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!