Sunday, March 25, 2012

Review: The Runaway Countess by Leigh Lavalle

Review: The Runaway Countess by Leigh Lavalle

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

For more information about this author or the backcover blurb visit Leigh Lavalle's website here.

Love has a way of opening your eyes, even when you don’t want too…

For Trent Carthwick, Earl of Radford, justice and the rules of law have always come before emotions. He’s steadfast in his duty to parliament, and believes in truth and honor above all. So the presence of a highwayman running rampant through his village and preying on friends of his father is the last thing he wants to malign his character. The one person who can reveal the highwayman is a prisoner… err, guest in his home. Although it will take more than threats to loosen the lips of this beguiling beauty, Mazie Chetwyn, and Trent’s finding it hard not to fall into a trap.

Lavalle’s debut is delicious! There’s something to be said for a story of a woman on the run and an Earl crossing paths. Although, Mazie isn’t everything she appears to be and neither is Trent. From the get go, I was submerged in a story that had me turning the page’s with an urge to know more. The most captivating part is the emotions that plague and tie Trent and Mazie together. They’re both trying to protect something, and neither of them can see a solution that comes out in their favor. Add in a growing attraction, that they can’t expel, and it’s plain to see disaster sits on the horizon.

Trent is arrogant, and devoted to the rules. He’s determined to get his way—regardless of the cost, except what way that is he isn’t sure, as every turn and twist in discovering the highwayman opens the floodgates to problems he didn’t know he had. Mazie is running from previous abandonment, and desires to be free of anyone’s control. She refuses to yield to Trent’s requests for her honesty, hoping instead to lead him on a merry chase while she plots her escape.

As the days tick away Trent discovers more about Mazie, bringing a wave of additional attraction and sympathy to this wayward woman. Mazie on the other hand is shocked to discover that each assumption she has towards Trent is somewhat unfounded, though her hesitations toward disclosure remain. As the blurb describes it’s a constant battle of passion, wit, and deflecting the truth from one another as Mazie and Trent play out their dangerous dance.

My one caveat to this story is completely personal; the villains didn’t get their just reward! Oh, not that the villains weren’t evil. They were, despicably so. I just felt they didn’t receive the punishment they deserved. It made me angry to see Trent, a man so influenced by justice, refusing to exact more of a punishment. If it was possible, I’m not sure, but it would’ve been nice.

I will say Lavalle kept me on my toes, and created a real sense of doubt. I didn’t think the characters would get an HEA. I didn’t believe that enough growth had occurred, when in reality the growth was there. You just get the deliverance at the right time and right place! Overall, if you like a story where characters must question their own beliefs, and evaluate their scruples then this book is one to read. It’s a love story that reminds me of how love can form between different people, and even when it makes you question the very ideals you hold dear.

*Previously featured on The Season

Saturday, March 10, 2012

My busy busy busy life

I'm sure everyone noticed my absence from the blog. Okay, maybe not everyone, but a handful of people who follow this mish mash faithfully. Sidenote: Thank you faithful followers!

Anyhoo, I've been absent, but not because I wanted to be. The real world life took over and attacked like a vicious tiger digging into a zebra haunch. My online presence went from everyday to the spare moments between putting kids to bed and getting on the next project. All of this craziness culminated this weekend in a moment of insane planning and skill.
What moment you ask? The moment or should I say 4 day whirlwind of moving my mother in-law.
I can hear it now- the brakes in your mind just set against the wheels. There's a bit of squealing; you probably need some new pads. Yes, I moved my mother in-law... by myself! Or with limited help. This wasn't just an across town move. No this was a state-to-state move. Starting in the northern part of Missouri to my neck of the woods in Arkansas. You would think this would be simple, but I had my hands in all sorts of pots outside of the move: blog tours, reviews, day job emergencies, after school child care meltdowns (yes, my after school babysitter quit 2 days before the massive move), and a list of half a dozen other things to do. Plus, I'm actively plotting or trying to anyway. I really want to kick this book out that's been rattling around in my head since December.

Back to the point-- the move! The consumption of my free time began in early February. I started researching apartments for the dear 2nd mother of mine (for this story I'll call her Millie). Then came visiting potential dwellings, gathering applications, relaying information via phone about each one in an attempt to glean which one Millie seemed interested in. Next filling out applications, determining who was going to cover the deposit, utility potentials, etc. Finally Millie selected two potentials and I went out (children in tow) to visit each location (of course both were places I hadn't visited prior). Our decision was made by the 3rd week of February.

Then came moving logistics. Out of 4 sons, one of which is traveling for work (so I cut him some slack)... now we have 3 sons. Not a single one could be prevailed upon to put forth any moving effort. Each one developed able excuses to not assist. I was  ticked, but this reaction from the siblings of my dear husband was expected.

Regardless, I forged ahead. Rented a car to take me to Kansas City hell, reserved a box truck, aligned a babysitter, and get all traveling completed in one day...March 1st. I got in my rented Ford Escape (sweetest car I'll ever drive), drove 3 1/2 hours, picked up the box truck, and drove 30 minutes to Millie's. Lo and behold my surprise when 2 brothers were on site to help load the truck (I still have no clue how Millie convinced them to help, but she did). Unfortunately, Millie wasn't completely packed. So I got started. 7 hours later the truck was packed, the apartment cleaned out, and Millie loaded into the passenger seat ready for her new adventure. Then I drove another 3 1/2 hours back to my house!

Luckily Friday was a rest day... sort of. We did the utility dash! Water, Cable, DMV- Check! Electricity transfer was the only thing forgotten, but Millie received permission to wait until Monday. I spent Friday evening lining up help for the move. I found 1 friend and her daughter willing to assist. So Saturday morning, after a quick eggs and potato casserole breakfast, myself, Millie, my friend and 3 children traveled another 30 minutes to Millie's new home.

8 hours, a 10 ft. (full) box truck, 1 flight of stairs, 1 trip to Wally World, a dash to Lowe's, lunch via McD's, and1 lease signing later Millie was moved in. Food in the frig, bed set up, toilet paper located, and a TV plugged in... she was set. At least for the night. The following day I besieged my friend with another request for transportation. She has a minivan... I had a desk, chair and coffee table to transport. So we made a second trip to Millie's. Much to her delight and joy since she left all her furniture in KC, except for the bed. It took me about 2 hours to assemble the coffee table and chair, but in the end everything was alright. My palms and fingers throbbed signalling the brain with messages of murder, empty threats at most.
So.... if you ever, for 1 second, doubt that a 5'4 female can move a seventy year-old woman by herself, for the most part, think again! It can be done with a bit of planning, online absence, and focus. My body treated this experience like a giant cardio exercise. I don't believe I lost any weight, but I used muscles that couldn't remember the definition of 'exercise'. Heck, exercise is a foreign activity to me. Reserved for those who have more drive for finely toned body parts.  Now, I'm back and as you've seen the reviews are flowing again.

This weekend... spring cleaning, hopefully!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Review: Kiss Me I'm Irish by Roxanne St. Clair, Jill Shalvis, Maureen Child

Review: Kiss Me I'm Irish by Roxanne St. Clair, Jill Shalvis, and Maureen Child

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

For back cover blurb and more information on this book visit this website.

Looking for a book to get you ready for the upcoming Irish Holiday? Then look no further as this anthology will have you aching for a little Irish brogue and leprechaun luck.

Kiss Me I’m Irish is a compilation of three contemporary romance stories all featuring a hunk with a four-leaf clover background. All three were previously released by the authors some years ago, but the added bonus is you get a little explanation from each author—a behind the scenes look at the inspiration for the story.

First up is The Sins of His Past by Roxanne St. Claire. Rating 4 out of 5 stars

Deuce Monroe is back in town! Having lost his baseball contract, he’s ready to take over running the family bar. Yet, the bar is no more replaced with an Internet cafĂ© and ran by the woman he’d left behind, Kendra Locke. I love stories of re-discovered romance. This one hits the bill. There’s a ton of playful, witty banter and emotionally charged moments that will make you feel for both Deuce and Kendra.

Next up, Tangling with Ty by Jill Shalvis. Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars

Nicole Mann, doctor extraordinaire, has never been good with relationships. She’s focused on work alone until she meets sexy architect, Ty O’Grady. His Irish accent, and genuine smiles keep her thoughts drifting to uncharted territory. She’s not so sure she wants to get involved, but Ty’s determined that he and Nicole should tango.

This story was probably my least favorite. While I like the bad boy, Ty, he’s built up to have some big dark secret. When in reality his secret wasn’t all that big or dark. The entire thing was a bit like false advertising, but I guess how horrible a secret can be is in the ear of the listener. Shalvis does have a wonderful villain in this story, and I did enjoy seeing him get his just desserts from the heroine. Nicole is definitely a tough cookie, and from the heroine perspective she’s strong. So if strong heroines are your thing then this story will be probably be a fav.

And finally…Whatever Reilly Wants by Maureen Child. Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars

Conner O’Reilly is supposed to be steering clear of sex for 90 days. That’s the wager, and he’s bound and determined not to lose out to his other brothers. Deciding he needs to stick to non-tempting territory, Conner plans on spending most of his time at his friend Emma’s shop. A great idea until Emma becomes offended by Conner’s dismissal of her female anatomy. Emma won’t be treated that way and she’s gonna prove it, one short skirt and sultry glance at a time! I liked this story a bunch. Child’s character development is awesome and the story left me wondering what happens to Conner’s other brothers. I really wanted to know the entire family’s story by the time I was done. The unfortunate part is that Conner doesn’t put up much a fight. He comes off a bit weak and easily distracted, especially when dealing with a bombshell dressed Emma.

Overall the stories are good and of course if you’re a fan of anything Irish then you’ll enjoy the hero’s. The best part is the note from each author with the story background and the intentions behind each tale.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review: A Waltz at Midnight by Crista McHugh

Review: A Waltz at Midnight by Crista McHugh

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

For back cover blurb and more information about this book visit Crista's website here.

When someone begs... no, offers to pay you to write letters to get rid of a suitor just say no!

In Susanna Parkwell's case she can't turn away the offer for a few extra coins. Especially when her brother desperately needs the money to continue his education. What Susanna doesn't expect is to become enthralled with the very man she's supposed to rebuke. Susanna is a bit of a day dreamer, surprisingly enough since she's survived the Civil War and lost everything she holds dear. At the same time Susanna has a practical and near cynical view of the fairy tale ending that she secretly longs for. I do believe the lady protests too much, and indeed it's not long before Susanna finds herself wishing the man behind such poignant responses to her witty diatribe would come and sweep her away.

Theodore at first glance appears to be a bit of weakling. He's guided by his father's purse strings and not much else. When his father informs him that he must marry, and that a match has already been selected he merely gives in to the inevitable. This trait did not endear Theo to me in the least, but I kept reading... hoping for Theo's redemption. Honestly he's a hero, so he better do something amazing. McHugh quickly turned the tables. Theo's capitulation to his father's desires is just one of many facets to his character. The truth of Theo becomes apparent through the correspondence with Susanna. The climatic meeting, and the events that follow are a Cinderella dream.

Overall, A Waltz at Midnight is endearing, and speaks to the little girl inside every woman that's looking for her prince to ride in on the white horse. Researching McHugh's previous writings revealed this is her first foray into the Historical Romance genre. After getting a small taste of what she's capable of, I can only hope there are more Historical Romance books on the horizon from this author!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Reading List: February 2012

This was the month to remember. I was just 3 books away from reading one for every day in the month of February. So close... unfortunately my personal life intervened. My other accomplishments or activities will be mentioned in another post, but let's just say that this past weekend was an extreme workout.

1. Fire Bapitzed by Kenya Wright **
2. The Runaway Countess by Leigh Lavalle ***
3. Tempted by Blood by Laurie London*
4. Heiress Without a Cause by Sara Ramsey*
5. Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
6. Once Upon a Wicked Night by Jennifer Haymore*
7. To Bewitch an English Knight by Alena Stuart*
8. Confessions of an Arranged Marriage by Miranda Neville***
9. A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare***
10. How Miss Rutherford Got Her Groove Back by Sophie Barnes***
11. The Rake and The Recluse: Ruination**
12. The Rake and The Recluse: Submission**
13. The Rake and The Recluse: Retribution **
14. Engaged With The Boss by Elle James
15. Bet On It by Jennifer Cruisie
16. Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens
17. By the Book by Scarlett Parrish
18. The Marriage Bed by Laura Lee Guhrke
19. And Then He Kissed Her by Laura Lee Guhrke
20. Faking It by Jennifer Cruisie
21. Catering to the Italian Playboy by Tamelia Tumlin*
22. The Rent-A-Groom by Jennifer Blake*
23. The Devil's Heart by Lynn Raye Harris
24. Getting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Cruisie
25. Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Cruisie
26. What the Lady Wants by Jennifer Cruisie
27. Charlie All Night by Jennifer Cruisie

*Review upcoming or available on my blog
**Review upcoming or available on Indie Books R Us
***Review upcoming or available on The Season

Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: Tempted by Blood by Laurie London

Review: Tempted by Blood by Laurie London

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

For back cover blurb and more information about this book visit Laurie London's website here.

Blue spiked hair, leather, piercings in tantalizing places--Jackson Foss is the ultimate bad boy. He's also a Guardian, sworn to protect humanity from the Darkbloods, vampires that have gone rogue and believe that humans should be cattle. Jackson has always followed the path of the Guardians, but lately he feels his edge is slipping. He's consuming more energy, more blood... and just a hairs breath away from becoming the very thing he's been destroying for over a century.

Arianna is just a girl interested in the paranormal, ever since her mother was attacked and killed by moving shadows. She's on the trail of a missing teenagers in the Seattle area, but her search for information is about to get in her a load of trouble. Enter a gorgeous man with a dragon blade to the rescue. Arianna's not sure if she can trust Jackson, but as the two get closer things heat up. The only question left is can they save each other before the enemy in the dark finds her?

Jackson's description above is missing one thing-- muscles. When I picture this guy he's the ultimate bad boy that has a motorcycle, and naturally attracts the attention of every girl in the bar. He definitely lives up to the reputation, but London finishes the fantasy by giving Jackson a deep and tortured side to. He's definitely got demons fueling his inner fire, and is constantly on the edge. At first glance you think what the other Sweetblood characters do, he's only after a good time. When Arianna comes onto the scene everything changes. Suddenly he's caring about a human in ways he's never felt about anyone. She's got him dangling on a string, and Jackson doesn't like it.

Arianna fights the attraction pretty well. She's more focused on her mission to reveal the truth behind the things lurking in the dark, and protecting her family. I love this character because she's incredibly strong and takes actions that go against the typical female reaction. For example the woman sees a vampire and instead of screaming out in horror she whips out a camera phone and starts snapping photos. London's heroine's are typically made of sterner stuff, but Arianna impresses.

Story flow and pacing are beautiful as always and next to London's first Sweetblood novel, Bonded by Blood, Jackson's story is one of my favorites. The villains are always a delight, and there's a good dose of humor in all the right places... in a few words: My Little Pony. If you want to know why the mention of a child's toy made me giggle you'll just have to read. London is just as amazing at painting a realistic environment, extremely detailed and in tune with our current reality. The vampire mythos in her story is equally engaging, and I hope she'll publish a companion book with stories about the history of the Guardians and the Darkbloods someday.

Overall, Tempted by Blood is a great read. It's fast paced and the action is rampant-- in the bedroom and out of it. The characters have personalities and quirks that drive you to them. Plus, if you're a fan of the series then you won't want to miss previous character appearances. Now, I'll patiently anticipate the next book, which honestly can't come fast enough!