Saturday, 26 July 2008

Shadow Lover by Anne Stuart

Published in 1999. Quite a good sus-rom story if you can work your way through the lame first half.

A novel where the main couple spend entirely too much time sniping at each other. Where the main couple spend entirely too much time not in each others company. Where the heroine feels shocked and guilty because she had the time of her life in the hero’s bed. But she is generally spineless and avoids all risk. And is deeply obsessed about inherited money. Despite her loud protestations to the contrary. Nor did Carolyn have any real good reason not to tell the cops about the violent act she witnessed on the beach. Imagine. She didn't tell her adopted mother that her son was seriously injured or probably dead. In fact. All her actions for much of the novel seem to have been motivated by a selfish desire to maintain her tenuous status with the rich MacDowell family. The hero, Alex, is actually, much too good for her. Far too many stupid relatives all over the novel. Like I was interested in any of them.

Lots of clever stuff though. First the reader is told that the hero is an imposter called Sam. Then it turns out that Sam and Alex are actually the same person. Then it turns out that even real Alex is not really the son of the dying matriarch. I’ve always loathed characters like Aunt Sally. Nasty poisonous spider-like people. And she is no exception. Sally should have suffered a lot more. Her last days on the earth should have been filled with misery. Why Carolyn devoted herself to Sally defies logical reasoning or even emotional intelligence. A thirteen year old girl gets kissed in this story. That’s a no-go area nowadays. Her punishment. Not to love until the hero, Alex, returns some 18 years later. His punishment. A bullet between the shoulders. Which I thought. Was a bit harsh.

Unusually. Both the hero and heroine are blond. Makes a nice change. The main fault though. Not enough nookie. Or emotions between the main couple. They continually run away from one another. Somewhat frustrating. Once stupid Sally dies the story comes to glorious life. Apart from Carolyn, the heroine, who keeps displaying completely irrational behaviour. Like so many heroines of the 70s, she puts the hero through a lot of crap for no good reason at all.

It’s good that I read this novel straight after Dangerous Secrets. I’m back to loving Charity. For taking risks with her life. For not letting caring for her aged relatives get in the way of her chance of happiness. For being happy when stranger Nick made her feel good in bed.

I’ve read better stories about orphans too. Alex isn’t really a bad-boy hero. Again. Having an older heroine is fine if she's lived a proper life. Which Carolyn hasn't. She'll spend the rest of her 30s regretting she didn't get together with Alex earlier. (Even though that would have been impossible.)

One weird thing. This novel is set amongst the over-privileged super-rich of Vermont but amazingly when the family come to stay the heroine has to make up a bed in the library because there are not enough rooms in the mansion! That's some device that is.

This novel is perfectly ok. Actually. It's better than Spymasters Lady. Not as good as All Through The Night. Which was written around the same time. Lowell's Sweet Wind, Wild Wind which is about the same kind of relationship is miles better. Makes me salivate thinking about the craziness that is bound to be Lora Leigh’s Wild Card. (Hurry up August end!)

And finally. I can't believe how fast I got this novel. I ordered it on the 22 July through the abe network from some tiny place in Mass. Mailman pushed it through the letterbox on 25 July. Amazon orders usually take 2 weeks exactly. How is that possible?

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Dangerous Secrets by Lisa Marie Rice

There is no way any words from me can do justice to this stonkingly enjoyable novel. I like this author’s voice so much. I don’t care that many less fawning readers might say that the hero and heroine from each book are completely interchangeable. It’s the nuances of difference that matter to me. Like. I loved the driving-ability thread in this story. And happily. The suspense in each novel is so completely unique.

If I was a son or daughter of that proud nation of Russia I’d be just a tad annoyed that a man with the sheer determination, guts, willpower, talent and class of Vassily Worontzoff is aired out by an alpha male dimbo and his dumb blonde bunny girlfriend. Sheesh. I’m not Russian though. And I liked the message the author gave out. That there is no excuse for soft or hard terrorism where innocent people die. Not even if you have suffered gut-wrenching heartache and awful physical deprivation as did Vassily. I personally. Would have liked to witness Vassily do something baaad. He is built up as this evil evil guy. But doesn’t really display any behaviour that justifies this rep. He is very menacing though. And is killed far too quickly.

This time the hero and heroine are Nick and Charity. And yes. She’s as dumb as her name suggests. However. Being dumb is not a crime. So I’m not ashamed to say I liked Charity. Even though she gets married to a guy she’s known for a week only. And then totally forgives him for lying his head off to her. There is a great chapter in the story that illustrates exactly why Charity falls for Nick. It totally worked for me too.

What didn’t work in the novel was why Nick let Charity go to Vassily’s house for the meet. It’s not exactly unknown for terrorists to have the same scanning technology as black ops guys. So really. Nick should have expected the mike to be detected. A big weakness is that Nick does not save Charity. Vassily does. Nick just blusters. That’s the tragedy of Vassily. Hope he and Katya are reunited in the afterlife. Also I completely felt Arkady’s love for his Vor.

Hey! What was the point of Jake? I suppose he was needed to convert Nick into a rich guy. Except that billionaire Jake making a million for Nick, the guy who saved his ass countless times in the orphanage came across as slightly mean. Jake should have made at least $50 million for Nick.

There’s a lot of reader teasing in the romance scenes. Sometimes the reader is shut out of the bedroom. Other times the reader is allowed to see the hot visualisations in Nick’s head. Hmm. There are no hot scenes after the marriage. The plot took over. But overall the story certainly did qualify as erotica. It is streets ahead of 99% of the e-book romantica trash I have recently read.

You know what. I knew I would like this story even while I read the prologue. I actually considered calling in sick to work for the day. And sitting in a Starbucks all day to read the book. I was so tempted. In the end though, like Nick and Charity, I did my duty and fulfilled my obligations to my employer.

That stupid word. Gelid. Makes a couple of appearances in the book. Sign the online petition to ban it from all further Rice novels.

A very very special mention needs to be made about Chapter 22. It contains some of the corniest scenes, images and dialogue that I have ever read in all my life. My eyes practically bugged out as it's outrageousness unfolded before me.

Lets start at the beginning of Chapter 22. Oooo! Watch Nick and John wave their shiney DHS badges under Charity's nose. As if badges were a proof of anything. Then there's the bit where Charity asserts she's made of steel and agrees to spy on Vassily because she's a true patriot. To say nothing of the paragraph where Nick throws the test-tube, bolt and CD in front of Charity and proceeds to explain how they are proof of Vassily's evil mafia network. That dumb bunny Charity laps up every word Nick spills from his lying mouth. But oh, she believes that when he went to bed with her his body told her the truth. Jeez. That poor girl. I expect Consuela believed in Nick's body too. Hur hur. And it goes on. At the end of the chapter Nick weeps all over Charity. Oh brother. Like I said. The whole of Chapter 22 belongs in the twilight zone. It was like Charity was being inducted into some fringe cult group.

But none of the above stopped me totally loving the experience of working my way through this fabulous (small-town) novel.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The Spymasters Lady by Joanna Bourne

Sweet and tender historical romance. While this novel regularly shows it is plotted oh so cleverly it is still not in the same class as Rendevouz by Amanda Quick. Which also deals with spying but is much more emotionally satisfying to read.

Basically. Annique the French spy lurches from one dangerous situation to another. She’s a strange character really. She believes she has developed a technique of chattering aimlessly to bamboozle whoever is interrogating her and most of the time it works. But not with the guy she loves. He sees right through her fabrications. And a couple of times Annique reveals an excellent assessment of the character of the hero and his friend. There are some genuine surprises in the novel but they are not nasty so I will not reveal them. There are also far too many unbelievable coincidences which border on ridiculous. I’m glad that neither Annique or Grey suffered any real harm (physical or emotional) but that fact contributed to the fairy-tale feel of the story. She is like a Napoleonic Superwoman. See in the dark, do surgery, escape from dungeons. But amazingly unsuspicious about the death of her mother. And even when her nominal enemies deconstruct her entire belief system she remains astoundingly passive. The nice thing about Annique is that she is young and very positive about life despite all the bad war things she has witnessed. (And she only injures and refuses to kill…even her enemies.)

The cover is completely misleading. This novel is 100% about Annique. There are no scenes that feature the hero without the presence of Annique. And I couldn’t really discern the skills that enabled Grey to attain the position of British Head of Section. Often Grey seemed in danger of being overshadowed by the character of William Doyle and his wife. Even Adrian sometimes. And surely in those times there was not the separation between military intelligence and civilian spying of modern times? So I didn't really understand how Grey could defy Reams and get away with it.

I really enjoyed how Annique fell in love with both Robert and Grey. Even though not recognizing them as the same man was one of those ridiculous contrivances that I wrote about earlier.

However. This book is a lovely read. There is some quite affecting nookie but not until way past halfway into the story. Readers need to be aware that much of the 'romance' is built up during locked-room scenes.

The true effect of this story was to remind me of just how much I loved Rendevouz. I think both novels may even take place in around the same historical time frame.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Into The Darkness by Delilah Devlin

This is not a romance but a sordid and distasteful trailer-park urban fantasy. Vampire genre. Why do I describe it as ‘trailer park?’ The author bio. How were my prejudices confirmed? This astounding paragraph towards the end of the novel where the main secondary character remembers her murdered baby girl; “Her Daddy had just taught her to say ‘shit.’ He thought it was funny. I got mad.” Yup. I can just imagine the scene. Characters have been to college but they still work in video stores and hump at the office in plain sight of anyone. Lovely. Scenes take place in tacky motel rooms.

The main couple have some sort of relationship going but that doesn’t stop them doing it with a lot of other people. The hero and heroine spend most of the novel in a locked room and there is just too much non-consensual activity between them…perpetrated by her on him. Because of this fact the author tries to interest the reader in bump and grind between secondary characters. Unfortunately the main secondary character does it with just about anything that walks on two legs. Nor was I interested in the millionaire life-style of the people who had kidnapped and imprisoned the hero and heroine. My sympathies often lay with the hero who is basically humiliated and disrespected through much of the story. To say nothing of the fact that there is a general theme of a community using and abusing complete strangers. (As food)

The heroine’s name is Natalie. She starts off in the novel as a fairly na├»ve and innocent character. By the end of the story she is exposing herself to convenience-store clerks. Occasionally she makes the struggle to display some integrity which basically consists of laying in bed with the covers up to her chin. As opposed to most of the time where she is raping the hero. For large parts of the story her actions are determined by her hormones (rather than her brain or her heart) and her potential fertility is openly discussed by her captors as a reason for denying her freedom.

I suppose you have to be unapologetically culturally southern to appreciate this kind of novel. And believe me when I say I am not referring to Cajun culture.

Because this novel is obviously the beginning of a series, threads pop up and then disappear for large parts of the story. Just who is the person who killed Natalie’s parents. And why? Appalling is a good word to use to describe this book. It is also very very dirty and doesn’t rise above sewer level at any point.

In the final chapter, Rene goes through the portal with Natalie because he believes he'd 'rather die than live without her.' Why? This is the woman who abused his body. Who will continue to do so because she's a 'Born' and he's a 'Revenant.' I guess that's the vampire word for doormat. And Rene's the first guy in a romance I've read who qualifies to hold that title. Poor sap. In true trailer-park style, instead of breaking free from his abuser, he chooses to stay with her. Too scared to take back his self-respect. Sad.

Mostly I read romances where falling in love makes the main couple happy. None of the rampant carnality in this novel results in any happiness whatsoever.

Read this book only if you generally despise humanity as it will just confirm your low opinion of the species.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Twice The Temptation by Suzanne Enoch

...two short novels in the one book. Linked by a cursed diamond.

Personally. I thought both novellas were too long.

I can understand a hero who wants to rescue a heroine from danger. But a hero who wants to rescue a girl from her mother????!!! What is that all about? Particularly when the reader knows that in 10 years time the girl will turn out to be a carbon copy of said mother. Yuk. Why not marry the mother in the first place? After all. She’s going to be around in his life for the next 20 years or so anyway. That’s the pitfall with historicals. The author writes one kind of story which the reader interprets as another.

The heroine, Gilly, reads as a precious pain. I’ve met 14-year olds who make more decisions about their lives and take more risks than this18-year old heroine. Gilly isn’t blonde but the best way to describe her is standard issue bimbo. Or just plain horrible. Despite her pretty looks. Even when she’s been deflowered by the hero, she still is happy to see her life as being married to her 51-yo suitor, denying him anything but an annual consummation, whilst maybe taking lovers. That is gross dishonesty. The poor guy has done nothing to deserve being treated with such disrespect.

I struggled to continue reading. Around page 138 of a 178-page novella the heroine eventually became less calculating and honest. Much too late for me to enjoy the story. Unfortunately it also became obvious that her future husband would have no trouble using s.e.x to get whatever he wanted from the dim gullible chit.

The plot device of a cursed diamond became quite interesting towards the end of the story. It almost developed into a joke at one point. For me this story is about the power of beauty. Why else would Addison have gone to all that effort to get the gal? Plus. This is one of those novels where the heroine is all feisty and difficult before the hero does her. But once the deed is done she mellows and becomes an all round good egg.

Reminded me too much of the dry historicals I was forced to read in school. Five chapters of torture until all issues are resolved in about 5 pages. Not much bump and grind either. Although what there was was freely given. End of.

The other novella in this book is another in the Sam n Rick story arc. The big disappointment is that the baddie is telegraphed out at the very start of the story. And I was truly amazed that Sam, with her supposed keen antenna for cops, scams and fellow thiefs didn’t rumble him as quickly as I did.

Sam is just as high strung and neurotic as ever. Sometimes she seems to have a good sense of fairness in her relationship with Rick. Like when she almost goes into the lake with Rick to search for the diamond she threw in the water. Other times she seems to make unnecessary problems for herself. Like when she plants the cursed diamond on Rick, knowing (and hoping) it will bring him trouble. I don’t get Sam’s chosen new career either. The security industry is basically one big scam. I can’t think of anything worse than having cameras and patrols all over all your big millionaire mansions. Some nicely steamy scenes though. With a lot less anatomical descriptions than some of the romances I’ve read recently. And a lot more post-coital talk. Which I enjoyed reading.

The cursed diamond wreaks havoc on a huge scale in this story. Rawley House literally overflows with security people, house-guests, armed ex-lover robbers and armed police. All in the middle of Devon. It’s a wonder Rick doesn’t die of shame. The palaver a guy has to put up with in order to get the woman he’s chosen to bear his children. Obviously he thinks she’s worth it. Good luck to the pair of them. The jewellery robbery scenes were unrealistic and irrelevent. I skim-read them until Rick joined in the action.

I think readers who aren’t familiar with Sam n Rick might find her a bit of a mean shrill bitch. And sometimes Rick reads like a trusted loyal lap-dog. I look forward to the novel where she has to grovel to him for a couple of chapters. By no means could Sam be described as a door-mat or one of those women desperate for a guy. But she still values her relationship with Rick. And that’s why I like her and hope there are more stories after ‘A Touch of Minx.’

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Dangerous Lover by Lisa Marie Rice

Ace. Ace. Ace. This is a fantastic lovely piece of rude romantic suspense. What's more. The ending is just right. Not too abrupt at all. The heroine gets to show her love and trust. The hero is prepared to sacrifice his life for her safety. Super. Then let's talk about the image of the final action scene. The hero holding his woman in one arm and his weapon in the other. Isn't that just totally iconic? Don't tell me that happened by accident. I absolutely completely appreciate the thought that has gone into producing these stories.

It's official. I am now totally hooked on this author. Even though I've long sinced sussed out her formula. Yet the novels themselves are absolutely wonderful story-telling. One of the many things I love is the way she references contemporary world politics. With none of the dopey sentimentality perpetrated by the big media. This is a much better story of blood diamonds than the movie. Set resolutely in America of course. Thank goodness.

I have to say I prefered the character of silent Sam Cooper (from Woman On The Run) as a hero to Jack Prescott. Even though Jack is the more effective warrior in that he at least prevents his woman from getting hurt. Something Sam so notably failed to do. Although Caroline is on the whole very easy-going I just loved the way she refused to leave the freezing basement while Jack was there mending the boiler. Despite the fact he kept ordering her to go somewhere warm. They were a great couple. I also loved the way Caroline's grief for her brother is written...so poignant. And the way that Jack acknowledges that his love for Caroline changes the way he views the world around him. Wow! How many threads can you get into one novel.

However. I'm sick of the word 'gelid' to describe the wind. Does anyone actually know what it means? I do know where she picked it up though. My advice. Don't use it again. There's a reason why it fell out of use....it's a stupid sounding word.

I read this novel from start to finish in about 36 hours. With breaks for my job and house-keeping too. I'm saying I was hooked from the very beginning. The author just does not disappoint. Bless her. Goes without saying I'll definitely be buying Dangerous Secrets. And I'm more than half-way interested in reading more Avon Reds since I much prefer following a publisher's series than any particular author. But we'll see how that pans out.

Sometimes I wonder why none of these novels make it onto my recommended list. Basically. It's because the main couples tend to be so completely different from one another. I can't see how the love will last after the immediate peril is over. For instance. Dangerous Lover takes place over the course of just 3 days! Much too short to develop a relationship. But that's just me and my opinion. I still love the stories told.

Also. The heroines are too passive in the relationship. The heroes always go down on the women but their actions are never reciprocated. Very strange. In particular there were a lot of inconsistencies in D-Lover. Take Caroline's relationship with Sanders. Towards the beginning of the novel she describes herself as one of the few women in the town who he hasn't slept with. Then later on it becomes apparent that Sanders sees Caroline as some sort of casual fuck-buddy and she admits he was her first lover. Sanders is in fact too large a presence in Caroline's thoughts and the reason her parents came to despise him is never fully explained.

But the really glaring weakness in this book is this. How does Jack being Ben explain to Caroline how he knows what the inside of her house looks like? Since it is made clear at the start of the novel that Ben went into Greenbriars when the family were out. And they never gave their permission for him to be there. Another reason for avoiding homeless shelter people. 90% weirdos. I expect the news that Jack had bequeathed his millions to her encouraged Caroline to run towards him in the final shootout. So typical of middle-class romance heroines.

There's a chapter in Dangerous Lover when the baddie's name changes from Deaver to Deacon. I know that's just poor proof-reading but still...these novels are not cheap you know.