March Reads

on Paper/eBook
Woman on the Run by Lisa Marie Rice B+  *This romantic suspense by Lisa Marie Rice was written in 2004 when email and mobile phones weren’t quite so prevalent and data encryption wasn’t as good as it is now.  But, leaving those things aside, this book was a win for me.  LMR books have a kind of a crackalicious flavour to me – like those glorious B movies some people love.    Julia Devaux witnesses a mob murder and is placed on the Witness Protection Program.  Her new name is Sally Anderson and she’s relocated to the tiny town of Simpson, Idaho.  There, she meets Sam Cooper, former Navy SEAL and current millionaire horse breeder/rancher.  He’s a typical LMR hero – once he sets eyes on Julia/Sally, he’s gone for all money, has an instant and persistent hard-on and will literally do anything to keep her safe.   Julia/Sally is suitably clueless about how to be safe and, while she borders on TSTL territory from time to time, I was able to accept that most of her stupidity was actually due to her naiveté.
How Julia/Sally didn’t have at the very least a massive and constant UTI was beyond me because once this pair start having sex, they are at it all night long.  Literally.  He’s inside her all the time!! Cooper is not big with words and isn’t much for foreplay either – he just wants to be inside her and with the power of his mighty wang of loving, he is able to give Julia/Sally instant and repeated orgasms.   They don’t use condoms so there’s a lot of… fluid about the place but after 4 or 5 orgasms, he has a really smooth ride!  The sex isn’t really terribly sexy as mostly it’s plain missionary, there’s not a lot of dirty talk (or any other kind actually) and, like I said before, not much foreplay.
But, despite Cooper’s lack of verbosity, we do get to see inside his head and WE know he’s a complete goner over this woman.  And there is something so terribly appealing (if in a slightly guilty way) of the hero who would do anything for his lady, with single-minded purpose. Jane from Dear Author said on Twitter that a LMR hero would carry his heroine around all day if he could and she wasn’t wrong.

The truly wonderful thing about the book was that it didn’t take itself too seriously.  There were some wonderful lines and a few laugh out loud moments for me as Julia/Sally contemplates life in a podunk town

Being the object of a woman-hunt, exiled to Simpson, being terrorized by school kids trick-or-treating, lusing after an around non-talker with superb thighs.  It was all too much.


Julia listened to him in rising panic, having a sudden image of herself zigging when she was supposed to zag, driving in frantic loops around the vast empty countryside until the gas ran out and wolves ate her.

and the hilarity of the townsfolk repeatedly telling her that they’re “just really happy that Coop is finally getting laid”.
Despite the flaws in the book, I found myself really enjoying it.  If you like B movies and schlocky goodness, this could be for you.  
*a slightly cut down version of this review appeared in the March ARRA newsletter.

Out of Focus by LA Witt – B – see my full review here.

Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander – B – see my full review here.

A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant – A – see my full review here**Print Pick of the Month**

Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase – B/B+   Marcelline Noirot is a modiste in England, in business with her 2 sisters.  When they hear that the Duke of Clevedon is due to return to England to marry, after 3 years on the Continent, the sisters hatch a plan to capture the business of the Duchess-to-be.  Because the Duke will hold the purse-strings, Marcelline sets off to Paris to entice the Duke – purely for business purposes. It is not her intention to fall for him herself, but that is what happens.  Still, Marcelline is a mercenary and practical character – she has responsibilities to her sisters and to her young daughter and the difference in their stations make it impossible to make a match with the Duke herself anyway (even if her weren’t already practically engaged to someone else), so she forces herself to think of business and puts her feelings firmly aside.
I’ve had mixed reactions to Loretta Chase’s books; some I’ve loved, some I’ve liked, some I’ve thought were kind of “meh” – this one, for me, falls into somewhere between the like and love range – I was loving until the end when it fell just a little flat for me.  I guess I was a little disappointed that some more creative way for Clevedon and Marcelline to be together hadn’t been thought up – it felt a little… pedestrian and predictable at the end (and with insufficient detail of exactly how the plan worked for my liking also) in what had otherwise been an exceptional and refreshingly different book.    Clevedon and Marcelline struck sparks off each other from their first meeting and this banter continues through most of their interactions, like here:
“It would be vulgar to strangle you on the dance floor;” he said.  “Yet I am sorely tempted.”

and on the next page:

“My dear duke, only look at the competition.”

“I would,” he said, “but you’re so aggravating, I can’t tear my gaze away.”

“Fascinating,”  she said, “You mean fascinating.”

I liked how they were both portrayed as being far less than angels.  In fact, it turns out that this made them extraordinarily well suited and it was the best part of the book – each trying to work out the other’s motives, and come out ahead in some kind of delicious competition.
She’d been a fool to imagine she could manage this man.  She should have realized that a duke is used to getting his own way, to a certain degree common folk could scarcely imagine.  She should have realised that getting his way all his life would affect his brain and make him not altogether like other men.
“Don’t be noble, I beg you,” he said. “I think nobleness of spirit… and morals… and ethics… and scruples… those sorts of things are all very well in thier place.  To a point, you know.  But beyond a certain point, I think they make me bilious.”

If only the end of the book could have lived up to the rest of it, it would have been superb.  As it was, it was still very good, but it could have been…

Teach Me by Cassandra Dean – C- My full review will be on the ARRA blog sometime in May I believe.

Where the Heart Is by Kaje Harper – B-  Cute, sexy holiday-themed short about vet Trevor and his lover Mike a software developer, who have been having a long distance relationship for the past 3 months since Trevor’s father died and Trevor returned to his hometown to deal with his father’s vet practice.  Mike has come out to visit Trev for Christmas.
Some obvious editing problems let this one down for me – for example, a pony changed it’s name from “Banner” to “Major” in the middle of one scene and then changed back again.
It did make me teary though (sad animal story) and I liked that Trev and Mike did love each other and each was willing to compromise in order to protect their relationship.

Forbidden Fantasies by Jodie Griffin – B+ – see my review here

The Witness by Nora Roberts – A   Review to come closer to the release date.  For now, I’ll just say it’s VERY VERY good.  🙂

Defying the Odds (Battered Hearts #1) by Kele Moon – C+ This is a sometimes sweet, sexy story about a surly but successful MMA fighter, Clay “Powerhouse” Powers, and Melody Dylan, a woman who escaped domestic violence and abuse and has taken a job at Hal’s Diner in the small town of Garnet, somewhere in the South (and also maybe West) of the USA (it’s never specified in the book).  Melody feels sorry for Clay eating alone in the diner on Thanksgiving and so buys him a piece of pie and from then on Clay is deeply smitten.
It was okay, but the writing style didn’t sing to me I’m afraid.  Secondary characters, brother and sister, Wyatt and Jules (who will no doubt be featured in their own books later) seemed overdone to me, as was what I’ll call the “hick factor”.  It was just a little bit too much.
Clay was kind of sweet in a Lisa Marie Rice kind of way – very alpha, with a magic soulmate-sensing dick.  The bloody fighting for training and just for fun between Clay and Wyatt was a bit gory and disconcerting.  Guys who casually break their BFF’s noses is a bit strange to me.  Mandi at Smexy Books liked it better than I did, so you might too.
In Remembrance of Us by AJ Rose C+  I like relationship-in-trouble stories.  This short, told from Tom’s first person POV, starts off when Tom is mugged on the street and suffers some swelling in the brain which leads to amnesia (most of which is fortunately, temporary).  He wakes up to find he’s forgotten that he is married to his BFF, Ryan and has been for more than 2 years.  As he had loved Ryan from afar when they were just friends, he is quick to accept their love and anxious to resume their relationship and his memories of it.  It quickly becomes apparent however that there has been trouble in paradise.   As Tom looks at their relationship without the baggage of the previous 2 years, he is able to take responsibility for his own mistakes and inattentions.  The mugging has given him a new resolve not to squander opportunities.  Ryan is not perfect either.  He has made some terrible mistakes too and both of the men have to forgive and make changes.  The book was let down for me by not sufficiently detailing those changes and settling them in so that I believed that a) the story was finished and b) the pair had sorted things out and would be okay in the future.  They might be – there wasn’t quite enough for me to be sure.  An enjoyable but somewhat incomplete read for me.
Venus in Blue Jeans (Konigsburg #1) by Meg Benjamin – B+  I’d heard excellent things about this series and I actually bought this book a while ago.  With the St. Patrick’s Day sales, I picked up the next 4 books in the series too so I thought I’d better read the first one.  Docia Kent is a nearly 6 foot tall, curvy and beautiful woman who runs a bookstore in Konigsburg Texas.  She is fairly new to the small town and hasn’t been well accepted by the locals, in large part due to the efforts of mean spirited  (and one dimensional) Margaret Hastings.  Cal Toleffson is the new vet in town and he’s a big, broad man who falls instanly in lust and very quickly in love with Docia.  Between Margaret’s efforts to run Docia out of town and bag Cal for herself (even if he is a vegetarian) and some strange goings on involving a mysterious package which puts Docia’s store and Docia in danger, the pair develop a relationship.  Docia has some baggage in that she comes from a wealthy family and was previously engaged to a scum sucking bottom dweller who was mostly after her family’s money.    The “suspense” part of the book was the weakest, but I read it more as a straight contemporary and it worked very well for me that way.  The banter between “Wonder” (Stephen the Wonder Dentist) and Beidermeier and Ingstrom and Cal was particularly funny and I enjoyed the author’s amusing turns of phrase:
Horace grabbed his hand, pumping his arm as if his armpit might produce oil.
I also loved Cal’s inner dialogue – that made me laugh out loud a couple of times.  Also, Senor Pepe was adorable.  However, the book did suffer from an overuse (particularly in that any use is too much) of “the essence of woman“, “the essence of Cal” and “the essence of Docia“.  Regardless,  I enjoyed the easy writing style and humour and I’m on to book 2 now.
Favourite Quote:
Warmth pooled in her belly, and spiraled through her body.  Her breasts, her abdomen, her knees.  Her knees?  She’d never really had an orgasm in her knees before.
Wedding Bell Blues (Konigsburg #2) by Meg Benjamin – B-  This is a cute and sexy contemporary which picks up about a year after the events in Venus in Blue Jeans.  Cal and Docia are just about to get married and Janie, Docia’s maid of honour is determined that her friend will have the wedding she wants.  Pete Toleffson is Cal’s brother, in town to be the best man.  It was nothing earth shattering but fun and enjoyable.  I really liked Pete and Janie and it was nice to meet the other Toleffson brothers, Erik and Lars.  The mother of these 4 strapping boys is a piece of work though!


Because of You by Jessica Scott – C- This book has an average rating of just over 4 stars on Goodreads, so I think I’m an outlier.  While I thought the premise showed promise, it didn’t deliver that well for me.  Also, in the book, the hero shaves his head – look at that cover.  Hair!!
Sgt. Shane Garrison meets trauma nurse Jen St. James shortly before shipping out to Iraq.  There is chemistry between them, which is a happy surprise for Jen as she is a breast cancer survivor and a mastectomy has left her feeling anything but sexy.  Some 4 months later, Shane is injured and is shipped home where he meets up again with Jen, this time as his nurse.  Shane doesn’t cope with his injuries very well and Jen tries to help him come to grips with not being the “god” he believes he should be for the men under his command.
I found the narrative a bit heavy handed and overdone at times, particularly in relation to the “hooah” of the military.  In general, deployed soldiers do a great job in extremely difficult circumstances, but I don’t need to be hit over the head with the rhetoric in a romance novel.
There were also abrupt shifts in conversation or narrative which left me feeling disconnected.  It felt to me like there were things missed out or skipped over. I had the impression the author knew those bits but for some reason, they didn’t make it to the page, or at least the final edit.
There were some aspects of the story I wanted more information/detail about and I felt their lack.  For example, I never did get a full accounting of Shane’s injuries.  Mostly, they were alluded to and only some details were parsed out over the course of the story.  Another one is a reference in the book to a “line-of-duty investigation and a Fifteen Six”.  The very brief explanation contained in the following sentence was not enough for me to understand what this was really about and it felt more like a nod to the author’s military background/knowledge – because it wasn’t properly explained for a lay person (ie, me) it pushed me out of the story.   Other things were belaboured (Jen’s worries about her mastectomy scar, Shane’s guilt and responsibility for his men).  It’s not so much that they were present in the story that was my problem, it was more that the same issues kept getting repeated with no forward movement.  It felt very repetitive.
I also felt there was too much time spent on setting up Laura and Trent’s story (which I think is the next one in the series).  The book is only 231 pages. The sequel bait and the suspense subplot (which wasn’t fully resolved and also had a cardboard villain) all took page time from the main romance – which was the story I wanted to read.
I found myself a little frustrated by the end – there was a good story in there that I wanted to read but I felt too much got in the way.  I can’t say that I really believed the HEA between Jen and Shane – they didn’t talk all that well together and Shane was significantly banged up for most of their “courtship” for me to feel truly comfortable that they really knew each other.  I did feel like parts of the story had been left out.
Still, there was enough in this, that I’m interested in seeing what the author does with book 2 in the series.

Curio by Cara McKenna – A-  See my review here.

Moving in Rhythm by Dev Bentham – B-   Engaging story about a pathologically shy man (Mark) who is basically a shut in.  He moves in with his pregnant sister-in-law when his brother is deployed to Afghanistan and meets Seth, who teaches a Zumba class at the local gym.
Told in first person from Mark’s POV, Seth remains a bit of a mystery, which is a pity because he was an interesting and likeable character I would have liked to know better.
I didn’t get the connection between being gay/coming out and the shyness.  I thought they were two separate issues but they were conflated in the book and the characters seemed to accept there was a link.  I think I missed something because I didn’t think he Mark was shy because he was gay and closeted.  If anything, I thought it was the other way around – he was closeted because he was so shy he saw no point in coming out as he didn’t feel he could ever had a relationship anyway.  But that was as far as I saw the interaction between the two.
I did think that Seth and Mark said the “L word” a bit too quickly – did they really know each other that well? But, I did enjoy the story thought it was well worth my time.

Shining in the Sun by Alex Beecroft – B/B+  Moving story about a rich man (Alec) and a poor man (Darren) who are both suffocating in their respective lives.  They are  both desperately unhappy and both feel powerless to do anything about it. Both see the summer as an opportunity to escape, even if only for a little while, the individual misery of their usual lives.  It’s a story of how they learn to be brave together and escape that misery and find their freedom for more than just a month.  It has its flaws (Alec’s first line to Darren is terribly cheesy – it was probably meant to be, but still), but I was caught up with the imagery and the story.  I was struck by the poverty and desperate sadness of Darren’s life and the feeling, despite his money of utter suffocation and vulneratibility in Alec’s life.  I didn’t really understand the character of Alec’s mother. I appreciated that Alec’s fiancee was charming and lovely – if he were straight he would have been very happy with her.  I do wonder how Alec and Darren will fit together for the long term – after all, they are from completely different worlds – but I was happy enough to go along with the fairy tale.

Favourite Quotes:

…a faint citrusy palate-cleansing tang, and the thought and taste came together into a moment of renewal, of newness.  It was a wrong feeling for summer – more of a spring feeling, a start to the year, resolution making, this-time-it-will-all-be-different hope.  He shook it off, disconcerted.  It was summer he had here, distraction, escape.  Not hope.  Especially not change.

and this one:

He looked like a man who was turning into paper, folding himself into origami angles, fragile and friable and prone to crumple.

I enjoyed this one quite a bit, I liked the melancholy tone of most of the story and it was, for the most part, beautifully written.

on Audio

A Lady Never Surrenders by Sabrina Jeffries, narrated by Justine Eyre – C+/B-  I reviewed this book for AAR.  My review will be up soon.

The Alpha Alternative – Sex from JZB’s point of view  – my rating?  R for Rowr!– this very short (about 30 minutes) scene is set toward the beginning of Darkfever and is told from Barrons’ point of view.  The superb Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross co-narrate.  It’s available for $1.99 from Karen Marie Moning’s website and it’s worth it if you’re a fan of the Fever series.  If you haven’t read the series, this is probably not the place to start however!  Rowr indeed.
Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas, narrated by Tanya Eby – B- (but A for narration)  Watch out for my review at an upcoming Speaking of Audiobooks column over at AAR.
Fair Game by Patricia Briggs, narrated by Holter Graham – A  see my full review here**Audio Pick of the Month**

In Red, with Pearls by Patricia Briggs (from Down These Strange Streets Anthology), narrated by Phil Gigante – B+.  Short story set in the Mercy Thompson world from werewolf Warren’s point of view.  Someone has tried to kill his lover Kyle and Warren uses both his PI and wolf skills to find the bad guy and keep his mate safe.  Warren and Kyle are great characters and I’d happily read/listen to more about them.  An excellent little story.

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Nicola Barber  B.  This is one of my books but I offered the review to AAR so it will be included in an upcoming Speaking of Audiobooks column.

Taking a Shot by Jaci Burton, narrated by Lucy Malone – C  I reviewed this one for Speaking of Audiobooks at AAR. My review will be up over there shortly.  Can I just say that some sex scenes are better not read aloud.

Angels of Darkness anthology by Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Meljean Brook and Sharon Shinn, narrated by Justine Eyre, Renee Raudman, and Colleen Marlo  I didn’t listen to the Sharon Shinn story.  I may get to it another time but I haven’t read any of this author’s work before and am not familiar with the world building and  I really only wanted this anthology for the 2 books I listened to.

Angel’s Wolf by Nalini Singh narrated by Justine Eyre – C+.  Great story (B for story alone) but the narrator bothered me by mispronouncing the hero’s name throughout the book.  As his name appears often, it was a problem. His name is not No-El like the Christmas carol.  It’s Noel and it rhymes with bowl.  Otherwise, it was nice to see what happened to the vampire who was severely injured in the Refuge during the course of Archangel’s Kiss.  He finds love in Louisiana with the angel Nimra.

Alphas by Ilona Andrews, narrated by Renee Raudman- B+  A really different story with an excellent narrator.  I hear that the Andrews’ had to change up the story a bit and give it a HEA/HFN because it was in a romance anthology and it was originally conceived to be much darker.  I liked it as it was I must say – it was quite dark enough for me! And HEA/HFN’s are really a requirement for me as well.  Still, it was dark and different and interesting and I’d like to read/listen to more of this world.  I really enjoy Renee Raudman as a narrator and with the combination of these authors and her voice, I was happy to go in blind otherwise.  It’s kind of hard to describe the story – “normal” mom gets transported into a parallel universe (kind of) with her daughter and is suddenly food for a beast – and he’s the hero!   Like I said – different, but I really liked it.

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