Sunday, July 11, 2010

THE BRAZEN BRIDE by Stephanie Laurens (Published by Avon Books, July 2010)

This is the third book in Stephanie Laurens' "The Black Cobra" series. The first two books, "The Untamed Bride," and "The Elusive Bride" were riveting, entertaining and full of "edge of your seat" suspense. I cannot say the same for this third installment of the series.

The storyline follows four ex-Crown officers on a hair-raising mission who are traveling from India to England each carrying proof in the form of a scroll that would name and condemn an English aristocrat who has been terrorizing India for years in his bid for wealth and power. Only one of the officers carries the original, seal embossed scroll, while the others are decoys carrying copies. Somewhere along their trip, our heroes acquires a lady companion, albeit reluctantly; hence the romance aspect.

The Cynsters and the infamous "Spymaster" from "The Bastion Club" series, along with is English spies, all make appearances here. I always love catching up with characters from other series to see how life has unfurled for them and it was fun re-visiting such unique and interesting characters as the Cynsters and "Daziel" aka "the Spymaster" and his rogues from the previous two series.

However, this third book, "The Brazen Bride," was a huge disappointment. Ms. Laurens is known to have a heavy hand with the sex scenes in most of her books, but this book proved too over the top for me. The very first liasion comes on page 20! Ah, can you at least set up the characters first and let us get to know them, please, before you have them jumping each other? I could have dealt with that but for the fact that this activity occurred constantly until page 172. It was only after this point that the original storyline from the two previous books continued and the promise of a suspense filled book complete with twists and turns, came to fruition.

Having read the teaser for "The Reckless Bride" at the end of this book introducing the fourth and final cliffhanger of "The Black Cobra Quartet," I do have hope that it will fulfill the promise that was fully realized in the first two books of this series. I can confidently recommend those first two books, "The Untamed Bride" and "The Elusive Bride" as gripping, hell bent for leather, holding onto your seats, thrilling reads. I cannot same the same, unfortunately, for this third book for the reasons stated above.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

RAVISHED BY A HIGHLANDER by Paula Quinn (Published by Hachette Book Group, April 27, 2010)

The year is 1685. Robert "Rob" MacGregor is the first-born son and heir apparent of the MacGregors of Skye, one of the most powerful but mysterious clans in Scotland. Rob is a well-honed, disciplined and driven warrior who has been trained from birth to be a leader with the protection and welfare of his family and clan foremost in his heart and mind. As a result, for years he has put aside his own pleasures, honing his swordplay and making decisions for the clan alongside his father, all the while knowing that any weakness of body or mind could destroy everything he holds dear. He is stubborn, single-minded and driven and is known amongst his family and clan to have an unbreakable will once he has made a decision.

Despite the fact that he has no love for the English, he is on his way to England to attend the coronation of James of York, joining his family there to show their loyalty to the new king. It is on this trip that Rob comes upon an Abbey that is under siege, in flames and with few remaining men left fighting. Wanting nothing to bring undue attention to his clan, he tries to avoid a confrontation, but his fate is sealed by an arrow to his shoulder. And, who is the person who let loose that arrow? Lady Davina Montgomery.

Lady Davina Montgomery has lived her entire life behind the protective walls of St. Christopher's Abbey. Brought there as an infant for her own protection, Lady Davina is educated, but a sheltered, benevolent soul. Never having stepped beyond the Abbey's walls, she can only read about the outside world and dream what it would be like to live there. Although the sisters of the Abbey have always been kind and loving towards her, Lady Davina has never known a mother's or a father's love and she yearns for a normal life. However, she realizes that her destiny is out of her hands and her fate is sealed. She has been taught from birth never to trust anyone. For Lady Davina holds many secrets close to her heart. Secrets that could cost the lives of those who so tenderly and lovingly raised her, as well as her own life. It isn't until she is betrayed and saved from certain death by a heroic Highlander, that the Lady Davina begins to believe that perhaps her dreams can come true. Or can they?

"Ravished by a Highlander" by Paula Quinn is the first book in the Children of the Mist series. And, what a beginning!

This book keeps you guessing from the first to the last page, never knowing which way the story will turn or how it can possibly end. Ms. Quinn's descriptions are so vivid that you have no problem easily picturing them in your mind or feeling them in your heart. Her characters are rich, well developed, and multi-layered. I loved the interactions between Davina and Rob. Like all Highlanders, Rob can take a man's head from his shoulders in a blink of an eye, but he was so gentle and patient with the secretive and emotionally-guarded Davina. This book is filled with adventure, danger, tenderness, passion, deep intrigue and mystery. Ms. Quinn also weaves historical figures seamlessly into the storyline which enhances and adds a fascinating spin to it.

It was also great to re-visit characters from Ms. Quinn's previous books. Rob MacGregor is the son of Callum "the Devil" MacGregor and Kate Campbell, the leading characters from "Laird of the Mist" (another great read). Callum and Kate play significant roles in "Ravished by A Highlander." Finn Grant, a delightful secondary character in "Ravished By A Highlander," is the youngest son of Graham Grant and Claire Stuart from "A Highlander Never Surrenders" (yep, loved that one too). I always enjoy visiting with characters I came to love from an author's previous books and finding out how their lives turned out. Obvious now who the Children of the Mist are. I thoroughly enjoyed "Ravished by a Highlander" and highly recommend it.

As a final note, my first encounter with the work of Paula Quinn was in December of 2007. A friend of mine who knows my passion for Highlander romances gave me "Laird of the Mist" as a Christmas present. By the end of the book, I was totally hooked on the work of this wonderful author. Since that Christmas in 2007, I have acquired all of Ms. Quinn's books. Each one, without exception, has drawn me in from the first page, has kept me on the edge of my seat and has taken me on an emotional rollercoaster, all the while never knowing where it was going to take me or how it was going to end. Oh, I always knew the guy was going to get the girl in the end. But was a ride it has always been!

If you haven't read Paula Quinn, I strongly suggest you pick up one of her books. You won't be disappointed!

Friday, July 31, 2009


A DUKE OF HER OWN by Eloisa James (Published by Avon Books, July 28, 2009)

If you are a fan of Eloisa James' "Desperate Dutchesses" series, RUN, DO NOT WALK, to pick up "A Duke of Her Own."

Throughout each one of Ms. James wonderful "Desperate Dutchesses" books, set in the Georgian era England, one character has tantalized and teased her readers from the beginning. Sometimes poignant, sometimes tragic, but always outrageous and irreverent, Leopold, The Duke of Villiers has been a character who has impacted, either directly or indirectly, each storyline and character in this incredible series.

How to describe the enigmatic Villiers? One of the top chess players in England (indeed, it seemed his one true love), famous for drifting from one woman to another in countless affairs resulting in six illegitimate children, one of the wealthiest men in England, certainly not known for his beauty, his looks were more akin to a buccaneer - very male and virile looking - yet his very presence and attitude proclaims him a Duke. His contemporaries wear powdered wigs, while Villiers does not. Always impeccably dressed, his cravat perfectly tied and formed, lace always just so, Villiers is refined and extremely intelligent. Villiers was once involved in a duel defending his fiance's honor. He lost both the duel and his fiance and then almost his life as a result of his wounds.

For years, Villiers had been paying his solicitor to make sure all of his six illegitimate children were educated and well cared for. After an attack of conscience, he decides to collect them all and bring them to his home. Then, he will marry and provide a mother for his children. Being Villiers, of course, he has certain standards for the mother of his children. One of those requirements is that she be a daughter of a Duke. However before he can begin his search for a wife, he is horrified to learn that all these years his solicitor has been keeping the money designated for his children's welfare and had disbursed them to places unknown. After investigating and searching, he thinks he has finally located the last of his two children, twin daughters. Just before leaving to seek out his last two children and investigate a potential mate, Lady Lisette, he meets another Duke's daughter, Lady Eleanor Lindel.

Lady Eleanor Lindel once proclaimed that she would only marry a Duke. Hiding behind frumpy dresses and with little or no care to her appearance, Eleanor is really hiding a broken heart. For it was years ago, she lost her heart to her childhood friend, Gideon, Duke of Astley, when he married another. Resigned not to become an ape leader and spinster, she resolves to marry and agrees to meet the Duke of Villiers. Intelligent and spirited, Eleanor is a match for Villiers' rapier wit and lively repartee. Intrigued by Villiers, she agrees to meet him again at the home of another of her childhood friends, Lady Lisette, with the full knowledge that he will be scoping out the reclusive Lady Lisette as a potential mate. However, Eleanor is not worried because she knows a secret about Lady Lisette that she believes Villiers will discover himself. And, so, the story begins.

The Duke of Villiers' story has been highly anticipated throughout Ms. James' "Desperate Dutchesses" series. IMHO, Ms. James surpassed every expectation I could have had for his story. The romance between Villiers and Eleanor is touching and endearing, but one fraught with several bumps in the road. I was so happy to see, and it was very satisfying to watch, Villiers find the love he never sought, but found. As always, Ms. James writing style is extraordinary, combining style and wit with grace. Her books are always a treat, but I believe her "Desperate Dutchesses" series will shine as one her greatest works for a long time to come. On the one hand, I was sad to see the series end. But, on the other hand, I can savor each delicious book in this amazing series again and again. Thank you, Ms. James, for creating such a memorable, heartwarming and wickedly entertaining series. They are keepers, one and all. ;)

If you haven't read Eloisa James' the "Desperate Dutchess" series yet, they are, in order: "Desperate Dutchess," "An Affair Before Christmas," "Dutchess by Night," "When the Duke Returns," "This Dutchess of Mine," and "A Duke of Her Own." Do yourself a great favor and pick them up. You will soon become ensconced in hours of heavenly reading and will come to treasure these books as I do.

Monday, July 13, 2009


DON'T TEMPT ME by Loretta Chase (Published by Avon Books, June 30, 2009)
Lucien de Grey, Duke of Marchmont, cared about very little in his world. A man much admired in the ton, he harbors no deep thoughts or allows no emotion to play a part in his life. Nothing phases him, nothing disconcerts him and he takes nothing seriously. Nothing, that is, with the exception of his former guardian Lord Lexham. For Marchmont owed a debt to Lord Lexham that could never be repaid. At the age of ten, Lucien had lost his parents to a fever. He and his older brother, Gerard, unable to express their grief, angry and brooding, had been taken in hand and gently guided by Lord Lexham. It was while spending his summers with his guardian that Lucien, the future Duke of Marchmont, met the irrepressible hoyden, Zoe Octavia Lexham, Lord Lexham's youngest daughter. When tragedy strikes again in the loss of his beloved older brother Gerard, Lord Lexham once again steps in and helps the young man grieve and heal. It was when Lucien loses Zoe, however, that he closes the door on his emotions and on his heart finally and irrevocably. Losing the last person in a long line of people who were important to Lucien is too much for his young heart to bear. For it was from that point forward that the Duke of Marchmont becomes a man oblivious to any type of emotion or care or worry.

Known at a "bolter," Zoe Octavia Lexham is a free spirit who despises being confined. She begins, at the age of four, running away at every opporutnity. Growing up the youngest girl in a brood of eight, Zoe delights in breaking rules and doing the unconventional. Whether it is learning Latin and Greek, typically a boy's doman, associating with children she shouldn't or riding horses she is not allowed to ride, Zoe seems to enjoy doing just the opposite of what she is supposed to be doing. Zoe was what the family considered "the problem child." But, it is Zoe who enchants the young Lucien. Only Lucien can find her when she runs away. And, Zoe is the only one who can make him laugh. Zoe becomes the only bright spot in the young Lucien's sad life. At the age of twelve, Zoe accompanies her parents on a tour of Greece, Egypt and the Holy Land. It was during this tour, that Zoe disappears. Frantic, her parents institute a search, to no avail. Lord Lexham and his wife never stop searching and keep hope alive in their hearts. It is twelve years later when Zoe appears on her parents' doorstep in London that the story begins.

When I first began this book and discovered that Zoe had been held in a harem, I was worried where this might lead. However, as the book progressed and the storyline and characters developed, I was very pleasantly surprised. I'm never surprised at the caliber of writing and/or character development of Ms. Chase. She is one of my favorite authors and has proven, time and again, to be an exceptional storyteller. I was suprised at how she deftly wove Zoe's experiences, knowledge and wisdom gained (yes, she learned a lot in that harem, more than you would surmise), into the story and how well it worked. Zoe's strength of character, intelligence and her convictions have a tremendous impact on Lucien's seemingly shallow, rakish character. Zoe's observations of the ton are hysterical. Watching her slowly chip away at Lucien's defenses and his closely guarded heart, combined with a sizzling attraction between the two is a treat to observe. Lucien is a charming hero whose world and belief system are shaken and re-evaluated by Zoe's reappearance into his life.

As in all of Ms. Chase's books, the dialogue is snappy, clever and witty and the characters are passionate and endearing. I have a short list of authors whose work I buy without question each and every time they publish a book. Loretta Chase is an author on that list. Her work never fails to enchant me and, more often than not, she makes me laugh with her clever dialogue and/or the situations she places her characters in. Ms. Chase's "Carsington Brother" series is a classic and not to be missed. DON'T TEMPT ME appears to be the beginning of another wonderful, engaging series. This book is a keeper and I highly recommend it. ;)

Friday, June 5, 2009

REMEMBRANCE by Jude Deveraux

REMEMBRANCE by Jude Deveraux (Published by Simon and Schuster, 2004)
Hayden Lane is a 39-year old romance writer, with a perfect fiancé, a supportive editor and an altogether successful, perfect little life. All this comes crashing down when Hayden becomes increasingly obsessed with the hero of her latest romance novel to the exclusion of everything else. She loses her fiancé, has angered and alienated her editor and starts to lose her sense of reality. Desperation sends Hayden to a psychic, Nora, and she discovers that all her problems stem from unfulfilled love in her past lives. Through several sessions with Nora, Hayden learns about soul mates, past lives and how each life affects the next life in reincarnation. Nora explains to Hayden that when the very first souls were created, they were split in half, one male and one female; hence, a soul mate is the other half of you. Something has happened somewhere in Hayden’s past lives with her soul mate and as a result she wouldn’t find her soul mate again for three more lifetimes. Hayden's immediate response to being told she wouldn’t find that grand passion that she has desperately been seeking is: “I’m an American and I want instant gratification.”

Since Nora has been able to give her several clues as to who she might have been in a past life, Hayden, no stranger to research, delves into the archives at her library and discovers that she was Lady Catherine de Grey who lived in Edwardian England. Hayden also discovers, much to her horror, that Lady Catherine de Grey was a woman who had many affairs and that she died mysteriously, her body never having been found and that her husband, the Earl de Grey, also died on the very same day his wife had died. Believing she can straighten out whatever problem was caused in that life, Hayden finds someone who does past life regressions.

Heedless of the strong warning the Nora has given her not to be regressed to see her past lives, Hayden dives headfirst into dangerous waters when she does just that. When she awakens in Edwardian England as Lady Catherine de Grey and is unable to return, she panics and searches for another “seer” who can help her get back to her present incarnation. However, this time she is catapulted back further in time and her last conscious thoughts are that she is trapped, she has to get out and she realizes that she is a baby about to be born.

What develops from here is a totally amazing love story. Love, hate, obsession, jealousy, a curse and revenge all revolve around two innocent and wonderful young people, Talis and Callie, who love each other with a passion that cannot be denied. Talis' and Callie’s characters were truly one being, each living for and incomplete without the other. This is more than an ordinary love story. It is a remarkable story of two people who are meant to be together, through heartache and loss, separation and tragedy and who are desperate to find the other through the centuries. There are three stories here, but they are all about the same two souls and it works. It starts out a little slow, but don’t put this book down! It is a wonderful book that will touch your heart and a story that you won't soon forget. And, I suggest having tissues close at hand. I loved this book. I highly recommend it. REMEMBRANCE by Jude Deveraux is a keeper!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

MY SURRENDER by Connie Brockway

MY SURRENDER by Connie Brockway (Published by Pocket Books, April 26, 2005)
Three young men are driven by an oath they have taken unto themselves to pledge their service to the three surviving daughters of the man who gave his life to save theirs. As children, each of these young men had been saved from Scotland’s post Culloden destitution by monks to be honed and raised as warrior assassins. Bound together by their childhood horrors, raised as brothers, these three young men secretly assign themselves to one sister, telling the family that if ever they need assistance, the sisters should simply send a yellow rose to the Abbey at St. Bride’s in Scotland’s Highlands and they will be there as quickly as they can. Leaving behind a rare yellow rose bush with the family, they quietly leave and scatter to the four corners of the world.

Charlotte Nash is the youngest of the Nash sisters and one of the most popular, outrageous, flighty flirts in the ton. And, it is all a ruse. Actually, Charlotte is an intelligent, hard-minded, determined young woman who wishes to honor her father's sacrifice by aiding in some way in the war against Napoleon. She is given that chance and becomes a spy for the Crown, while maintaining her hoyden personality.

Dand Ross is the consummate spy: hard, dangerous, cynical and unemotional. For years, he last allowed his two closest friends to believe that he is the traitor that caused their capture and subsequent torture in a French dungeon. When, actually, he has been continuing the work the three had been trained for, espionage, while actually trying to locate the true traitor. At the same time, he has been keeping an eye on his appointed charge, Charlotte, while passing information through her to the Crown.

When a letter falls into the wrong hands, with possible devistating consequences to the Crown, Charlotte volunteers to mascerade as a "fallen woman" in order to gain entry into an exclusive party where the letter is being auctioned off to the highest bidder. Her hastily devised plan to locate the letter and retrieve it has one serious flaw. She realizes that the man she is supposed to offer herself to as a new potential mistress, Comte St. Lyon, is well known in the ton and would never risk his position in society by ruining a virgin. So, she must recruit Dand, the only man she has ever truly been attracted to, to help ruin her in society's eyes and in fact.

Charlotte's inner turmoil, realizing she will forever be an outcast, unable to make a respectable marriage and, most importantly, hurting her beloved sisters, is heartwrenching. Dand, in his chosen role as protector, is put into an untenable position. Charlotte was asking him to go against every code a gentleman lived by. She always has intrigued him and he was certainly attracted to her, so he cannot imagine allowing another man to touch her. Dand is torn and tormented.

The development of both characters as the story progresses proves that not everyone is as they appear on the surface. Both characters are devoted to their secret professions and their cause and realize that there is no room for love in espionage. As a result, neither of them can divulge their feelings for each other and their anguish is palpable. There is tremendous sexual tension, intrigue, suspense and mystery in this book. The chemistry between the two main characters was sizzling. There is just the right amount of humor added when needed. In addition, the return of all the Rose Hunters for this final book is welcomed. And, the mystery of the identity of the traitor, which tantalized from the very first book in this excellent series, is finally revealed. I thought Connie Brockway saved her best for last with this wonderful romance.

I highly recommend this book, the final installment in the Rose Hunter series, as well as the entire series. See my reviews below on the first books in this series, MY SEDUCTION and MY PLEASURE by Connie Brockway.

Friday, May 8, 2009

MY PLEASURE by Connie Brockway

MY PLEASURE by Connie Brockway (Published by Pocket, September 28, 2004)
Three young men are driven by an oath they have taken unto themselves to pledge their service to the three surviving daughters of the man who gave his life to save theirs. As children, each of these young men had been saved from Scotland’s post Culloden destitution by monks to be honed and raised as warrior assassins. Bound together by their childhood horrors, raised as brothers, these three young men secretly assign themselves to one sister, telling the family that if ever they need assistance, the sisters should simply send a yellow rose to the Abbey at St. Bride’s in Scotland’s Highlands and they will be there as quickly as they can. Leaving behind a rare yellow rose bush with the family, they quietly leave and scatter to the four corners of the world.

Helena Nash has been living for the past four years as a paid companion to a miserable old harpy of the ton, Lady Tilpot and Lady Tilpot’s young, naïve and much spoiled niece, Lady Flora. A celebrated beauty, dignified, unassailable and gracefully reticent, Helena has had to suffer verbal indignities as the object of Lady Tilpot’s vicious tongue. Recently recruited by Flora to act as a messenger, Helena finds herself masquerading as a boy to deliver covert messages to Flora’s secret husband, who is on the run from moneylenders. Helena discovers a world and a freedom she has never known and covets. It is during such a masquerade that she encounters and recognizes one of her and her sister’s self-appointed guardians who is now London’s well-known master swordsman, Ramsey Munro.

Ramsey Munro has been living for the past four years in London as the owner of one of the premiere sword fighting salons, making his living teaching bored aristocrats his art, while at the same time, tantalizing the young ladies of the ton with his wit, charm and sinful good looks. All during this period, Ramsey has been covertly watching over Helena Nash, willing to use his body and his talents for her care. However, at some point during the years, his promise became a personal hobby, for he is fascinated with the cool, calm and quiet woman who sometimes showed flashes of passionate heat. Never forgetting his and his friends’ betrayal at the hands of an unknown which cost one of them their life, he is still hunting to uncover the identity of that traitor. It was during this pursuit, that he encounters Helena Nash masquerading as a boy and in some jeopardy from a bunch of young bucks.

MY PLEASURE, the second in Connie Brockway’s “Rose Hunter” series, is the story of Lord Nash’s second daughter, Helena, and master swordsman and trained warrior assassin, Ramsey Munro. The story is fast moving, full of mysteries, danger and is sexually charged. The repartee between the two characters is witty, intelligent and sparks with passion. Ramsey Munro embodies all those qualities that make up a hero. Helena Nash’s character proves the old adage “still waters run deep.” The scenes where Ramsey is teaching Helena to use a sword are sexy and entertaining. Ms. Brockway’s depiction of Lady Tilpot makes you thoroughly despise the old witch, and justly so. The flashback scenes of Ramsey’s young adulthood and his time in the dungeon makes you ache for what he endured. Ah, but the end . . . well, I’m not going to give away the delicious ending.

I thoroughly enjoyed MY PLEASURE, the second in Connie Brockway’s “Rose Hunter” series. (See my review of MY SEDUCTION posted here April 30th.) I highly recommend it. ;)

I will be reading the final book in the series MY SURRENDER and reviewing it soon.