ARC Review: Play Me

Play Me (Take a Chance #3)

Author: Diane Alberts
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, Ever After line
Date of Publication: July 29, 2013
Description:

Even the best-laid plans can go awry.

Single-mom Kiersten Worth knows a bottle of champagne and night of hot, no-strings-attached sex is the perfect solution to her jilted bride blues…and Garrett Kelly, long-time friend and her teenaged son’s sexy basketball coach, is just the stud for the job.

Garrett wants more from the elusive temptress than a casual affair, but he never expects it to come in the form of an unexpected pregnancy. When he proposes an unorthodox solution—move in and raise their baby together—Kiersten has to decide whether to let down her guard and open her heart to the man who secretly loved her for years, or risk losing his tender embrace for good. 

My Thoughts:

While this was a cute little book about friends to lovers with an unexpected (are they ever in romance novels) pregnancy, it just didn’t sparkle for me in the way I like contemporary romances to sparkle. Even given the blurb, the obviousness of the fact that Kiersten would end up pregnant was overblown.

I like Kiersten. She’s a good woman who got cheated on by a no-good fiance and instead of just moping around on what would have been her wedding night, she decides to seduce Garrett. She’s been looking after her sister’s child for her entire life and truly considers him her own child. That’s admirable, to say the least. What I didn’t like about her was her back and forth wishiwashiness about whether or not they could make a relationship. He was certainly quite willing and interested. After all, he’d been in love with her (or at least had the hots for her) for years.

Garret was a sports coach of Kiersten’s son, and of course there’s a little bit of an ethics issue there when Kiersten and he start circling the idea of a relationship to take care of the child they accidentally created. To Garrett’s credit, he never hid from the fact that he wanted a relationship with Kiersten, even when she blew hot and cold on him. He was willing to pretend to have a no-sex/loving relationship to do right by their child, but he went into it fully prepared to convince her to change her mind.

Thankfully, the teenager involved in this (the son) wasn’t overly dramatic or pouty or anything more than simply a typical teenager who wasn’t happy when his mom starts making eyes at a man, but he quickly adapts. It helps that he and Garrett were already friends, or at least coach/player before this. They further bond over videos. Just like men do. Hehe.

Anyway, so I found this an okay book, but not a spectacular one. I certainly wouldn’t say no to reading other books by Ms. Albert.

Book provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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ARC Review: Dancing With The Devil

Dancing With The Devil (Nikki & Michael 1)

Author: Keri Arthur
Publisher: Random House/Bantam Dell
Date of Publication: July 30, 2013
Description:

BEYOND THE SHADOWS Private Investigator Nikki James grew up on the tough streets of Lyndhurst and believes there’s nothing left to surprise her. But all that changes the night she follows a rich man’s daughter into the shadows and finds herself caught in a war between two very different men. One is a madman, intent on destruction. The other has his own heart of darkness. For three hundred years, Michael Kelly has existed in life’s shadows, gradually learning to control his vampire cravings. He is convinced that no one can breach his formidable barriers—until he meets Nikki. With her powerful psychic abilities, Nikki swiftly invades both his mind and his heart. Nikki knows how dangerous love can be . . . but if she wants to survive, she must place her trust in this man who could easily destroy her. For only together can they overcome the evil threatening to destroy them both.

 My Thoughts:

Nikki is a psychic who uses her gifts to give her certain advantages in her PI work. When her current assignment, as a bodyguard of sorts to a rich man’s daughter, goes terribly wrong and the daughter (Monica) is ensnared by the will of a vampire (Jasper). Michael, a 300-year old vampire, has been sent by his organization (somewhat shadowy and never fully explained) to protect Nikki and to eliminate Jasper (who has been his enemy for about 75 years).

This is typical Keri Arthur in many ways. This book is not a romance and there is no happily ever after, although it definitely has the undertone of romance to it. Like her Riley Jensen series, Nikki and Michael are attracted, but it looks like it will take several books for them to find their way home to each other. I like a slow moving romance, and there was definitely a lot of one step forward, two steps back, three steps forward movement in this book when it came to that particular thread.

I liked Nikki a lot. She’s smart, uses her head, and except when it comes to emotional vulnerability, willing to do what it takes to get the job done. I loved the exploration of her psychic gifts, and found it refreshing that she hadn’t been actively a member of the paranormal community (beyond the fact that she was herself psychic), but didn’t poo-poo the idea or go into denial either when faced with zombies and vampires.

Michael was a strong, male lead. He runs up against Nikki’s emotional barriers more than once, and even is willing to risk forever damaging her trust simply to keep her safe. He’d rather she live apart from him, than risk her dying. By the end of the book, the two find themselves irrevocably bound together, but yet Michael heads off for parts unknown to deal with a terrible addiction while Nikki denies that she might be in love, or at least have strong feelings, for Michael.

Jasper and Monica were both delightfully twisted. Yes, Jasper was your standard evil vampire, but Ms. Arthur played up his telepathic powers beyond what you see in your standard-issue vamp. I liked that a lot, the way she played into the psychic side of things.

Nikki’s boss/partner was a great character in his own right, and hopefully he’ll be kept in the series as it goes on.

A solid 4-star read. In reading reviews, apparently this is a re-release of Keri Arthur’s, and from the comments, I get the distinct impression that it was Americanized for this release. It definitely didn’t have the Australian feel that her Riley Jensen series did, which I find interesting (along with the switch from first-person to third).

Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Love, Technically

Love, Technically

Author: Lynne Silver
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, Ever After line
Date of Publication: July 29, 2013
Description:

Billionaire CEO and computer whiz Noah Frellish is a king among geeks. Women are attracted to his money, but he’d love to meet someone who’s actually interested in him. When he helps the sweet and sexy Michelle Kolson with a printing problem, she confuses him for a help desk technician. Noah knows he should clear up this case of mistaken identity, but would she still like him if she knew he was the boss?

Michelle thinks life in Chicago is perfect, as is the whirlwind romance with her smoking-hot coworker. When she unexpectedly finds her job on the chopping block and the man she fell headfirst into bed with running the company, will she abandon her dreams?

Noah must convince the small-town girl to stay in the big city—and that he really is the man she fell for.

My Thoughts:

Overall, this was a cute book. I actually didn’t have a problem in believing the initial mistake Michelle makes in not figuring out who Noah is. After all, he looked different in the pictures and he introduced himself by his nickname, which in his experience, everyone knew was his nickname. I even don’t necessarily have a problem with him not fixing hte mistake as soon as he realized it was made. After all, he’s a billionaire and it must have been refreshing to have a woman liking him for who he is, rather than his bank account.

Noah made his money in the tech industry and is growing restless because he has bigger and better ideas, but he’s blocked in by a board of directors since his company is a public one and they don’t want to take a chance and risk their profits on a new invention.

Michelle is a relatively innocent, somewhat naive woman who’s just moved to Chicago from her little town in the boonies. She’s excited to have a chance to work for a company like Noah’s, but then finds out her job’s about to be outsourced. Then, thanks to a tip from the cute IT tech she met (Sark aka Noah), she gets a lead on another job within the company. Unfortunately, going after the job, which she’s actually not very qualified for despite some work history in the advertising business (for her parents’ store back home), comes with its own set of complications (including a potential rival for Noah/Sark, who she still hasn’t figured out is the boss).

Of course the truth comes out, as it always does. She’s hurt and runs home to think. Noah’s confused, not having realized (some how) that she still had no clue until someone points it out to her (in a suitably melodramatic moment which involves the HR department and her potential new boss in the advertising department).

Ultimately, of course, they work the issues out and have their happily ever after.

I liked Michelle. She knew how to go after what she wanted, even though she was shy about it. Noah was really good to her, giving her some help in learning what she’d need to know to qualify for the job. Unfortunately, as the mistaken identity thing continued for sooooo much of the book, it ended up straining my ability to believe in the possibility. She worked closely with him and never had a clue. It’s just not possible (in my opinion) to not figure something out was up.

I don’t think Noah was too smart. He started to ‘fess up, but then somehow his note in which he confesses just happens to not get signed properly, thus not finishing his confession and he never realizees it. Very shaky plasaubility for me.

That didn’t ruin the book, as is clear since I still give this book 4 stars, but it’s why I couldn’t conceive of giving it five.

Definitely got some great company between the two leads, and I like the secondary cast as well. Hopefully we’ll get more books in this bent as time goes on.

Book provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Never Deal With Dragons

Never Deal With Dragons

Author: Lorenda Christensen
Publisher: Carina Press
Date of Publication: July 22, 2013
Description:

Consoling a sobbing dragon and serving pig buffets are just part of the job for Myrna Banks. Working for a mediation firm, it’s her job to get humans compensated for damages caused by the dragons who now rule. But her “typical” day is interrupted by Trian Chobardan, an old flame who sneaked out of her bed two years ago, taking her heart and a handful of classified documents with him.

Myrna would love to show Trian the door, but he’s been sent by North America’s reigning dragon lord for help negotiating a truce with a powerful rival to avert war. Myrna agrees to help, even though she’ll be stuck with Trian as a partner.

As the two work together, Myrna finds Trian to be surprisingly supportive—and still irresistibly attractive. Though her brain tells her not to forget his betrayal, her body feels differently. When they learn the enemy dragon lord is planning something no one could have imagined, Myrna has to learn who she can trust before she loses not only her heart, but her life.

My Thoughts:

I picked this book up for three reasons:

  1. Hot man with sexy dragon tattoo
  2. Great blurb
  3. I heard that it had won the prestigious 2012 Golden Heart from RWA in the paranormal romance category.

After reading it, I thoroughly get why it won the Golden Heart. The first fifty, or even one hundred pages were spectacular. The book as a whole was great! Unfortunately, there was a minor problem toward the end that knocked my appreciation of this book from 5 stars to 4.

First, Dragons is set in a future Earth, after World War III and a genetic experiment that was supposed to be tossed but instead first bred dragons. The dragons have pretty much taken over, and a select few humans are able to speak the dragon language (Dragon-Speakers, of which Myrna is one). Her typical day is pretty much like the blurb says, dealing with puking dragons and disputes over improperly eaten sheep and cows. Not glamorous, but it pays the bills, right?

She used to be in a better job, but thanks to Trian ended up getting a demotion. Well, he roars back into her life as DRACIM (the organization that helps coordinate human/dragon peace) tries to find out what the Chinese dragon Hing-puo is up to.

There’s definitely heat between Trian and Myrna from the first time they step onto the page, even as they’ve got definite issues between them. It grows as she tries to figure out if she can trust him again, and she learns the truth as to why he stole the paperwork he stole from her. The Chinese war-lord made for a great villain with a fascinating secret of his own.

The world building is second to none. I felt the entire set-up as to how dragons came into existence was incredibly plausible (fantastical, but at least plausible, although of course I have my doubts as to whether anyone would survive World War III. Heh.

My only gripe was how absolutely obvious one of the villains. I IDd him the second he revealed one minor detail about his background. His motives were very cliche. I can see why Myrna didn’t figure it out immediately, but her gullibility later on when she’s told something by this villain, without any semblance of corroboration from anyone, just left me with my jaw hanging open.

There’s a rich cast of secondary characters and I sincerely hope there will be more books set in this world. I know I’ll snap them up to read as soon as I possibly can. This book totally, COMPLETELY deserved the Golden Heart.

Thank you, Ms. Christensen, and thank you Carina Press, for offering me the chance to read this book.

Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Stone Guardian

Stone Guardian

Author: Danielle Monsch
Publisher: Romantic Geek Publishing
Date of Publication: July 15, 2013
Description:

Gryphons flying past Skyscrapers? Wizards battling it out in coffeehouses? Women riding motorcycles with large swords strapped to their backs? All normal sights since the Great Collision happened twenty-six years ago.

Well, not normal for everyone. Larissa Miller may have been born after the Great Collision, but as a history teacher who lives in the human-only city, she has never come into contact with any other race or species. That is, until one day she walks out of her apartment only to be attacked by a mob of Zombies, but then is saved by a Gargoyle.

Leader of the Gargoyles, Terak has been watching over the human woman for months because of a cryptic prophecy. Gargoyles trust no one outside their Clan, but something about this woman stirs every protective instinct within him. When he realizes the danger to her is real, he refuses to allow her to explore this new world without him at her side.

In the course of their investigation Terak becomes entranced by his little human. But when he discovers why Necromancers want her and the great reward that awaits him if he betrays her, he must choose between the welfare of his Clan and not only Larissa’s life, but the fate of this new Realm as well.

My Thoughts:

My sincerest apologies to Ms. Monsch. I couldn’t get this book loaded onto my Kindle reader and had to go onto a different source (using the Aldiko app), so kept forgetting about it. And then I truly got into the book and simply didn’t want to put this down. Though I may get struck down as a heretic for saying this, I’ve been a bit weary of the same old same old vampires and/or werewolves falling for humans and blah blah blah. Granted, this was still a matter of a male supernatural creature falling for a human (with a twist), but it was a gargoyle, and there’s no way you could just rip his wings off, give him a set of fangs, and poof, have a plausible story. No, Terak’s gargoyleness is very much important to making this story as good as it is. Kudos to Ms. Monsch for picking an almost unknown paranormal creature to star in this book.

First, the world building. Ms. Monsch put together a spectacular alternate reality in this, the first book in her Entwined Realms series. Twenty-six years ago, the Magic Realm and our Earth collided, meshing into one. Suddenly there were all sorts of fantastical creatures mixing with humans. On the surface, most have found ways of working together (or at least ignoring each other, as is the case in the city the heroine, Larissa, lives in her entire life).

Being chased by zombies, something the protective spell around the city shouldn’t have allowed, she is rescued by a creature of nightmares: a gargoyle! He sweeps her away for protection, but then takes her home on the promise that she allow him or those of his kind to guard her while they figure out why the zombies (and thus the zombie-masters, the vampires (who are what Necromancers ultimately become if they grow powerful enough)) want Larissa.

The mystery builds throughout the book, even as Terak and Larissa grow to admire and even love one another. The cross-species thing isn’t as much of an issue as it might have been, and I like how Ms. Monsch got around the problem.

There was a vast variety of secondary characters, ranging from werewolves and (obviously) gargoyles, to elves and vampires. And make no mistake, these aren’t nice vampires at all, though there is a rather nice, albeit with one heck of a case of psoriasis, zombie who helps reveal what’s going on in the city and around it.

I loved the ending, discovering just what made Larissa so special. I liked how true she was both to her love of Terak and her love of her family. Ms. Monsch does a great job setting up (without beating us over the head with it) the next book in the series, due out in early 2014. She raises quite a few questions in the last pages of the book, and I will wait eagerly, if unhappily, to get my chance to read it.

So, a total 5-star for this fabulous new paranormal romance author in my library! Thank you so very much for providing me the opportunity to read this book.

Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: The Heiress Effect

The Heiress Effect (the Brothers Sinister)

Author: Courtney Milan
Publisher: Courtney Milan
Date of Publication: July 15, 2013
Description:

Miss Jane Fairfield can’t do anything right. When she’s in company, she always says the wrong thing–and rather too much of it. No matter how costly they are, her gowns fall on the unfortunate side of fashion. Even her immense dowry can’t save her from being an object of derision.

And that’s precisely what she wants. She’ll do anything, even risk humiliation, if it means she can stay unmarried and keep her sister safe.

Mr. Oliver Marshall has to do everything right. He’s the bastard son of a duke, raised in humble circumstances–and he intends to give voice and power to the common people. If he makes one false step, he’ll never get the chance to accomplish anything. He doesn’t need to come to the rescue of the wrong woman. He certainly doesn’t need to fall in love with her. But there’s something about the lovely, courageous Jane that he can’t resist…even though it could mean the ruin of them both.

My Thoughts:

I had the good fortune to meet Ms. Milan at the very first RomCon several years ago. I was a total ditz, so nervous and excited about meeting “famous people”. Someone took pity on me (sorry, don’t remember which author it was) and dragged me over to Courtney and said “She wants to meet famous people!” And they were so friendly and funny and gracious about my babbling self…I’ve had a great fondness for Ms. Milan since then. She is definitely on my auto-buy list.
This book certainly isn’t the one that’s going to change my mind. She’s created two incredible characters and crafted a phenomenal, rich plot for them to move through. I got approved for this book Saturday evening and gulped this down by Sunday evening. I simply couldn’t put it down.
Jane is definitely not your typical historical heroine. She’s not drop-dead gorgeous (though she is to Oliver once he sees past her deliberately ill-fashioned wardrobe), perfectly well-mannered, and of noble birth. No, she’s loud when she should be retiring, wears (and honestly loves, it turns out) brilliant, unfashionable shades (such as fuschine, which from the description is fuschia, or some incredibly annoying shade of pink), and doesn’t want to get married because she’s trying to protect her half-sister.
Oliver too is not your standard hero. Oh, he’s the son of a duke, but a bastard. Oh, that’s common enough, but Oliver’s ambitious as a man (wants to be prime minister one day). He uses the nobility and they use him…until finally a rather nasty marquess pushes him too far. There’s a spectacular confrontation between Oliver and the marquess, where we see the changing opinion about just where the power of society will lie in the years and decades to come.
They fall in love, but it seems doomed because Oliver is determined to remain a possibility for a great, political future and for that, he needs a model perfect politician’s wife, which Jane decidedly is not. Nor does Jane really want to get married, not when she knows it will harm his future.
The way she resolves their issues goes so far beyond what I as a reader have come to expect – the standard tropes of the genre and all – it just left my flabbergasted and terribly in love with Ms. Milan and her incredible books.
If you love non-standard heroes/heroines, and non-cookie cutter plots, if you love historical English romances, by all means run, don’t walk, to your nearest Amazon website and order this puppy! Now. Go do it!
Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: The Dare

The Dare

Author: Susan Kearney
Publisher: BelleBooks
Date of Publication: July 15, 2013
Description:

All Dora wants is to be the woman he loves . . .All Zical wants is to complete his mission . . .All the enemy wants is total annihilation . . .

Blocked by the limitations of her computer hardware, Dora has used only her smarts, her humor, and her sinfully sexy voice to intrigue Rystani warrior-pilot Zical. In order to experience human sexuality—and consummate her love for him—she builds the perfect female body to inhabit. Being human is more difficult and more wonderful than Dora expected. She didn’t expect the sensation of touch to alter her emotions. Nor did she expect chocolate to taste so good. Or love to be so complicated.

But for a Rystani star pilot, accepting Dora as a crew woman, never mind a lover, is downright confusing. Even if Zical considered Dora fully human—which he doesn’t—his tragic past has made him swear off falling in love. But as Dora’s increasingly human allure becomes hard to resist, a threat to the solar system sends them on a dangerous mission to the very edge of the galaxy.

As Dora explores the full extent of what it means to love, can Zical’s sense of honor and his proud adherence to Rystani customs ever let him give his heart to a woman who created herself only for him? And as their enemies turn deadly, Dora and Zical must overcome their pasts . . . if  they hope to fight for all of their futures.

My Thoughts: 

Holy crap, batman! I loved loved LOVED this book. I wasn’t super psyched, though I enjoyed  the first book, the Challenge (a 3.4/4-star for me), but this one just blew me out of the water. I’d loved the character of Dora, the computer who helped the prior heroine adapt to life in a new time/space, so I was ecstatic to see she’d gotten her own book. I had no idea how she’d get around the whole fact that she existed as simply (okay, not simply, but you get my meaning) as a computer, rather than a flesh and blood person and have a romance.
Dora has always had emotions, and found herself more and more drawn to wanting to experience life, real life, as a human. She’s attracted to the Rystani man, Rical, and spends a lot of time with him as he goes exploring, ultimately stumbling onto an old, abandoned site built by the Perceptive Ones (the oldest known race, who was responsible for a lot of the technology in use in the universe). She’s so attracted to him that when she decides to download part of her mind to a flesh-and-blood body she’s grown (having tweaked everything so she had no weak genes, etc.), she finds out what he likes in physical appearance and has her body look pretty much like that. That’s just the kind of woman Dora is.
Rical is a typical, alpha, Rystani male. He’s adapted to the changes in his life since the first book, which saw his people move from their original planet to Mystique, which is where he found the abandoned Perceptive One base. He’s gunshy about Dora, or really any woman, becuase he was married before to a child bride and there was little attraction there. His wife and child died in an attack by the foe that ultimately drove his people from Rystan. He’s a starship captain and trying to decide what he wants to do with his life now that his people are, more or less, safely transplanted and settled on Mystique.
This book looks at so much more than simply the growing relationship between Dora and Zical, it’s impossible to sum it all up. But Dora, even as she’s terrified after finding herself flesh and blood (thus, gasp, capable of DYING!), finds the courage not only to continue her pursuit of Zical in the face of his reluctance, but to risk her life to go with him and a band of adventurers to try to undo the damage Zical inadvertently did when he found the Perceptive Ones’ base.
Terra and Kahn from the first book were here, along with the baby that was born at the end of that book, though he’s now 4 and super-scary smart (and pretty tech-sneaky). The secondary cast doesn’t overwhelm or get lost in the primary romance. 
I thorough enjoyed this book and couldn’t wait to gulp it down. I’m hoping Ms. Kearney releases all of her Rystani books through BelleBooks in the weeks/months to come. I know I’m ready, willing and eager to read them.
Total 5-star rating from me!
Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Tempting a Devil

Tempting a Devil

Author: Samantha Kane
Publisher: Random House/Loveswept
Publication Date: July 9, 2013
Description:

As wealthy and beautiful as she is desperate, Harriet Mercer can have any man she wants—which makes picking the worst of the lot quite easy. By convincing the ton she is a ruined woman, Harry hopes to outwit the greedy, conniving cad blackmailing her into a loveless marriage. Roger Templeton is a rogue with a scandalous reputation, no expectations, and no shame. He is perfect for Harry’s fall from grace. Her brazen attempts at a very public seduction are delightful fodder for gossip . . . and pure torment for Roger. With his pockets as empty as his heart, Roger is in no mood for games and decides to show Harry how foolish it is to tempt a devil. But behind her mesmerizing golden eyes, he sees something unexpected: a woman in trouble. Her scandalous behavior would be amusing if he wasn’t captivated by her lush, curvaceous beauty. Worse, every libertine bone in his body has turned traitorously noble. Only a rake would seduce her. But only a gentleman in love can save her.

My Thoughts:

I’d never read anything by Ms. Kane, so decided to give this a try, since it fell in one of my favorite genres (historical romances). Overall, I have to say it was a decent book. Harriet (Harry) has a plan to avoid getting forced into marriage with a man who could ruin her with the town (it’s not a spoiler to admit that the villain fathered Harry’s child because Harry’s husband, Lord Mercer, was incapable since it comes out in the first few chapters). The villain wants Harry because she’s got Lord Mercer’s entire fortune and his family is demanding he find a well-bred and well-reputationed woman to settle down with. Harry, in an effort to avoid that, wants to ruin herself by having an affair despite a distaste for the bedroom thanks to said villain’s sex.

When she tries to lure a man, distaste for her potential lover maeks her change her mind, which the man doesn’t like and she runs into Roger, who she promptly tries to seduce and he willingly goes along…until they discover they’re old childhood friends.

As time passes, Roger resists temptation, at first because it would be a come down in the world since it would be abhorent for a man to marry for money (because he’d be a fortune hunter), and then for a very brief time, because he thinks she married for money/status, and that doesn’t sit well either.

This had a very unusual ending to my mind, because of the choice Roger makes in order to make himself feel worthy/acceptable as a mate for Harry, and as part of his attempt to woo her once she realizes she’s afraid of being married again. That’s probably why I end up liking it more than simply dismissing it as a meh, mediocre book.

They deal with the villain in a most satisfactory way, though I thought the actual “dealing with” was a bit overdramatic with what nearly happens (two things) to Harry in the process, buuuut the villain definitely got what was coming to him. So yay Harry and Roger!

There was a nice secondary cast of characters, some of whom I sincerely hope get their own books later on.

So – new author to me, Samantha Kane, will definitely go on my list of “check out her books” list, but not at the top. A 3-star read for me.

Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Secrets of a Mayan Moon

Secrets of a Mayan Moon

Author: Paty Jager
Publisher: Windtree Press
Publication Date: March 27, 2013
Description:

Child prodigy and now Doctor of Anthropology, Isabella Mumphrey, is about to lose her job at the university. In the world of publish or perish, her mentor’s request for her assistance on a dig is just the opportunity she’s been seeking. If she can decipher an ancient stone table—and she can—she’ll keep her department. She heads to Guatemala, but drug trafficking bad guys, artifact thieves, and her infatuation for her handsome guide wreak havoc on her scholarly intentions. 

DEA agent Tino Kosta, is out to avenge the deaths of his family. He’s deep undercover as a jaguar tracker and sometimes jungle guide, but the appearance of a beautiful, brainy anthropologist heats his Latin blood taking him on a dangerous detour that could leave them both casualties of the jungle.

My Thoughts:

I always start a new book by an author I’ve never read with a sense of hope and excitement about what I might be about to discover and learn. With the good books, I never look back. With the bad…well, most of the time I do push through in hopes that it will get better. It’s truly rare that I don’t finish a book I pick up.

Within three pages, I wasn’t sure I was going to finish this book, but I ultimately did. Toward the end it was more to see just how many times my eyes rolled at the absurdity and/or obviousness of so many of the plot twists and turns.

The first time I rolled my eyes was when I learned that the heroine was 24 or so, and had received her PhD in Anthropology at age 22, having started grad school at 17 (that part I didn’t have a problem with, for the record). I’m sorry, while I get that there are definitely brilliant people, the general, average age people finish their degrees in Anthropology is the early to mid 30’s. It takes quite a long time to get a PhD. I’m willing to accept she accelerated and excelled at the program, but not that. ESPECIALLY when I learned she focused on Mesoamerican culture and the possibility that the Hopi were descended from the Mayans and yet had never left the USA as part of her training.

The second was, I think, the typo/misuse of the word “illusive”. The author was describing Isabella’s absentee father. I’m pretty sure the author should have used the word “elusive”. Illusive means illusory, an illusion. Those two things just set the tone for the entire book and wow, it got bad in places.

For such a supposedly brilliant person, Isabella was a naive idiot. After being menaced at the airport when she discovers she somehow got a box of forged passports instead of her survival vest and survival equipment, she accepts without any proof other than the fact that Tino knew the name of the guide who’d been supposed to be there that he’s there to guide her to the dig site. She waltzes merrily down an alley with a ten year old child with no suspicions that he might be leading her into a trap.

Tino really was the saving grace of this book, which needed saving. He was smart, driven by a need to avenge the deaths of his family, and an all-around decent man.

Toward the end, this book veered from being silly into just being ridiculous. We discover the “truth” about Isabella’s parents (oh lordy…), the villains come out of the woodwork (I called every single one of them long before it was anywhere near revealed), and the final line of the book, where Isabella makes a huge decision as to the direction she wants to go with her life, now that her whole worldview has been shredded after learning things about her mentor and her parents, was just unbelievable, and not in a good way.

Oh yeah, and there were paranormal elements in it for crying out loud. I don’t think this book in any way required them.

I try not to put too many negative reviews up, but this one I just had to get out there because of how ridiculous I ultimately found the story. I can safely say I’m not interested in reading the sequel, and continuing adventures of Dr. Mumphrey. Such a pity. The 2-star rating comes solely from my like of Tino’s character, nothing else.

Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: One Wore Blue

One Wore Blue

Author: Heather Graham
Publisher: Random House – Loveswept
Publication Date: September 8, 2010
Description:

The privileged daughter of a Virginia plantation owner, Kiernan Miller can’t imagine that her idyllic life will ever change—nor her days in the company of her devastatingly handsome neighbor, Jesse Cameron, a boy who returns her desire, kiss by tempestuous kiss. Then Jesse commits the one sin that Kiernan can never forgive: He abandons his roots for the Union army. Though Kiernan marries another, a part of her will always love the rebel in blue. To follow his conscience, Jesse Cameron must sacrifice his heart. He deserts his hometown, turns against his own brother, and rides away from the woman he loves. But he vows that it will not be forever. Now, bringing the war to Kiernan’s front door, Jesse has returned as the enemy, intent on winning back the widow with emerald eyes and sun-kissed hair—the beauty who has branded him a traitor.

 My Thoughts:

I debated whether I was going to post this review at all, considering I couldn’t bring myself to finish the book. And then I decided I would be honest about my opinion on this. What’s the point in doing reviews if I can’t be truthful all around, even with books I don’t like?

This book was originally published in June of 1991. I read it somewhere in the early 90’s and then multiple times after that over the course of several years. Clearly I loved it and the two sequels (And One Wore Gray, and One Rode West) at that point in time. I read all of the Cameron books by Ms. Graham. It was reissued a couple of years ago and when I saw it offered on NetGalley, I leaped at the chance to re-read one of the earliest romance novels I remembered falling in love with. How could it go wrong?

Apparently my tastes have changed. A lot. While I’m not going to say this is a bad book in any way, because it truly isn’t given the rich texture of the Civil War and the emotional bonds of the characters involved. However, for who I am as a person and a romance reader, it just doesn’t work for me any longer. The pace is too slow, though you are immediately dropped into the plot both in the prologue (which takes place in the early part of the Civil War) and then when the story proper starts (which starts a couple years earlier, as Ms. Graham had a tendency to do with her books at that point).

The romance, or rather the sex scenes, which struck me as so naughty and graphic at the time (french kissing and actual penetration, I believe), don’t fit my tastes any more and are downright tame compared to even Harlequin Presents these days. This book is definitely more to the 80’s and early 90’s’ bodice-ripper type, though there’s relatively little actual bodice ripping/rape-posed-as-love in this one (now in the other two, as I recall, that’s a little less true).

However, if you are still a fan of those books, or want something a little less graphic than is currently published in today’s books which seem to be in a race for the most graphic, most heated sex possible with multiple partners…by all means, give this series a try. It’s a lovely look at one of the most bloody periods in American history. I still think of it fondly even if I don’t care for it personally any more. If I were rating it based on what I remember, rather than my current tastes, it’d be a 4-star rating from me.

Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.