But as I haven’t read it, I found them to be a distraction.

In the end, it was a well written story with great cast of characters and a nice little mystery. It simply comes down to not enough romance for me. A real shame since I did so enjoy Lisette and Royden.

Grade: C-

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

Review: Come Fill Me by Tina Donahue

Liz’s Review

Come Fill Me by Tina Donahue
Paranormal Romance released by Samhain Publishing on December 18, 2012

Two men will stop at nothing to have her gift, her desire … and her love.

The Prophecy, Book 1

Years ago, with the healing abilities afforded by her blend of Aztec and extraterrestrial blood, Liz was free to do as she wished. Now she is trapped in a blood feud, forced to heal one of her clan’s most dangerous rivals so they can exploit his gift of prophecy.

As she drapes her nude body over his, the rush of his returning strength overwhelms her, and his stunningly sensual caress pushes her to her sexual limit.

Zeke Neekoma never expected to hunger for a woman he’s supposed to hate, but now that he’s tasted her, he has no intention of denying himself the pleasure of her body—or of kidnapping his enemy’s most cherished plaything.

Brought to Zeke’s stronghold to heal his brother, Jacob, Liz surrenders her body’s most traitorous needs to the unrestrained desires of two powerful men. And the brothers fill the lonely void she has too long endured.

But her clan doesn’t intend to let her go without a fight…and the ecstasy that binds Liz to her lovers could be the thing that breaks them.

Warning: Worlds collide when two Alpha males crave a woman they shouldn’t have. Their dominance and desire knows no limits, culminating in sex so torrid this babe’s never gonna be the same…or free of one brother’s touch.

This book was a complete and utter surprise from beginning to end. First, I read the description and completely pictured a story taking place a thousand years ago. All the historical buzzwords were there – clan, Aztec, blood feud, healer – but it actually takes place in the present. But it’s a present that is deeply steeped in the history of the Aztecs, interwoven with sci-fi tidbits like healing abilities and alien ancestors.

The story opens with Liz Munez, a doctor, who is also a powerful healer. Her father is being held by a really nasty man named Carreon, and Carreon is using her father to force her to heal people at his command. She’s a strange dichotomy. On the one hand, she loathes Carreon. She loved him at one time even though he was a thoroughly abusive asshole who shared her sexually with his people. Now, she fears and loathes him but also accepts that he can control her because he has her father held prisoner. She appears to be strong willed, but she is easily controlled because she fears for her father’s life. When Carreon shows up at her office and demands she heal someone for him, all it takes is one mention of her father and she follows willingly. She swears to kill him if he hurts her father, but they’re empty threats that even Carreon recognizes.

Carreon is one evil SOB. He is the leader of a clan of their people, who is trying to destroy their enemies. He uses Liz to heal his wounded men. He’s charming, smiling broadly while he lies, and he wants Liz by his side forever. He’s a perfect bad guy: ruthless with his enemies, willing to step over innocents to save his own hide, and utterly entranced with himself.

Zeke Neekoma is the leader of his clan. They’re different from Liz and Carreon’s people, rumored to be descended from aliens. Their people have the power of sight – the ability to see into the future – and Zeke is the most powerful of their people. He is a man that has been deeply scarred by loss through Carreon, who killed his beloved daughter, Gabrielle. He had a vision of Liz and was ambushed by Carreon on his way to save her. Near death, he’s healed by Liz and promises to keep her alive if she comes with him. His animosity for her, when he assumes she is still Carreon’s willing lover, shifts quickly as his desire for her grows. He needs her, he wants her, and he’ll have her whether she likes it or not.

Secondary characters include Zeke’s brother Jacob, who engages in the most ridiculous form of sibling rivalry ever. When he sees that Zeke wants Liz, he promptly decides to go after her himself. He appears to be immature, only interested in on-upping his older brother. Liz’s father is a very powerful healer. He would rather die than heal on command for Carreon or anyone else. He is the very definition of a strong-willed person. Kele is part of Zeke’s clan and in love with Jacob. She throws herself at him again and again, only to be rebuffed. She can’t take a hint and blames Liz for coming between her and the man she loves. In a fit of rage and grief, she does something so stupid that I wanted to reach into the book and smack her. This book has a lot of bad guys – an entire clan of them as a matter of fact – but Kele isn’t a bad guy, she just makes bad decisions.

This book is very raw and graphic. Through Liz’s memories, we learn about all the things that Carreon forced her to do with himself and his men. I’m not a big fan of the “c” word, and Liz uses it in her own thoughts and I find that a bit surprising. Aside from the harsh language, the book is heavily suffused with sex. Liz’s special healing abilities come from her touching skin to skin with the person she’s healing. If they’re very badly injured, she will have to have sex with the injured person in order to completely heal them. In the past with healings, Carreon treated her like a toy, watching her heal his injured men and then having sex with her before passing her around to his people. There are times when she remembers these events with shame and others when she is turned on at the memories. I found her wishy-washy thoughts to be a bit confusing.

Overall, this was a decent book with deep characters and a well-thought-out storyline. It was an engaging story that I had a hard time putting down once I started reading it, but I never really connected with Liz like I wanted to. I liked Zeke and even Jacob, but Liz didn’t come across as sympathetic which, in the end, is what lead me to not enjoy the story as much as I wanted to. Normally, if I was reading a story about a sexually abused woman who finally finds a man worth loving, I’d be cheering for her. But this story left me feeling cold towards Liz. She bounced between too many beds all for the sake of healing and it made it difficult for me to care about what happened to her.

Grade: C+

You can read an excerpt here and buy a copy here.

Guest Review: Tempting the Best Man by J Lynn

Romance Gal’s Review

Tempting the Best Man by J Lynn
Contemporary romance released by Entangled Publishing on April 23, 2012

Madison Daniels has worshipped her brother’s best friend since they were kids. Everyone thinks she and Chase Gamble would make the perfect couple, but there are two major flaws in their logic. 1) Chase has sworn off relationships of any kind, and 2) after blurring the line between friends and lovers for one night four years ago, they can’t stop bickering.
Forced together for her brother’s wedding getaway, Chase and Madison decide to call a truce for the happy couple. Except all bets are off when they’re forced to shack up in a tacky 70’s honeymoon suite and survive a multitude of “accidents” as the family tries to prove their “spark” can be used than for more than fighting. That is, if they don’t strangle each other first…

Tempting the Best Man is a very short story as the whole book takes place within four days. Everything is covered, from the history of the hero and heroine, their attraction to one another, and  them finally being unable to resist each other. Madison loves and hates Chase at the same time but the love always tops the hatred. Chase is handsome, single and successful, so why is he denying himself love and happiness? Because he believes he is just like his father who cheated on his mother. He doesn’t want to hurt Madison but he invariably ends up breaking her heart, albeit unknowingly, every time he rejects her.

Chase is your typical hero, one who tries to avoid anything to do with relationships like the plague. His love for Madison is obvious to everyone including himself but he remains too stubborn to act on it. He is a successful business man trying hard not to turn out like his father though he can’t change the fact that they look exactly the same.

Madison is an independent, funny, sassy and witty heroine. She makes being the only girl in a group of four guys (her older brother and Chase and his brothers) seem so sexy and enjoyable. Madison is a strong heroine in some instances but she also has her weak moments. For instance, when Chase rejects her for the first time she really tries to move on but at the same time she can’t help wanting to be close to Chase and she does this by not only living in the same city as him but also in the same building! Thus, proving that she doesn’t let disappointments hold her down from getting what she wants. She is relentless and determined to win over Chase’s heart and making him see her as something [someone] other than his best friend’s little sister.

Despite knowing this is a novella I felt like I didn’t get enough time to really know the characters. In addition, there are so many things that are too predictable while reading and all the clichés you can think of are found on this one. To name a few: Madison’s car breaks down on her way to the vineyard and even though she calls her dad to come and get her, guess who shows up to the rescue? Yup, the hot guy, who happens to be her brother’s best friend that she’s had a crush on since she was a kid. They both get locked up in the wine cellar where they share a ‘steamy kiss’ but then pretend it didn’t happen. Then, of course the main one, where the rooms are overbooked so they have to share one- and coincidentally, it is a honeymoon suite! There is also the fact that the main reason that they are dancing around being in a relationship is because of Chase’s misgivings about turning out like his dad!

I also got a bit frustrated with Chase for his tendency to be possessive over Maddie. It was contradictory and unreasonable because he doesn’t wasn’t to see her with another guy but he doesn’t want to be with her himself!

Nevertheless, the book is so funny and some scenes are just beyond hilarious and I constantly found myself laughing out loud. The love between Chase and Madison was palpable and everyone around them knew about it. The relationship between the families-the Gamble brothers and the Daniels enhances the story and makes you wish you had interfering relatives around. They are corny and entertaining. Plus they are all so carefree with one another that you just have to love them.

This was a fun, short, romantic read that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a light happily ever after. I hope this becomes a series because I would love stories for the other Gamble siblings as well as catch up with Madison and Chase.

Grade: C+

You can buy a copy here.

Review: Patch of Darkness by Yolanda Sfetsos

Patch of Darkness by Yolanda Sfetsos
Urban Fantasy released by Samhain Publishing on May 15, 2012

All it takes is one weak seam for everything to fall apart.

Sierra Fox, Book 1

In a perfect world, Sierra Fox would have stayed away from the Council she left years ago. But in this world—where spirits have the right to walk among the living—it’s her job to round up troublesome spooks and bring them before that very same Council.

Though her desk is piled high with open cases, she can’t resist an anonymous summons to a mysterious late-night meeting with a bunch of other hunters, each of whom seems to have a unique specialty. The news is dire: something is tearing at the fabric of the universe. If the hunters can’t find who or why in time, something’s going to give in a very messy way.

As current cases, family secrets, new clues and her tangled love life slowly wind themselves into an impossible knot, Sierra finds herself the target of a power-sucking duo intent on stealing her mojo. And realizing she holds the key to the last hope of sealing the widening rift.

Product Warnings
Spook catching: may contain traces of ectoplasm and otherworldly nasties. Not recommended for those with allergies to ghosts, demons, and with boyfriends who think your power is theirs. While reading, avoid dark patches and stay to the light.

The first thing you will notice about this book is that it is not a true romance. Instead it is a paranormal fiction with some romantic elements. Patch of Darkness is the first in a series of books around the main character Sierra Fox. Sierra is a spook catcher. A spook catcher is sort of a mix between detective and bounty hunter. Her job is to go out to haunted places and ensure that ghosts are following the rules set out for them by society and if not to remove them.

Sierra is a rebel who struck out on her own to take on the mega corporation, using girls with her talents, for their own profit. She doesn’t necessarily play by the rules. But she is also vulnerable because of her time with the corporation and the constant abandonment in her life. She has a justified fear of being used, which makes it difficult for her to trust her judgment and intuition.

Which is where the romantic conflict kicks in. Sierra is torn between the guy she thinks she should be with (current boyfriend, Jonathon) and the hunky private investigator (Papan) with the office above her. The conflict is really a small portion of the book, except for underscoring Sierra’s weakness in regards to trusting herself and ignoring important clues due to her denial.

The real plot of the book involves Sierra being invited to join a group which includes a witch hunter, demon hunter, werewolf hunter, and vampire hunter to help protect this word from paranormal rifts (which allow banished paranormal beings back into this world).

The book involves lots of twists and secrets about Sierra and those around her (no spoilers here!). It did start off fairly slow, which made it difficult to connect with the story. Part of this was that many things just didn’t seem to click in my brain. I had too many questions and not enough answers. By halfway through the book, the answers started coming and my interest in the book really started to rise. I thought the author did a good job of dropping clues to the reader while allowing Sierra to miss/ignore them and it not feel contrived.

Overall, I thought this was a decent introduction to the series. It is a short novel and leaves many questions unanswered about Sierra’s life, but does wrap up nicely the immediate problem. It will be an interesting book for those that enjoy paranormal stories, but it is not a book to read for romance. That is not the focus of the book and is almost an afterthought. But that fits in with where Sierra is at this point and works well within the author’s plan.

Grade: C

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

Review: Drive Me Crazy by Jenna Bayley-Burke

Drive Me Crazy by Jenna Bayley-Burke
Contemporary romance released by Samhain Publishing on May 29, 2012

The quickest way to love isn’t always a straight line.

This was supposed to be Xavier Moreau’s long-awaited vacation. A few precious weeks away from his over-scheduled career to see the America his mother loved and still make it to his best friend’s wedding in time. Instead, he’s ferrying the bridezilla’s sister to the nuptials. The luscious Jaime Cruz makes his mouth water, but her near-frenzy to get to Oregon now would scrape on his last nerve—if he didn’t sense that she needs the break as much as he does.

Fresh off a teaching assignment in D.C., Jaime’s white-knuckling it. She’s got only three weeks to get home, find a job and a place to live, and ensure her sister’s big day comes off without a hitch. Except Xavier tosses her three-days-or-bust itinerary out the window. Even more annoying, Jaime finds herself succumbing to his relentless determination to make sure she enjoys every minute of the trip. And falling under the spell of his sizzling touch.

Three weeks and three thousand miles later, Jaime’s feet are on home ground, but her heart is pulling her in a completely unexpected direction. Toward Xavier and a new journey that will require the ultimate leap of faith.

Jenna Bayley-Burke is an author I try to keep up with. (Which is saying something because these days I seem to floating around on a sea of lost aimlessness with books.) I have to admit, the premise wasn’t something that made me go all *oooo grabby hands!* but I was willing to give it a try because of JBB. If you know me at all, you’ll know weddings aren’t my thing. (I know, a romance reader who can’t stand weddings! I blame it on my wedding experiences. Friends say I should sell them to authors for ideas.) Road trips also give me mental hives. Although, if ever there was a way to do a cross country trip, it would be with Xavier. I’d go with a Xavier.

Jaime Cruz is a bit of a contradiction. I didn’t particularly like her in the beginning, but she grew on me. I really started to sympathize with her when her back story (or childhood, really) came to light. For all that Jaime is a caretaker, she’s rather closed off. It’s explained, but for such a take charge person, I didn’t like how she wasn’t clear and articulate with Xavier at first. With their relationship (or lack thereof) it made sense for her to hold back. I really enjoyed seeing Jaime let go a little, and think of herself and having fun.

Xavier Moreau is a really good guy. A really good guy. Just… a bit of an idiot. He’s not in touch with his emotions, but it makes sense because he’s still grieving. He lost his mother a year ago from the beginning of the book, and he’s still grieving. Xavier just doesn’t quite know it. He’s mischievous and smart, but a little lost. Career wise, Xavier is entirely set. Socially he knows exactly what to do and is quite desired in the upper echelons of society… but when it comes to being personal he falters. It was cute watching Xavier realize his emotions, all the while dragging Jaime into all sorts of hijinks and out of the way tourist destinations.

The book starts with Xavier ready to embark on a personal quest to fulfill some of what he considers to be his mother’s last wishes. He gets a call to pick up his best friend’s future sister-in-law. Jaime. Xavier wants to meander about the country. Jaime’s determined to make it a straight shot. What bothered me a lot is they never communicate that to each other. There’s a huge emphasis on the famili(es) wanting Jaime and Xavier being in Oregon now now now… but no reason why. For Jaime, it’s to settle in. (Although there’s something later that totally negates it.) Beyond that, this is a point of contention throughout the book. It made no sense to me. Jaime harps on getting home quickly throughout the trip. Even when it’s obvious that’s not what they’re going to do, nor is it what she really wants to.

Now that I’m thinking about it, it felt like forced conflict. Perhaps another method to show us how “entirely different” Xavier and Jaime are from each other. Only… they’re not. They’re both take charge, direct, and very goal oriented. Xavier is just taking a vacation at this point – and who an begrudge him a relaxed and meandering journey? I will say though – at one point Jaime probably isn’t serious anymore with her protests, but she feels compelled to try to stand her ground and get her way. Xavier isn’t a guy you want to spoil, nor does he need it, exactly. At least not when it comes to getting his way with women.

The writing was of course great. Xavier and Jaime are extremely well written characters, and I felt like I knew exactly who they were. They were definitely the focus, and although there were a number of cameo appearances from both their family members, they never detracted from Xavier and Jaime’s story. I liked that there were no seconday characters stealing the show. The chemistry between Xavier and Jaime was also extremely well done. The pages fairly sizzled. Our hero and heroine are obviously compatible with amazing chemistry. While that’s generally cliche in romance novels, it was quite believable here.

The slightly pat ending bothered me – with Jaime’s mother doing an abrupt about face in her behavior, and I felt it was really the tool to give Xavier and Jaime their happy ending. (I did love the “pep talk” Xavier’s sister gave him.) I started out the book being annoyed with how it was going (the blatant and obvious disagreement that could be resolved with a two minute conversation instead of extreme pouting by Jaime) – but the journey and the fun they were having quickly let me get over that.

I know I harped on the flaws, but those were my only issues. And it’s because I have such high standards for Ms. Bayley-Burke. I expect I’ll re-read this book, and will definitely be looking for the next release from Ms. Bayley-Burke. I recommend this book to lovers of contemporary romance, and anyone looking for a fun summer read. Especially if you’re roped into a cross country road trip. 😉

Grade: C

You can read an excerpt here, or buy a copy here. Oh and always of note… the cute addition to each Samhain book description:

Product Warnings
Caution! Dangerous curves ahead. Do not enter if you might be spooked by haunted hotels, embarrassed by sex in the great outdoors, or fear you might yield to a devastating Frenchman willing to drive you to distraction.

Review: Crushed by K.C. Blake

Liz’s Review

Crushed by K.C. Blake
Young Adult fiction published by K.C. Blake on July 30, 2011

The Noah sisters rule Titan High with their beauty, brains, and magical powers.

Each year they play a secret game: Crushed. The girls pick their targets carefully and blow enchanted dust into the boy’s faces, charming them, but this year Kristen makes a grave mistake. She chooses the wrong boy and almost dies that same day. Coincidence? Maybe.

But something isn’t quite right about Zach Bevian. He doesn’t behave like a boy who’s been Crushed. He goes from hot to cold, from looking at her with contempt to asking her out on a date. She doesn’t know what to think. Does he hate her or is he truly falling for her? Is he trying to kill her, or is he trying to save her?

This YA novel is set in the hallways of fictional Titan High, where three witch sisters – Kristen, Brittany, and Cindi – walk among mortals who are none the wiser to their powers.  The puppy loves spell allows them to control their choice, and they increase their power over him by asking him to complete tasks.  Each completed task draws him further under the girl’s control.  The winner at the end of the semester is the one that has the boy under the most control, and the girl’s aren’t shy about having their choices do ridiculous and humiliating things to test their power.  Kristen has plans to be the winner this year so she can afford a spectacular prom dress, when Brittany dares her to “crush” the baddest bad boy in school – Zach Bevian.  Suddenly, the boy she hates is under her power, or so she thinks.

Kristen is older than her teenage years, striving to be the “good girl” and living up to the hard expectations that her father has leveled onto her since she was a child.  She’s one of the unfortunately beautiful girls, who is smart and witty but floundering socially.  They live with their father during the year and mother during the summer, and as the book moves forward we find that Kristen is feeling the noose of adulthood tighten around her neck while she is still young.  So what’s a girl to do?  Rebel, of course!

Zach Bevian is a young man with a secret, who harbors great resentment for the Noah sisters and their queen-bee behavior in school.  Typical bad boy, Zach has the hot car, the hotter motorcycle, and the splendid body that girls drool over.  His autistic sister Morgan is all that is left of his family, and he takes great care to not upset their home life.  The book switches to his point of view at times, and the reader is given a glimpse into the burdens that weigh him down.  I enjoyed that although he’s strong, he’s vulnerable with his sister.  It gave his character depth.

Sisters Brittany and Cindi dress identically although they are triplets with Kristen.  Cindi is the softer spoken of the two, but when tricked by Kirsten early on in the book, she proves to be just as much a wildcat as Brittany.  Brittany is the ultimate bad-girl, skipping school and causing her father and sisters grief, while scheming to get back at Kristen for breaking the rules in the crush game.

I had only two real complaints with the way the characters were drawn in the book.  First, the reason for Kristen’s deep hatred of Zach isn’t very clear.  Although she knows him and he knows her, they don’t appear to hang in the same social circles, so the hate and the disgust at having to “crush” him seemed tacked on.  We know why he doesn’t like her or her sisters, we just don’t know why she doesn’t like him.  The other issue I have is that during the book, Kristen and her sister Brittany get into a supernatural standoff and begin attacking each other.  Kristen says on more than one occasion that Brittany is going to kill her, but the statements are hollow.  If I were in Kristen’s shoes and my sister wanted to kill me and could do it easily with magic, I’d be freaked out.  Especially as a teenager.  Although Kristen seeks help from her witch grandmother for a protection spell, the spell goes unused.  The lack of urgency, teen angsty drama, or genuine fear left me wondering why I was worried about her life…if she wasn’t.

When I expected a simple “I’m not as bad as you think I am” romance between the two main characters, Blake added suspense to the budding romance, giving Zach plenty of opportunities to appear the knight for her.  There were times when I didn’t really know who was causing trouble in Kristen’s life or what Zach’s many secrets were.  The magic/fight scenes were fast paced and engaging, and one of my favorite parts was Kristen’s first real date.  When she had Zach pick her up at the library so her father wouldn’t know, it took me back to my early dating days when the “bad boy” and I would meet somewhere besides my home so we could go out.

I haven’t picked up a YA book since I hopped on the bandwagon and read Twilight several years ago.  While I definitely would have devoured this light supernatural romance as a teenager, I also enjoyed reading it as an adult.  I’d be comfortable recommending it to my 14 year old niece, as well as any adult that enjoys a little suspense mixed in with a trip down memory lane to what it felt like to really like that first boy in high school, to anticipate that first kiss that played so perfectly in your mind.  The world that Blake created was unique, from the witch council that everyone feared to the way the girls wove their spells.  I found Crushed to be an enjoyable read overall and look forward to reading more from this author.

Charming and fun, but strictly for a specific audience, i.e., light romance (no sex as the characters are underage), paranormal aspects, suspense and for those that enjoy sarcastic teen witches and brooding boys finding love in the locker covered hallways in high school.  This book is available on both Smashwords and Amazon.

Grade: C+

You can read an excerpt here.