Read any good books lately? I have! Grab a cup of coffee or a beverage of your choice and sit back, relax, and have a peek at the books I've loved, the books I didn't, and the reasons why. Enjoy, and happy reading!


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Never Too Hot by Bella Andre

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Hot Shots, Book 3
Rating: 3 Stars
Length: 351 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle

Never Too Hot
Just Okay For Me

Two years ago hotshot firefighter Connor MacKenzie was horribly scarred by a fire that he couldn't outrun. Now he's returned to his grandparents' log cabin in the Adirondacks to fix it up and bring it up to code while he waits to hear the news on his final appeal to get back to his Hotshot crew. Fighting fires is everything that means anything to him, and the work at the cabin will also help him get back into prime physical shape so he won't miss any time when he gets the okay to go back to Tahoe.

Connor comes face to face with the first problem with his plan when he finds one Ginger Sinclair painting on the porch of the cabin. The beautiful divorcee has a year lease and has spent eight months of that lease exploring herself, growing into her skin, and learning to stand on her own two feet after a bad marriage and a difficult childhood robbed her so much of her identity and self confidence. When Connor shows up, her new-found inner strength goads her into standing her ground and she refuses to back down from the surly but scarred man.

It's Ginger's ability to see the man, not just the scars, that reaches out to the dark spots in Connor's psyche and soothes him in ways he wasn't expecting, and her willingness to open her heart to him moves him in ways he dared not dream. But when Connor's life is once again rocked by tragedy and he has to face a truth that leaves him shaken, Ginger's heart may be all that keeps him from losing himself completely.

This contemporary romance by Andre is well written with a smooth narrative and conversational dialogue, and while not terribly original or groundbreaking, the plot is nicely layered with a secondary romance subplot and additional threads of a troubled teen and some family angst. Connor and Ginger were realistic main characters, their issues sympathetic and realistic, and their relationship emotional and touching.

Yet despite those strong positives and the fact that there's nothing bad about yummy firefighters, I had some issues with the book, though most had nothing to do with critical aspects of the story itself. Instead, there were several points of the story that weren't to my personal taste in contemporary romance novels.

I tend to favor romance that introduces the characters and draws out the development of their romantic relationship, building towards a satisfying conclusion. In Connor and Ginger's case, they fell into bed a little too precipitously and were heavily emotionally involved before they really got much of a chance to know one another. 

I also have a huge issue with the irresponsibility of unprotected sex. I don't find it at all sexy or romantic, actually, when two people get swept away and play the "of course I'm clean/safe" game afterwards. First, it seems contrived when coupled with pregnancy as a plot thread, and second, it's always struck me as more disrespectful to a sexual partner than in any way romantic. And to have unprotected sex be more the norm than protected sex for whatever reason just pulls me right out of the story and starts icking me out.

In relation to the story, I found the romance history between Isabel and Andrew more distracting than beneficial as a subplot, and when Andrew showed up, their relationship became pretty predictable. I would have preferred more page time given to the character and romantic development of Ginger and Connor's relationship instead. Along with the other plot threads, that would have been more appealing to me as a whole.

I did like Ginger and Connor together, and I thought the issues Connor had with his scars and the way Ginger dealt with them were some of the stronger and more appealing points of the story. There was plenty of depth inherent in those issues. I would have enjoyed seeing those facets expanded. By the end, though, the combination of the rather pedestrian plot and the issues that crossed my lines in my reading preferences lessened my overall enjoyment of the read.

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

Genre: Paranormal Romance; Alternate Universe; Futuristic
Series: Psy/Changeling, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 334 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle

Unique, Original, Amazing

In 2079 the preeminent race, the Psy, rule the worlds of business and science with steel fists and cold hearts after a hundred years of Silence, a programming that strips their emotions and leaves them coldly clinical in their psychic gifts. They share the planet with humans and changelings, a race of shape shifters known for their animal aggressions and keen senses. Both are seen as less than the Psy, inferior in both mental strength and intellect. But as in all "superior" races, there is much that is hidden, more that is subject to interpretation, and so much that has been stolen from the individual Psy as they have subjugated their passions for an illusion with a very high price tag.

Cardinal Psy Sasha Duncan has hidden her flaws and imperfections from those who would sentence her to rehabilitation if it became known that she feels emotions. The daughter of one of the Council, the ruling body of Psy, she has had to be vigilant in shielding herself. Any weakness would spell her doom. When her mother puts her in charge of a new Psy-changleling business venture, Sasha comes face to face with a male whose very essence calls to the swarming emotions in her soul. Torn between two worlds, unable to leave her race without risking her life, her feelings for Lucas Hunter, alpha of the DarkRiver pack of leopard shifters in the area, threaten to overwhelm her yet tantalize her as she never dreamed.

When Lucas tells her of a Psy killer stalking the young women of the changeling packs, Sasha is horrified and disbelieving. The purpose of Silence was to strip such murderous emotions as rage, jealousy, and envy from her race. The truth, though, is even darker than Lucas knows. Sasha soon realizes that the very thing that was supposed to elevate her race above heinous crimes has instead created, harbored, and facilitated an insidious psychopathy and sociopathy. And now Sasha is left with no choice but to sacrifice herself to save her mate Lucas and catch a murderer before time runs out on his latest victim...and on her own fractured mind.

Nalini Singh has proven herself as one of the most creative and original writers of paranormal romance with both her Psy-Changelings series and her Guild Hunter series. Set apart and defined by strong, three dimensional characters, intricate, layered plots, and rich, thorough world building, Singh's books stand out and shine in a heavily glutted market.

This futuristic world of Psy and changelings is scary for its rational believability, with the mentally powerful Psy and the emotionally vibrant changelings. The scope and breadth of the PsyNet was a little hard to wrap my mind around as it was explained, but Sasha's motivations and concerns were visceral and sympathetic as her emotions started to rebel against unthinkable restrictions, and it was all too easy to understand the inherent dangers of Silence and the Council. Singh did a fantastic job slowly drawing Sasha away from the familiar and towards the seductive unknown represented by the leopard alpha Lucas Hunter.

Lucas was the quintessential alpha, challenging Sasha at every turn, even as his primal heat and wildly passionate emotions drew her like a moth to the flame. They were fantastic together as the romantic leads, and the secondary and ancillary characters of both the leopards and wolves added depth and dimension to both their romantic evolution and the subplot of the murder.

Admittedly, there was a lot of attention given to the world building and mythos of the series, and of course necessary development of the threads surrounding the changeling deaths, so there were aspects of the romance between Sasha and Lucas that I felt was a little rushed, but overall, this was a passionate and thoroughly satisfying book on that level.

I have to admit, futuristic novels aren't my favorite, and I did have some problems completely understanding the myriad of concepts surrounding both the PsyNet and the cultural mores of the changelings. It was a little difficult for me to really wrap my mind around all of it as it was laid out in this particular book. I have complete faith in Singh, though, and have no doubt that this unique world will continue to flesh out and come into clearer focus for me the longer I stick around. And trust me, I absolutely intend to stick around in this completely original and thought-provoking, emotional and romantic, and exquisitely well written series.

Count to Ten by Karen Rose

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: N/A
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 550 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle

A VERY Full Count

In the city of Chicago a young woman is raped and murdered and a house ignites into an inferno, sparking a wave of arson and murder that is as chilling and horrendous as it is calculated. Spurred by an unslakeable rage, damaged by an unspeakable past, a killer stalks the night, searching for a helpless vengeance long denied.

Chicago Fire Department Lieutenant Reed Solliday is teamed up with CPD Homicide Detective Mia Mitchell to stop a killer with a taste for the beast. Just back on active duty following a shooting that put a hole in her and almost killed her partner, crippled by some personal issues that haunt her nights, Mia doesn't make the best first impression on Solliday, but it doesn't take long before the spirited detective first earns his respect, then his admiration as a grueling case tests their mettle beyond anything either had previously experienced.

Even as they tighten the net around the killer, the body count rises higher and higher, but it is when the attacks get personal and the killer strikes at Mia that Reed realizes professional respect has warmed into something far more personal. Their feelings for each other may just serve to throw more gas on an already raging fire if they can't stop a madman before the next time he counts to ten.

Karen Rose writes the type of romantic suspense I most favor, featuring a serial killer or single person threat and the the subsequent crime solving and capture, where the romance and suspense aspects are blended with a satisfying number of subplots and supporting characters that enhance both main plot lines. They are thorough, detailed, complex, and often with tragic but insightful glimpses into the minds of psychopaths or sociopaths, their victims, and the heroes who fight for them.

In that vein, Count to Ten was successful, but for the first time reading a book by Rose, I felt like the book was a little over written, with too much detail, too many subplots, and a too drawn out search for a killer. At well over five hundred pages, I couldn't help but feel like several plot threads were superfluous and the book could have been just as thorough without feeling overdone had it been more tightly edited.

That being said, I can't help but admire how thoroughly the main characters Reed and Mia were developed. Flawed, strong, three dimensional characters, they were likable, believable, and real. Mia, more familiar to me from her appearance in a couple of Rose's previous books as a secondary or ancillary character, was given a ton of baggage that played exceptionally well as fodder for her neurosis and personal issues. Reed's childhood, his issues with his daughter, and the damage he still carries from the loss of his wife were relegated more to the background and weren't nearly as layered as Mia's many issues, but were enough to round him out and give him plenty of depth. Still, I couldn't help but think that maybe one or two pieces of Mia's baggage could have been left in the authorial trunk to trim down the story a bit without losing the flavor of her character.

I'm also torn between admiring the realistic, meticulous clue-following of the investigation, even as it lead to one red herring and misdirection after another until the killer was on the ropes, and feeling like the investigation got bogged down in several places because of those misdirections and red herrings. And if that contradiction isn't enough, I also admired the development of the romance between Mia and Reed, which seemed organic to the characters, slowly developing in a realistic manner, yet was left feeling not completely satisfied by the culmination of that romance.

It's frustrating, actually, how conflicted I ended up being about Count to Ten. There were aspects of the book that were heartbreaking and traumatic, and parts that seemed a bit too convenient. Parts that were thrilling and tense, and parts where my attention wandered. Parts that totally satisfied, and parts that didn't. It's a very thorough story, but a little too thorough. In the end, it's simply a book that had a little too much content for my taste...even though I liked most of that content.

Amaury's Hellion by Tina Folsom

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Scanguards Vampires, Book 2
Rating: 2 Stars
Length: 272 Pages, 4482 Locations
Formats: Paperback, Kindle

Amaury's Hellion (Scanguards Vampires #2)
Less Appealing Than Samson's

Cursed to be forever battered by the encroaching emotions of every living being surrounding him while love is forever denied, forced to seek the solace of silence in the release of sex, Amaury LeSang has spent hundreds of years tormented by the pain of a horrendous mistake he made. He hides the pain and loneliness from his friends and coworkers at the vampire-owned security company, Scanguards, and suffers in silence...until the night he is stalked by a hunter who knows what he is, a hunter who is determined to make him pay the ultimate price for his life of blood.

Nina Martens didn't know much about her brother's death, but she knows who to blame. She'd found the notes her brother had left, scribblings that told of the existence of monsters, and where to find them. Carefully staking out the men - the vampires - who run Scanguards leads her to Amaury LeSang, and she follows him one night, intent on ambushing him and getting a little payback for her baby brother. She wasn't expecting him to pick up her tail, to turn the tables on her...and she sure wasn't expecting him to kiss her instead of kill her.

She was so shocked by her body's traitorous response to that kiss that she dropped her stake and took off as soon as she slipped his grasp. He was so bemused by the stake that it wasn't until Nina was long gone that he realized he hadn't once heard her emotions. And suddenly, the woman who quite obviously wants him dead is the first glimpse of peace he's had in hundreds of years.

This second book in the Scanguards Vampires series was a bit of a disappointment for me after the unique series opener, Samson's Lovely Mortal. Lacking the originality and the amusing twists, Amaury's Hellion seemed more generic and recycled in both plot and character. That's not to say it was bad, per se, but it wasn't what I was hoping for after the promise of the series debut.

Amaury's character was the largest let down. When introduced in the first book, he seemed dark and tortured with an edge of sexual cruelty, but those character traits seemed homogenized here, and he quickly became more a fluffy romance guy (with fangs) once he and Nina hooked up. And it seems that every major PNR series has to have that one vampire (or demon or whatever) who is doomed to have daily meaningless sex through the ages as punishment for some past sin. Just off the top of my head I can think of two: the Black Dagger Brotherhood series went that route with Rhage and Lords of the Underworld has Paris, keeper of Promiscuity. Nothing new was added here to offer Amaury's curse its own twist. I loved the idea of Samson seeing a shrink for erectile dysfunction in the first book (that's still hilarious to me), and there just wasn't anything to compare here. I just kept wondering why, if Amaury was so tortured by his curse, he didn't live out in the country where the emotions of others couldn't reach him.

Nina was a pretty typical, and unfortunately forgettable, heroine. I've never been a big fan of characters who think that an awareness of vampires instantly turns them into SuperBuffies, faster than a speeding splinter and able to leap tall, dark, and fangy with a single bound. It's a characterization cliche that has been heavily overplayed in books, and didn't work for me any better here. And of course Nina is the only one in all the world who can quiet Amaury's emotion reading, because she's the one with a grudge against vampires who is stalking Amaury based on the unexplained scribblings of her dead brother. I wanted to buy it, but I just didn't.

They did have some chemistry together, though, despite my issues with their characters as individuals, and while I didn't think Amaury was the character that we'd been introduced to in the previous book, I certainly didn't dislike him. Nina got on my nerves a little, yes, but Amaury wasn't a bad guy. I just wish he'd fulfilled the promise that he'd had.

The book also had some of the same sort of grammatical and editing issues that the first book had, and the narrative seemed to lack polish because of it. There were some very odd moments in the dialogue between Amaury and Nina that seemed stilted and unnatural. It gave the book that same lack of sophistication that I noticed in Samson's Lovely Mortal, but it didn't detract too much from the overall reading experience.

This wasn't a bad book, really, and for fans who like their PNR with a lot of yummy sex, I can imagine this will be a big hit. Unfortunately, it just didn't quite offer me all that I'd hoped it would, and the issues with the characters and plot kept me from appreciating it as much as I did the first book. I still have promise for the series, though, and intend to follow up with Gabriel's Mate (Scanguards Vampires #3) soon.

The Darkest Secret by Gena Showalter

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Lords of the Underworld, Book 7
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 410 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle

The Darkest Secret (Hqn)
Secret Concerns

Amun, keeper of the demon Secrets, is suffering unimaginable torture from the demons he absorbed in hell while on a rescue mission with Aeron and William to save Aeron's pseudo-daughter Legion. The voices and urges from hundreds of beings of pure evil are quickly driving him mad and putting him in danger of death from the cadre of angels sent to prevent those demons from escaping. No one can get close to Amun without feeling their sadistic influence. No one can stop Amun from tearing his own body apart in misery. No one, that is, except the one woman all the Lords loathe, a woman named Haidee. The Hunter responsible for their brother Baden's beheading.

She was alive, again, and driven by revenge to wipe the Lords from the earth. Forced to reanimate every time she died, Haidee had lived a thousand lives, hunting evil in its demonic form. Just recently she and her crew went after the demon Defeat in the Lord Strider. She didn't die, but she didn't win either, and now she was a prisoner in their stronghold.

When she hears a voice in her head cry out for her and tunnels her way into the room beside where she's being kept, she sees who she thinks is her brutally tortured boyfriend Micah and is driven by a deep, dark connection that was foreign to their relationship. Regardless, it made her determined to save him from the Lords and their heinous punishments.

Strider can hardly believe it, but the woman he captured, the woman who he beheaded a thousand years ago for the death of his friend, was not only somehow alive, but her presence seemed to soothe Amun as nothing else did. As nothing else was supposed to be able to do. No matter how much he may sexually desire the beautiful, deadly enemy, no matter how he resented her obvious and instantaneous attachment to Amun, he would give her to his closest friend. Until they found a cure for him. Then Strider would happily take Haidee's head once again.

As the truth of the their identities is revealed to Amun and Haidee and the bond between them grows as strong as it is inexplicable, they realize that both his friends and hers will do anything - give anything - to end their lives as soon as Amun's demons are released. Regardless that Haidee is the key to that release. And as he spends more and more time with her, Amun starts to wonder how he could ever conceive of letting her go, no matter that his feelings for the murderess could cost him his friends...and his life.

It's hard to believe that we're already reached the seventh book in the Lords of the Underworld series. Showalter is definitely one of the premiere paranormal romance authors out there. I've followed the series since the beginning, liking some books more than others, but throughout it all I have admired her writing style, her slick narratives full of mythology and series-born mythos, complicated plots, conflicting agendas, and sizzling romance. Showalter has a way of writing an exceptionally readable book that pleases my preferences for romance and offers yummy alpha males, ribald humor, and a bit of bloodshed to make it all matter.

In The Darkest Secret, in fact, the romance was once again the center of the book plot, and thankfully so, as the lack of same was one of my main complaints with the previous book. There were far fewer ancillary plot threads, far less muddying of the romantic waters. And there was all that hot sex that Showalter does so well. In that regard, the book was definitely one of the better installments I've read recently.

There's a flip side, though. There were aspects of the plot of this book that struck me as being a little too convenient throughout, like the fact that Haidee was the only one who could hear Amun talking in her head, or the bookbag that filled as needed and requested, or Micah's fate. Too many little conveniences like those made things seem a little too easily resolved whenever the crap started hitting the fan. Then there were the major conveniences that pop up at the end - but I'll get back to that in a minute.

Also a problem for me were some things that weren't very well detailed or explained, such as the Bad Man's identity or the full scope of Haidee's ice, or that struck me as treading dangerously close to being plot holes, such as why Haidee's "infection" seemed to initially affect everyone who had extended contact with her except for Amun, or why she returned to her cave when the angel said she wouldn't. There was also one particular pendulum that had swung a little too far in the other direction between this book and the last.

I felt The Darkest Lie suffered a dearth of romantic plot development but had a messy overabundance of secondary series arc plot development coupled with too many ancillary plot threads. The Darkest Secret went in the opposite direction. It had plenty of romantic development, but didn't seem to further the series arc at all. Ancillary plot threads that progressed the subplots of Promiscuity's spiraling self destruction and William's issues with Gilly, as well as those that introduced Defeat's forthcoming romantic arc were blended together well, but were very brief and largely superficial.

Despite all that, I was liking this book just fine for the strength of the romance alone, which I felt was the best all-around blend of appealing character and storyline since The Darkest Whisper. Then I got to the end and once again felt the same frustration I've felt to varying degrees for every ending of every book since and including The Darkest Whisper. And in this case, the frustration level was very high.

Not only did the resolution leading to the conclusion far too closely resemble an ending from a previous book, but a pivotal character acted in a manner that directly contradicted previously developed character definition for no reason other than some sort of  nebulous "I don't know why I feel this way but I won't tolerate it" bullshit that came out of nowhere. And to top off that rather distasteful set of issues, there was nearly an entire chapter dedicated to a most loathsome literary device, the told-not-shown synopsis of events.

When those issues combined, I found the last few chapters of The Darkest Secret almost painful and very frustrating. And I've got to be honest, my concern for this series is growing with each installment. I feel like we're treading water in the war between the Lords and Hunters, Galen and Sabin, and Cronos and Rhea until everyone hooks up with their forever loves, and while I'm all for romance, there has been extensive groundwork laid for a major conflict and final resolution for the Lords. I'd like to get to that eventually. Hell, by this point I'd settle for appearing like we're at least moving in that direction.

Disclosure: This book was provided to me free of charge through the Amazon.com Vine program for the purpose of an honest review. All thoughts, comments, and ratings are my own.

Whispers on the Wind by Donna Fletcher

Genre: Historical Romance
Series: N/A
Rating: 5 Stars
Length: 352 Pages, 6583 Locations
Formats: Paperback, Kindle

Whispers on the Wind
Cultures Collide Most Charmingly

Having been raised in Nantucket, Massachusetts, where wives and children of husbands and fathers who spent far more time away at sea than at home learned quickly to rely on themselves, Belinda Latham considered herself a modern and independent American woman. The year was 1808, and following the tragic death of her mother, stepfather, and uncle, Billie was alone in the world and virtually penniless when she received word from Cornwall, England, that she was the sole beneficiary of a wealthy estate in St. Clair. With little more than hope and a steady trust in herself, and of course more than a fair share of her father's adventurous spirit, Billie took the reins of her life fully in hand and left America for England, intent on becoming the next Lady of Radborne Manor. Not that she had the first idea on how to be a Lady, really, but the opportunity would not be passed up.

What she got was a wealthy but forbidding estate full of dour colors and lifeless severity, a couple of friendly servants who were a bit aghast at her independence, a murder mystery, and the sexy as sin ghost of the former Earl of Strathorn, Maximillian Radborne, who insisted in quite a full-blooded and corporeal fashion that the manor was his, the bedroom was his, and while Billie was welcome in it, she was to do nothing at all with her new home, as he liked it quite a lot just as it stands.

Billie, being the independent and progressive woman that she is, ignores the ghost - once that pesky fainting had passed - and sets about turning her new home and all its inhabitants, ghostly or not, on their ears.

Maximillian was running out of time to find the one responsible for his father's murder and his ghostly condition, and he was not thrilled to be left with only the stunning but stubborn witch Billie to help him. He had little choice, there were places he could not go, questions he could not ask, and he had to rely on her inherent curiosity to help him solve the mystery. Her inquiries, however, start drawing the wrong kind of attention and soon Max is torn between needing her help and wanting with heightening fervor to to keep her safe.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Billie's affections, Max is positively beside himself. While he knows he stirs her nightly passions, the local vicar John Bosworth has become quite her confidante these past weeks, and is obviously stirring her softer emotions. And no amount of bellowing at her to get rid of the fop is doing him any good whatsoever. He's got to find a killer, that must be his top priority, but he can't keep his mind off Billie, despite knowing his time running out. One way or another, his ghostly spirit will be laid to rest.

I freely admit, I'm not a history buff. I couldn't begin to critique a historical romance on the merits of historical accuracy beyond the most egregious anachronisms. Like the use of a cell phone in Regency England or something. I don't even read enough historical romance to have more than the most basic grasp of certain times and cultures, so my feelings about this book are in no way based on technical historical accuracy.

It was only fair to get that off my chest, because I loved this book. I did. I'm not even that big a fan of the genre, but I saw it available for my book-hungry Kindle for the ridiculously cheap price of $.99 and I thought, "Eh, how bad could it be for that? It's probably a novella."

Ha! Not only was the book not bad (yeah, I know, double negative - sorry), but it also was in no way a novella. In fact, it's quite a thorough and lengthy book, so my deal-loving, reading-frenzied heart just went pitter-patter all the way through the thing.

The characters were great. I loved, loved, loved Billie, who was so clearly American in all ways. I can't recall ever reading a book quite like this before, where the effects of the difference in the cultures between America and a feudal England were so brilliantly utilized as both character development and a plot device. Billie, a relatively common woman by Nantucket standards, fresh from a country that disdains any form of monarchy and raised to be a self sufficient and independent free-thinker is thrust into a position of Lady of a wealthy manor and suddenly has servants and social obligations. Not only does her upbringing so clearly define her mind and actions, it totally confuses and enchants...or frustrates...absolutely everyone she comes in contact with to often humorous or at least endearing results.

And I thought her reaction to the ghost of Maximillian was both adorable and believable. Had it been a contemporary novel, it would not have worked for me at all, but it wasn't, and it did. Expounding any more on that would give away too many of the secrets of the book, so I won't.

Actually, about those secrets...none of them were all that secretive. It was relatively easy to suss out the mystery and put all the pieces of the great big puzzle together pretty much from the beginning. If I was forced to say anything critical about the book, I guess that would be it. For all the twists and turns of the plot, and there were a plethora of them, none of it was in any way surprising to me, so the impact of any big reveal moment just didn't work.

That usually annoys me. In fact, I've criticized more than one book for that very thing, and yet in this case, it just didn't. And I know why it didn't. Because Billie was just so darn appealing a character, and she didn't take any guff from Max, no matter how loudly he bellowed or how insistent he became, or how annoying he was popping into any room he wanted whenever he wanted. I just loved that about her. And so I didn't much care that she wasn't as astute in figuring out one or two tiny little plot points. She was brave, and she stood up for herself, and she relied on herself. I admired that.

Yeah, Max was a charmer, too. His whole Lord of the Manor attitude was so completely ineffectual with Billie that it was hard not to just be amused by it. And Billie did figure out quite a lot, even if she wasn't totally certain of some things. I loved them together. I even liked the vicar, who just gave Max fits. I certainly have no complaints over the technical writing aspects either. The narrative was smooth, nicely descriptive, and the dialogue fast and fun and conversational...or seemed to be for the time period, but what do I know?

So yeah, I guess there were aspects of the plot that were a bit too easy to figure out, but in the end, for me it all came down to the characters and their chemistry. It came down to Billie. And Max. And my deal-loving, book-hungry Kindle. If you like fun characters with tons of chemistry and a female heroine with more spine than common sense (to be fair, she had a lot of spine) in your historical romance and don't mind a ghost or two, I can happily recommend Whispers on the Wind. In fact, at that price, I pretty much insist on it.

Love Potion No. 2-14 by Pepper O'Neal

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: N/A
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 722 Locations
Formats: Kindle

Love Potion No. 2-14 (A Valentine's Tale) (Cupid Gone Wild)
Short But Cute Novella

When Detective Gage Corwin finds out that his best friend has ended up married after being given a love potion sold by alleged white witch Kole Trillion, he made it his mission in life to nail her for fraud. He doesn't believe in magic, the idea of love potions is absurd, and Kole has to be a slick con artist to take such advantage of her gullible patrons. Problem is, he can't seem to find one single person to say anything bad about the woman, much to his annoyance. In fact, every person Kole has "helped" does nothing but sing her praises, including his best friend, who has never been happier. It's driving him nuts. Kole drives him nuts. He can't stop thinking about her but he doesn't trust her as far as he could throw her.

Kole is secure in herself and her power, happy with her business, and other than having distressingly strong feelings for a cop who holds everything she is and does in contempt, lives a deeply satisfying life helping as many people as she can. And she's content to go right on doing that until Gage takes things one step too far and gets himself shot by Cupid's arrow for his impertinence. Of course, the stubborn mule blames her.

Love isn't supposed to hurt like this, and unless Gage can start seeing the truth behind that arrow in his heart he may very well lose the best thing that hasn't happened to him yet.

Treading the line between short story and novella, this simple but sweet romance with a touch of magic appeals on a lot of levels. There's not much room for a significant amount of character development or plot, but O'Neal has a pleasant writing style and an ability to flesh out her main characters quickly enough that they still pack an emotional punch.

The premise is a little silly, the plot a bit predictable, and Gage is sort of a ninny through most of it, but it's just light, fun entertainment that ends on a happy note. I do wish Cupid had played a more visible role throughout and I thought the ending was jarringly abrupt, but there was enough to provide a few fluffy bites of pleasure regardless. It also got me interested in what O'Neal could do with a longer format. I'll be looking for more from her.

Naughty But Nice by Jill Shalvis

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Bare Essentials; Harlequin Blaze
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 256 Pages, 2911 Locations
Formats: Paperback, Kindle

Naughty but Nice: Bare Essentials (Harlequin Blaze, No 63)
Blazing Hot and With Surprising Depth

Shortly after her high school graduation ten years ago, Cassie Tremaine Montgomery kicked off the provincial dirt of Pleasantville, OH and headed to NYC to be someone. She had been considered a wild child, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, the daughter of the town wanton. All she wanted was to escape poverty and keep her heart safe from the sort of betrayal and hurt she suffered at the hands of the town, and most notably the town sheriff. In the ten years since, she became a wildly successful lingerie model, earned wealth and fame, and had built an impenetrable shield around herself, keeping her vulnerabilities and insecurities safe behind a mask of urbane sophistication. Until a stalker shook her to her foundations and sent her fleeing to Pleasantville for safety, and maybe just a little revenge on a town that had turned its nose up at her all those years ago.

Sheriff Sean 'Tag' Taggart is through with high maintenance women, and at thirty-two, is looking towards his future with a comfortable wife who will be a partner and helpmate to him. When the calls start coming in about one Cassie Montgomery being back in town and stirring up trouble, he does what any self respecting law man would do, gives her a ticket and denies the instant, sizzling attraction. He recognizes that the prickly, obstinate woman is the exact opposite of his fantasy woman. A few years older and several classes ahead of her in school, he never paid much attention to the rumors about her being wild, but he could easily see the trouble in her eyes now. Still, something about the tense flash of pain when she sees him in uniform draws him closer, and soon he realizes that her chilly response to him and her brash exterior hides a deep well of old wounds and a soft heart.

She's resistant to anything but a good time, he's intent on forever, but no amount of incendiary chemistry will be able to save them when their past slams into them and strips away all the masks, walls, and preconceptions.

What a great Blaze! It offered up quite a bit more story than I expected. Yes, the sex is smoking hot, and the characters are sizzling together, but in traditional Jill Shalvis style, there's also a surprising amount of depth and a wealth development given to the characters to flesh them out nicely and provide some decent pathos.

Tag wasn't as complicated or messed up as Cassie, true, but I favor romance in which the male lead is the one looking for forever and the woman is the one that's cagey about settling down, and his issues with his father - while perhaps glossed over and underdeveloped - provided a few nice layers to his character. He wasn't perfect, thankfully, and there were a few times he acted like a jerk, which kept him human, certainly, but he was a generally decent guy and I liked how clearly he saw through Cassie to the special woman beneath the glamor.

Cassie, on the other hand, was truly a flawed character with no small amount of bitterness over a past that wasn't as unkind to her as she remembers. She drags her past around with her, memories of poverty and ridicule are painfully fresh, and she wears the heavy yolk of her mother's indiscretions like an ermine stole. As a result, she has built up a 'shoot first, ask questions never' sort of personality, so much so that the concept of simple friendship is utterly foreign to her. Normally that would make a character pretty unlikable for me, yet there was something about Cassie's genuine confusion and sort of adorable befuddlement over the smallest kindnesses that was appealing and tugged at my heart.

Tag's attempts to connect with the heart of the woman provided a lot of nice conflict as they both evolved and their life goals slowly changed to make room for each other. Of course, they had plenty of smoking hot sex during the process, but it's a Blaze - I'd be disappointed if they didn't.

My only real issues with the book were an abrupt and rather pedestrian epiphany that Cassie has after a single conversation with her mother and the underdeveloped and unnecessary stalker plot thread. It was superfluous and served as more of a predictable and boring distraction than an interesting companion to the romance. The book could have thrived just as well with Cassie's issues had Tag's character been given a little more internal strife or the thread with his father been expanded.

Regardless, this was a totally likable book that offered more depth in both the characters and the story than I've seen in other Harlequin Blazes. It was a surprisingly satisfying, if less complex read by one of my preferred authors for light, humorous contemporary romances.

Crimson Wind by Diana Pharaoh Francis

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Horngate Witches, Book 2
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 384 Pages, 4927 Locations
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle

Crimson Wind (Horngate Witches)
Liked It...But I'm Perplexed

It's been four weeks since Max and the Horngate Witches, Shadowblades, and Sunspears fought off the initial attack of the genocidal Guardians, gaining two powerful angels as allies in the aftermath of the melee. Max suffers no delusions, though. She has no doubt that whatever the Guardians have planned next is going to make that battle seem like a picnic in the park as they rid the earth of humans and bring back the magic that has long since slipped from the world.

As Prime to the witch-bitch Giselle, Max is compelled by magic to protect Horngate and defend the Witch to the death. That job would be considerably less complicated if Giselle hadn't given Max over to the godlike entity Max calls Scooter, who is demanding in no uncertain terms that Max fulfill her promise to him and come with him to walk the web between worlds. Not that Max has any idea what that means...or what Scooter is, really. In fact, all she knows is that this is one promise she can't get out of alive...and one that may kill her by fulfilling.

Adding to Max's angst is the need to save the human family that she was ripped away from thirty years ago, as well as her conflicting emotions for Alexander, former Prime of the witch Selange but now freely associated with Horngate and considered one of her Shadowblades. Yeah, nothing quite like being caught between about five different rocks and six hard places to really spice up her life.

Now she's got to make a deal with Scooter for a little more time, then take a road trip through hell - literally - to get her family out of California and back to the relative safety of Horngate. And according to Giselle, she's got to take Alexander along with her to watch her back. If she survives, she has to give herself to Scooter. If she dies, so do many people under her protection. Either way, she's going to end up losing that which is most important to her, her home and the people there. Especially one very proud, very virile Prime who looks at her with emotions in his eyes that terrify her more than Guardians, Scooter, and an impending apocalypse combined.

This strong second installment to the Horngate Witches series was actually a bit more enjoyable a read for me than the first. From a technical standpoint, it's free from several of the issues I had with Bitter Night, with a better balance between description, world definition, mythos, and action. The exposition was thoroughly but succinctly handled, refreshing the minds of readers familiar with the series without weighing them down with an excessive rehash of information they already have, but providing a comprehensive summary of the previous events for readers new to the series. I even found myself much fonder of Alexander, who I had some problems with in the previous book.

Action scenes were plentiful and brutal, and Francis isn't any easier on Max or Alexander in this one. The plot is a little more focused, narrower in scope and mostly encompassing the road trip Max and Alexander go on to get her family. We also get a clearer picture of who Max is and what drives her, and are awarded several tense glimpses at her inner demons. And those are some nasty little buggers.

I do wish we'd have fewer prescient or far-sight prophecies flying around as the series continues. As a reader, I don't like when results of vague prognostication is used as points of conflict or as glimpses of future events. It tends to decrease my emotional investment if I know what's coming - even if I don't necessarily know how it's coming - and it leaves a pall over unfolding events if that glimpse is less than favorable. It can be a useful tool, sure, but in this book it was a plot device used more than once and not always successfully.

At the center of the series is the complex and often conflicted Max, a bitter woman cloaked in barely caged rage at her circumstances, but a woman of strength and valor, with nearly suicidal heroic tendencies, who is just now starting to let some of the people around her in a little bit as she begins to realize how much she cares for them. She yearns for revenge against Giselle, which causes her physical pain, and often her loathing of what was done to her makes her downright frightful, yet her honor is unquestionable and her dedication unwavering.

It's clear from this book that while Giselle and Max may have reached an accord of sorts and agreed to a detente in the first book, neither forgiveness nor acceptance will be on the table any time in the near future. Their unique dynamic and the relationship Max has with her Shadowblades were the most compelling and unique aspects of the series premiere, Bitter Night, and is part of the cause for my perplexity in Crimson Wind, because the plot here precludes much interaction with Giselle or the Blades and Spears. There are several plot threads woven nicely into this book, and I was fascinated by some of the revelations about Max's family, but I'm left feeling a little confused as to the direction of the series given the events of this book, including a scene that introduces two characters that seemed rather superfluous in the big picture, and I'm unsure where the author is going with Max's character.

In fact, several times I found myself frustrated with Max, and wish familiar and fond secondary characters had a larger role to balance out some of the more annoying evidence of her emotional retardation. As much as I think the romantic subplot between Alexander and Max was much better defined and had a ton more emotion in it, the constant friction between them started to get to me after awhile and the rehashing of their different positions started to feel a little repetitive in theme. A bit more variety in characters and conflict would have been appreciated.

Crimson Wind is an odd book in that I enjoyed the story here more than I did Bitter Night, but was left with significant questions about the direction it seems to take the series and a drive to have those questions answered. With a long wait until the December 2011 release of the third book in the series, I'm going to have to be patient for those answers, because regardless of the issues and questions raised by either book, I can't argue that Francis has created a series that is original, fresh, and has a lot of promise. I'm highly motivated to see what comes next.

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

PhotobucketGenre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Elder Races, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars
Length: 336 Pages, 5803 Locations
Formats: Paperback, Kindle

Dragon Bound (A Novel of the Elder Races)
Loved. It.

Pia Giovanni has spent her life hiding her true half-human, half-wyr nature from the world, running when necessary, leaving everyone and everything behind at a moment's notice when needed. Since her mother's death, though, the isolation and loneliness weighed on her to such an extent that one moment of indiscretion with a man she thought she loved proved to be her undoing. He may be her ex-boyfriend now, but he's still blackmailing her into committing the sort of crime that will guarantee her remaining life expectancy is considerably shorter than that of an average fruit fly.

Breaking into the heavily warded and protected hoard of the oldest and most powerful Wyr Elders and stealing from the dragon is definitely not the sort of thing to do when trying to reach old age...or breathe your next breath.

To say Dragos Cuelebre was furious when he realized that someone had dared steal from him - something that no one had managed to do in all his many, many years of existence...and he remembers the birth of the solar system, so we're talking some serious time here - would be a gross understatement. The powerful head of the Wyr demesne and owner of Cuelebre Enterprises, a major corporate conglomerate of unimaginable wealth and influence, made it his mission to have the thief caught. Her scent on a note left behind during the theft is what made him determined to be the one who caught her himself.

Pia had run, though she knew it was futile. Dragos caught her, and had known that was inevitable. What neither expected was the talon-sharp sting of attraction, the mutual fascination, and the danger that they would both face when they realize that there is a much more insidious and manipulative force behind Pia's crime, a powerful evil intent on killing Dragos and keeping Pia for his own nefarious purposes.

Dragon Bound is one of those books that I fear I won't be able to do justice in reviewing. There were just so very many things that I loved about it that it becomes difficult to put it all into words. The world that Thea Harrison has created here is unique, detailed, and wonderfully descriptive. Cuelebre Tower reminded me a little of Archangel's Tower in Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter series, and there were definite similarities between Dragos and Raphael, but only in the abstract, as two very powerful and very inhuman creatures of unimaginable age and experience. The similarities served to enhance my appreciation of this book, not detract from it.

I thoroughly enjoyed Harrison's writing style. The narrative was smooth, there was a perfect blend of exposition and description, dialogue and action, and several scenes truly impressed me for their complete originality and uniqueness. I appreciated that Harrison didn't overwhelm the reader with a ton of world building, and instead kept the focus on the demesne and characters and creatures relevant to the plot of the book. That leaves tons of room for further development and widening world view in future books as the series progresses and kept the plot from bogging down in overly extensive detail in this book.

The plot itself was nicely layered but again, didn't overreach or overextend. Instead it was a sophisticated story woven with several strong, clear plot threads and cast with memorable, remarkable characters. The action scenes were plenty and brutal at times, but they were balanced with an admirable wealth of humor and a very complex and satisfying emotional journey for Pia and Dragos. In fact, while the motivation and parties involved in the theft that Pia was used to perpetrate was one of the major plots in the book, the relationship between Pia and Dragos was the story's focus, and I couldn't possibly be happier about that because I loved them both.

They were exceptionally well drawn, three dimensional characters with their own brilliant individuality, their own strengths, weaknesses, and flaws. Pia was independent, strong willed, and had some major trust issues, but she was also uncertain of herself in some situations and easily overwhelmed by Dragos' largesse, making her pleasantly easy to relate to. She was smart, could handle herself, but had an aching need to belong somewhere that softened her character and made her sympathetic. She also knew when not to go tumbling into trouble of her own making, but wasn't afraid to go toe-to-toe with one of the highest of top predators to ever exist. I loved everything about her.

Dragos was perfect in every way. His utter lack of conscience and his clinical confidence in himself and his powers was frightening...and his genuine bemusement and befuddled curiosity about Pia was often hilarious. He was arrogant, demanding, impolite, and more likely to rip your head off than chat with you, and he was delightfully charming when faced with something out of his extensive purview...like Twizzlers and Slurpees. Possessive, protective, autocratic, and dangerous as ten hells, yet tender and considerate in small ways. He was the perfect...the absolute perfect romantic hero and like Pia, I loved everything about him.

There just wasn't anything I didn't like in this book. Nothing I could come close to critiquing. For me, this book shamelessly seduced far too many of my personal reading preferences to even notice anything that didn't quite work for me. If there were any, I glossed over them in my euphoric state of reading Nirvana. Heck, I even tried to read it as slow as possible because I didn't want it to end.

The good news is that the second book in the series, Storm's Heart, is due out August 2nd, with the third, Serpent's Kiss, coming quickly after that on October 4th. I do so love when a new series I instantly fall in love with pumps out the first few books rapid-fire. It makes it so easy to become deliciously addicted. In all seriousness, though, Dragon Bound has instantly catapulted its way onto my list of Top Five Reads of 2011. If the subsequent books are even close to being as good as this one, I may have to expand that list to ten.

Eternal Hearts by Jennifer Turner

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Darkness Within, Book 2
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 306 Pages, 7886 Locations
Formats: Paperback, Kindle

Eternal Hearts
Beware the Boredom of Gods and Monsters

The only thing exiled fledgling Toni Tutoro wanted was to be allowed back into Chicago, the city where she'd been born and raised. Almost four years ago the brutal slaying of her human family set the new Warrior on a path of revenge and destruction that ended the life of six humans and almost broke the Veil, what vampires call the cloak of secrecy surrounding them that keeps their existence hidden from humans. The Lord of Chicago, Christian Locke, has ultimate authority on whether she stays or goes, and she's willing to do anything, give anything, live by any rule, just to be able to come home.

Contract killer Drake Black is a seething mass of aggression who doesn't trust vampires, especially female vampires, so when his boss specifically gives him a protection contract on a fledgling fanger back in town, Drake is more than a little put out. But he doesn't exactly have veto authority on the jobs he's given. Reluctant and bitter, Drake takes the contract to keep Toni safe until Lord Locke decides her fate, but it takes exactly fifteen minutes with the sultry Toni to realize that she's not like any other vampire he's ever met. Maybe because she's so young, maybe because her life has been so difficult, Toni is still so very human in so many ways, and it is that humanity that calls out to a dark, lonely place in Drake and offers him comfort.

What he assumed would be an odious task has turned into a pleasure for him. What she assumed would be a pride-pinching trial for her...well...is still a pride-pinching trial, but with yummy Drake Black beside her to make the time pass a little easier. Neither realize the scope and depth of the Machiavellian games of the Ancients; neither notice the political warfare being waged behind closed doors, pushing Toni closer and closer to a dangerous killer even as it pulls her and Drake apart. The cold truth is, Toni may have finally come back to Chicago...just to die there.

I was blown away by Eternal Seduction, the first book in the Darkness Within series, when I read it in May of last year, and I reread it just this past March as my anticipation grew for the release date of Eternal Hearts. Parts of the book lived up to my expectations and hopes, but unfortunately, they were small parts. There's a legitimate danger of falling into the oft-mentioned sophomore slump when a new series is cranking up, and I think that is what happened here. I still say with confidence that Turner has the writing chops to be a wildly successful author with a fresh, exciting voice who writes easily readable narratives and unique characters in an original world, but there were some problems in this book that I didn't see in it's predecessor.

There was an almost absolute dearth of exposition, so very little of the world was explained, terminology went undefined, and characters were light on previously established development. I read the first book in the series, reviewed it, and read it again in less than a year and yet I still felt lost when I stumbled across the unique terminology, history, and mythos of the world and creatures that Turner created. I wouldn't recommend a reader start the series with this book, but even if you've read the first one, you may want to refresh your memory before starting this one.

The main characters weren't as well defined and unique as Kerestyan and Logan, and neither Drake nor Toni were quite as appealing. Logan's emotional detachment and damage coupled with an odd sort of fatalistic strength and flawed valor were hugely attractive and really set her apart in the first book, and I loved the role reversal of Kerestyan being the love-struck and fully invested one in the relationship. Drake and Toni weren't equally complex or original and Toni in particular had the emotional equilibrium of a sugar-hyped thirteen year old with ADD. Secondary and ancillary characters didn't fair as well, either, and with the sole exception of Odin, who was just as wonderfully humorous as he was in the first book (and just as underused), none really had any presence that made them stick out in my mind. Well...there was Oktober...but that was not in a good way.

The plot also gave me some problems. It was all over the place in this book and had a few threadbare spots that teetered dangerously close to being actual plot holes. I appreciate an author who layers plot threads and weaves them together into a full, three dimensional story that has life and depth, but in this case I felt like there were a few too many threads and none of them seemed to be woven together in as cohesive and tight a whole as we saw in the first book. It threw off the pacing and timing of the book in several places and some sections just seemed awkward and misplaced. Plus there a ton of secrets and veiled motivations that involved almost every primary, secondary, and ancillary character in the book. Each of those had to have their own big reveal moment, so by the end they had lost the power to surprise or have significant impact. When looked at in total all those threads and surprises and secrets ended up seeming like a muddled mess of cross-purposes and conflicting agendas.

Despite those issues, there were some truly fun moments in this book, and I did really like Drake. I wish his dichotomy had been played up a little more from the beginning, but I enjoyed him very much, and I liked him and Toni together. Their romance was a bit fast to develop for my taste, but it was thorough and filled with genuine emotion that improved both characters, and had a sexuality that appealed. The whole romance plot arc was the strongest part of the book for me. I thought the inevitable conflict between them was realistic and true to the characters, the resolution pleasantly portrayed, and the culmination of their journey through the book completely satisfying.

Oddly enough, though, it was the epilogue that showed off Turner's brilliance and originality. In the epilogue we see what had been mentioned and alluded to in the first book and in several places in the second. It was my favorite part of the whole book because it framed and explained with perfect clarity the overall concept of the series even as the horror dawned. There is something chilling and deeply disturbing about the scope of the game when you start to really ponder it, absorbing with brutal understanding the inherent pettiness of it all - and how little concern for the...pieces there is in it. Beware the boredom of gods and monsters. That way lies horror and death.

I sincerely hope is that there is a much shorter wait until the third book in the series comes out. This one may not have appealed to me personally as much as the first, but there were parts I liked and enjoyed, and the world and the concept for the series arc is still very unique, fresh, and interesting, and several characters are definitely worth their own moments of long reader attention as leads in their own books. I look forward to whatever is coming next.

Edge of Sight by Roxanne St. Claire

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: The Guardian Angelinos, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 400 Pages, 5552 Locations
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle

Action-Packed and Sizzling Series Starter

Samantha Fairchild had nowhere else to turn after witnessing a high profile murder in the wine cellar of the posh restaurant where she was working as a waitress until the start of her Harvard law classes. The cops weren't going to go out of their way to help her, not after her checkered history with Boston PD. Still, she's the only witness to a professional hit on a popular news columnist, and she knows her life is in serious danger. Left with no options, she contacts Vivi Angelino, investigative reporter, for help. They were good friends three years ago, until Vivi's twin brother Zach swept Sam off her feet and kept her mostly on her back for the three weeks prior to him shipping out to Kuwait. She loved him. He left. And he didn't write. To survive the heartache, she drew away from Vivi and tried to move on with her life.

That loss still hangs heavy on her heart, but it pales in comparison to her will to live, so she slips out of her apartment and crosses town to meet up with Vivi at her apartment. Instead of her friend, though, Sam comes face to face with a scarred warrior she didn't even know was on home soil.

Zach Angelino had no intention of looking Sam up when he was discharged from the military. He lost an eye overseas, and shrapnel left one side of his face ravaged. If that wasn't enough to keep Sam at arm's length, the guilt of bad decisions weighs so heavily on him, there was never any doubt that his Sammi deserved worlds better than a bitter, brooding ex-military man dragging her down. Seeing her again stirs up emotions he thought he had under control, but finding out her life is in danger puts every single one of the senses he honed to razor sharpness overseas on high alert.

They may not have a future together, but if it was the last thing he did, Zach would make sure she at least had a future. He would guard her until a killer was caught and the threat neutralized. Saving her may be easier than walking away from her, he realizes, when Sam makes it clear she hasn't forgotten him, wants to forgive him, and still loves him...as much as he loves her.

Edge of Sight is the perfect example of a great way to kick off a new romantic suspense series. There was plenty of action, lots of deadly danger, and solid main characters with exquisite chemistry. I enjoyed Samantha, a strong, mature woman who not only knows her heart and mind, but deals with the threat to her life as realistically and as competently as one could hope given her established background, intellect, and common sense. I found her practical and likable, and enjoyed the fact that she accepts help when she doesn't want to because to not do so would be reckless. I appreciate characters who are smart enough not to risk their lives for pride or hurt feelings, but who don't let fear keep them from fighting the good fight.

Zach was a true treat, as well. His wounds wear on him physically and mentally, and his emotions run deep. His feelings for Sam are complicated and tangled up with old guilt, and he's got a lot of layers, a tendency to brood, and a predilection for keeping everyone who cares for him at arms length to protect himself. He's also determined, capable, and protective of both Samantha and his twin sister Vivi. He's a sexy bit of danger wrapped up in a yummy bundle of sensitivity and the whole of the package was very appealing.

Together, Zach and Sam's evolving relationship was full of heart-melting tenderness and bone-searing sensuality. I loved everything about them both.

I also think that the introduction to the members of the Guardian Angelinos went very well, and laid the groundwork and backbone of the series quickly and thoroughly, blending seamlessly with the suspense plot arc even as they helped flesh out Zach's character definition. The secondary and ancillary characters that were Vivi and Zach's family were fleshed out enough to give them a sense of individuality and likable personality that will tease readers into continuing the series to see how their lives progress.

The only part of the book that didn't work for me was the plotline of the actual investigation into the murder. It seemed sort of all over the place, with information being handed out to the principles by questionable sources and taken as gospel without corroboration, as well as some odd leaps in logic to get from point A to point B. Solving the case ended up seeming more about being in the right place at the right time than actual investigation.

When I combined that issue with some questionable behavior on the bodyguarding side of things, the actions of the various Guardian Angelinos occasionally seemed unprofessional for a group of supposed professionals, and appeared, at times, too awkward and ungainly to be taken seriously. I am definitely not schooled on the ins and outs of protection services, but I would think one of the primary goals would be to lessen potential dangers to the principle. And I'm not sure traipsing all over creation and to and from a safe house without more than a cursory check for surveillance or a tail is really the way to go when you know you have more than one group after you. I found myself questioning the choices of character actions now and then as a result of that.

For a series debut, there was a lot here to like, and I'm excited by my first foray into the romantic suspense of Roxanne St. Claire. The romance appealed to me very much, and to be honest, it was so strong and satisfying, the characters so likable and sympathetic, and the relationship evolution so appealing to my personal tastes that any dissatisfaction I had with the whodunit or suspense aspects didn't severely impact my thorough enjoyment of the book. I'm very pleased with this series debut, and look forward to spending more time with the Guardian Angelinos as the series continues with Shiver of Fear and Face of Danger.

The Guardian Angelinos Series:
Edge of Sight (The Guardian Angelinos) Shiver of Fear (The Guardian Angelinos) Face of Danger (Guardian Angelinos)

Ratings Guide

Here is a rundown of what the star ratings mean to me! It's not a perfect system, so you may see me add in a .5 star here and there if my impression of the book falls somewhere between these:

5 Stars - Loved it
4 Stars - Liked it
3 Stars - It's okay
2 Stars - Didn't like it
1 Star - Hated it

2014 Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Tracy has read 22 books toward her goal of 175 books.


Tracy's bookshelf: read

Zero at the BoneHead Over HeelsLord of the WolfynIn Total SurrenderA Win-Win PropositionNorth of Need

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