I write book reviews, I also write books, and occasionally I write about myself!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #128

Aftershock - Jill Shalvis
Harlequin Temptation
Harlequin, 2001
ISBN: 9780373259458

My rating

From the back cover:

If it hadn't been for the earthquake, Amber Riggs would never have made love to a perfect stranger. And no doubt about it, fire inspector Dax McCall was perfect! Who else could have taught her the meaning of passion at a time like that?
Still, when Amber ran into him a year later she wasn't sure how he'd react. She hadn't meant to keep the news from Dax.... But he'd been out of town, and she'd been sort of relieved. After all, how do you tell the perfect man he has a perfect baby girl with a woman he doesn't know from Eve?"

I have been attempting recently to include some older books in this challenge, this is a book form 2001, which is available as an ebook from the kindle store.

The heroine Amber is looking around a property she is trying to sell when an earthquake hits, lucky for her Fire Inspector Dax, the hero, is also in the building. When the building starts to fall down around them he helps keep her safe and calm while they are trapped. Both of them believe there is no chance of them getting out alive, one thing leads to another and they end up making love. They do manage to get out when they are rescued, Dax tries to see Amber again but Amber, embarrassed by her actions, flees. A year later and a chance encounter brings them face to face again, Dax's initial pleasure in seeing Amber again is crushed when he realises she gave birth to his daughter and never told him. Dax makes it clear that he will be a part of his daughters life and they agree to a shared custody schedule. Dax realises this isn't enough and that he also wants to be with Amber but she is hesitant to get involved with him for fear of losing control and getting hurt.

I really, really enjoyed this book. The plot is actually quite original, to have two virtual strangers that haven't even seen each other in the light become intimate is, perhaps, a risky subject but it makes you think about just what you would do in a life or death situation. Both character are well developed and complex enough to keep you interested. I particularly liked that the heroine was more complex that the hero, and how the hero really wanted to help her open up. The writing is wonderful and really draws you into the book, I read this in one sitting!



365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #127

Alessandro's Prize - Helen Bianchin
Mills and Boon Modern
Harlequin UK, 2011
ISBN: 9780263886627

My rating

From the back cover:

"In the game of love...he plays to win!
Finding her fiance in flagrante delicto rocked Lily Parisi's world to its core. But now Lily's determined to get on with her life - minus a man! A break in Milan sounds ideal - until she bumps into Alessandro del Marco, an enigmatic face from her past, and her plans come a little undone...
Alessandro has always wanted Lily, but never pursued her. The attraction between them is intense, but Alessandro always maintains control. Until suddenly he finds it impossible to keep away from Lily - and she finds it hopeless to resist..."

Like the previous book I reviewed, I bought this for my kindle and from the back cover blurb I thought it would be really exciting. The book is OK.

The heroine Lily goes to visit her godmother after breaking off her engagement. There she meets the hero Alessandro, whom is her godmother's sort-of adopted son. Alessandro is immediately drawn to Lily's gracefulness and calm nature, and wants to get to know her more. As he does he realises that he wants more with her than a short-term relationship. Lily is not interested in a relationship especially after the disaster of her engagement and she is trying to make a new life for herself in Milan. She enjoys getting close to Alessandro but with problems coming from her ex fiancé she is reluctant to get hurt again and tries not to let Alessandro in.

This is a very tender and warm romance, that has two very nice characters. But I do feel that the story is very slow moving, almost EVERY details of the character's movements are described and with hardly any 'breaks' that I felt it got rather tedious. There are a couple of elements that I think could have been taken further to add more depth and excitement to the story (e.g Lily's stalker-esque ex and Alessandro's rough childhood). What I did like though, is the actual courting of the characters, which is unusual in a romance novel and very pleasant to read.

Overall I do feel a bit let down by the story. I question whether this would be more suited to the Cherish line of the Romance side of the RIVA line, in my opinion it's not quite powerful enough for a Modern.


365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #126

The Brooding Stranger - Maggie Cox
Mills and Boon Modern
Harlequin UK, 2011
ISBN: 9780263886658

My rating

From the back cover:

"A shocking proposition!
Karen Ford is seeking refuge from her past when she rents a cottage in Ireland. She has no intention of getting involved with any man - especially not the brooding stranger she meets one fateful day...
Unfortunately there's no getting away from Gray O' Connell - the reclusive businessman turns out to be Karen's landlord! Gray is known for his coolly aloof behaviour, so Karen's startled when her rugged neighbour makes her a shockingly intimate proposition..."

I bought this book for my kindle on the strength of the blurb. It's an OK read.

The heroine Karen has been spending time in a small Irish village away from the pressures of home and to grieve for her husband after his death 18 months ago. One morning she meets the hero Grey, who is sullen and rude, but they both recognise the sadness in each other. Grey is still grieving for his late father and also wallowing in regrets over the way he has lived his life. Although he spends most of his time alone he finds himself drawn to Karen and they both find someone to open up to and they build a tenuous friendship. They are also very attacked to one another and it's not long before they begin an affair. But with each of them absorbed by their own grief, they can't see a future even though they are falling in love.

One thing that is common in all Maggie Cox's books is that they are very emotionally intense and chocked full of angst. It's the same with this book, however I do think the angst was taken that bit too far and the book ended up with a very dismal mood. Both of the characters are unable to see anything but their own despair, and this became frustrating to read after a while. I think the story had great potential but just didn't really deliver.


Thursday, 28 July 2011

365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #125

The Greek's Million-Dollar Baby Bargain - Julia James
Mills and Boon Modern
Harlequin Mills and Boon, 2009
ISBN: 9780263870053

My rating

From the back cover:

"He’s paid a million for the baby…
he’ll take her as his mistress for free!
When Greek tycoon Nikos Theakis offered grieving Ann Turner a million for his orphaned nephew, she took the money and walked away... Young, penniless and alone, Ann did what she thought was best – and it nearly broke her.
But now little Ari needs her, and the ruthless Greek is offering Ann a different bargain...
One month, on his island – at his mercy..."

I have had this book on my kindle for a while and thought I would give it a go. I have read quite a few Julia James books and I like her style, although I had mixed feelings about this one.

At the beginning of the book the heroine Ann is grieving for the loss of her sister, but she has her precious nephew to care for. Then the hero Nikos arrives and wants to take custody of the baby, initially she refuses as he had not allowed his brother to acknowledge his son as he thought her sister was lying. The he offers her a million pounds and she agrees for both the money and for the life that Nikos's family can provide for her nephew. Five years later and Ann accidentally bumps into her nephew and his grandmother and is welcomed by her with open arms, much to Nikos's chagrin. She is asked to go to Greece to spend time with her nephew, Nikos doesn't like Ann but recognises that she loves her nephew. He also finds himself very attracted to her. After they spend the night together he wants her to be his mistress but Ann refuses to be bought and is disgusted by the offer. Nikos doesn't understand her behaviour, believe she is a gold digger, but he still wants her. Ann knows his poor opinion of her her but she also can't fight her desire for him.

I found this book difficult to like, the story is good and written well but I just couldn't stand the hero. He was far too cruel to the heroine, some of the names he called her were awful. And, I desperately wanted the heroine to stick up for herself, which she didn't, although I liked her calm temperament. There is enough details purposely held back from the early story to keep you interested and this is very typical of Julia James's style.

This is quite an enjoyable story but the devil is in the details, and the details (characters and their interaction) really let this book down. Not one of Julia James's best.


365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #124

The Sicilian's Mistress - Lynne Graham
Mills and Boon Presents
Harlequin Mills and Boon, 1999
ISBN: 9780263819243

My rating

From the back cover:

"After three long years Gianni D'Angelo has found Milly! However, Milly doesn't remember Gianni, or what she was to him. All she knows is that she was found after a hit-and-run accident, pregnant and with her memory gone. Gianni has the difficult task of convincing her that, once, she loved him.
But Milly is horrified when she learns that she was a wealthy Sicilian's mistress ... and now he's claiming her little boy as his son! Gianni is not deterred; he wants Milly back and to be a father to Connor, and his solution is simple, marriage!"

So, again I wanted to add an older book into my challenge, and strangely enough it's another Lynne Graham book! And, another really enjoyable book.

The heroine Faith is confronted by a striking man whom she thinks has mistaken her for someone else. A few days later he tracks her down and informs her she used to be his mistress and that he is the father of her young son. The hero Gianni has been searching for her for three years after their acrimonious break up, but he is shocked when he discovers the recent events in her life. Shortly after they broke up, Faith was found seriously injured after a hit and run and suffering from total amnesia, she was claimed by a couple thinking she was their runaway daughter. Gianni informs her that this is not the case and her name is actually Milly. He also tells her they must marry for the sake of their son and Milly, feeling rather lost, agrees. She asks him to tell her about her life but she can't understand the reason why he seems angry with her at times. It turns out that Gianni may be the key to her memory returning and the memories of their past relationship are not good.

Well, this is certainly a lot of events to cram into one book, and it is done spectacularly by Lynne Graham. This is a really intense and emotional book, that had me hooked instantly. The glimpses of the past relationship between the hero and heroine are fantastic and really helped to add depth to the story and characters. The vulnerability of the heroine is written with such skill and the hero was perfectly alpha but also humble.

Once again another fantastic book by Lynne Graham, and one that despite being over 10 years old does not feel dated!



365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #123

Wife in the Shadows - Sara Craven
Mills and Boon Modern
Harlequin UK, 2011
ISBN: 9780263886641

My rating

From the back cover:

"The private face of a public marriage
The manipulative machinations of the great Manzini family have locked Elena Blake into marriage. The reluctant groom is Italy's most infamous womaniser, Count Angelo Manzini. In society's spotlight Angelo bestows dutiful kisses on his shy new countess.
But then, behind closed doors, his apparently biddable bride refuses to stand in the shadows...Challenged by Elena's defiance, Angelo finds himself captivated by the challenge of possessing her!"

It's another Sara Craven book, I know. I have to say, I'm a big fan of her books now! This is her most recent release, and another great book.

This is the story of Elena and Angelo. Angelo has recently ended an affair with his married lover (Elena's cousin) and she is angry with him. Out of revenge she sets home up and he unknowingly goes to Elena's room one night, whilst staying at the home of an important business associate who is also the husband of Elena's godmother. Elena is shocked by events, especially the knowledge that her cousin set her up, but realises the need to avoid a scandal. To help this her godmother suggests that she and Angelo pretend to be engaged. Neither of them want to marry, nor do they particularly like each other, however with no sign of the scandal dying down soon they continue with the pretence and eventually agree to a marriage of convenience. Elena also agrees to try and have Angelo's child, but after a while without success Elena is deeply unhappy and she leaves. She spends time at her grandmothers coastal cottage where she meets a man and they get to know one another and she learns to be happy again. But the pressures from life are never far away from either of them.

I think this is a wonderful story. There are many elements of this book that are true Sara Craven style, but also some wonderfully surprising moments. The bare-bones of this plot are very standard but with some spectacular writing this turned into a truly original romance. There is a particular plot twist that is, in my opinion, a stroke of genius and actually had me almost holding my breath. The many layers of emotion in this book really draw you in and the pace and flow of this story is perfect.

This is one of the best Sara Craven books I have read. Recommended!


365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #122

Heart of the Desert - Carol Marinelli
Mills and Boon Modern
Harlequin UK, 2011
ISBN: 9780263886726

My rating

From the back cover:

"Surrender to the Sheikh
Sheikh Prince Ibrahim refuses to bow to the duty that has destroyed his family by locking away his emotions and shunning his royal responsibility... Until the desert calls...
One searing kiss is all it takes for Georgie to know Ibrahim is trouble... And she’s had more than enough of that to last her a lifetime! But, trapped in the swirling sands, Georgie finally surrenders to the brooding rebel Prince – yet the law of his land decrees that she can never really be his..."

I found this one in the library, I have read quite a few of Carol Marinelli's books in the past and always enjoyed them. This one, however, I'm not too keen on.

The heroine Georgie is about to go and visit her sister in the desert palace she now lives in, where she is married to a Sheikh Prince. When she gets there she discovers that the hero Ibrahim, the brother of her sister's husband, is also visiting. Georgie and Ibrahim met a year ago at her sisters wedding, where they almost became lovers until Georgie stopped things causing Ibrahim to be very cruel to her. Georgie has had a lot of troubles throughout her life, to cope with abuse from her father she repeatedly ran away from home, suffered from a serious eating disorder for many years and rushed into a disastrous marriage. She knows that she has to stay away from Ibrahim but she can't help but desire him. Ibrahim has returned to his desert home with trepidation, he hates what he feels is the oppressive society and the expectations on him. He desires Georgie so much and when they are stranded in the desert together there's nothing they can do but give in to the passion between them, but they can never have anything more.

At times this is a very sad story to read, and very emotional. However, I also found it very difficult to read, there was so much anger and mistreatment directed at the female character that just went, in my opinion, too far. The hero said some terrible things to her and her sister also treated her poorly and the heroine just felt guilty all the time, she was far too weak for my liking and the other stuff I couldn't stomach. This book is also quite slow moving and I found myself bored on occasions.

Parts of this book are really interesting and had potential to make this a very explosive read, but it just didn't live up to expectation. Disappointing.


Saturday, 23 July 2011

365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #121

The Highest Price to Pay - Maisey Yates
Mills and Boon Modern
Harlequin UK, 2011
ISBN: 9780263886825

My rating

From the back cover:

"‘While it has been reported that I may be missing my own soul, I have no interest in yours. This is about money.’
When Ella’s failing business comes wrapped up as part of Blaise Chevalier’s recent takeover, he plans to discard it – as is his usual way with surplus goods. Then he meets Ella! Cast from the same fiery mould as he is, she makes an intriguing adversary. Perhaps he could have a little fun with his new acquisition...
As proud and strong as she is beautiful, Ella is determined to prove Blaise wrong about her business and her worth. As long as she hides her hint of vulnerability and denies the flicker of attraction between them when she catches her enemy’s eye..."

I have been wanting to read this book for ages, anyone who follows Maisey Yates on twitter will know how much she's not afraid to talk about her books (and rightly so)! I have been looking forward to this book since about May when she tweeted the cover (more on that later). Anyway, Maisey built up my expectations and did she let me down?... No, she did not!

This is the story of Blaise and Ella. Blaise is an infamous business man known for his ruthless attitude and playboy existence and Ella is a fashion designer and fiercely independent as well as physically scarred and determined to make a success out of herself. When Blaise takes over her floundering business, Ella is convinced he is going to crush it but she is surprised when he tells her her is going to help her reach her potential. There is instant attraction between them, which only gets more intense as they spend time together. Blaise doesn't do commitment and Ella has never trusted anyone enough to let them see the extent of her scarring. But when their desire becomes so overwhelming they begin an affair, and it's not long until Blaise realises Ella's feelings for him are growing and he knows he has to end it.

From the very first page I could really feel the weight on each of the characters hearts, as well as the web of sexual tension the author spins around them. The plot is riveting and really well written, as are both of the characters. I loved how tortured Blaise is and how he realises his past mistakes but doesn't make excuses for his behaviour. Ella is a wonderful heroine, the perfect mix of bravado and sadness. Both of their backstories are well developed, I really felt like I 'knew' them. When the passion between them finally erupts, believe me, it's hot!

This book is amazing; emotional and exciting, absolutely perfect for the Modern line.

Whilst I was reading this Maisey tweeted about an email she received from a bookclub telling her that the cover of this book put them off reading it due to it having a black hero and white heroine. I think this is terrible, and unnecessary, we are meant to live in a more tolerant world. And, to actually email these thoughts to Maisey is really rather uncalled for. I applaud Maisey for writing this book, I believe this is the first Modern with a black hero, and I also applaud the editors and art department for carrying this through to the cover. Is it controversial? No, not at all. It's 2011 for goodness sake, and skin colour should not make any difference, plus the guy on this cover is very, very sexy! That's all I'm going to say about it, otherwise I fear I may never stop!



365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #120

The Wedding She Always Wanted - Stacy Connelly
Mills and Boon Cherish
Harlequin UK
ISBN: 9780263878813

My rating

From the back cover:

"Emily’s world tilted on its axis when Javier twirled her in his arms. The jilted bride-to-be never expected to meet a man like him at the wedding that should have been hers. Still, she knew the handsome playboy was wrong for her in every way. So why was she letting him sweep her off her feet?
Javier didn’t believe in fate. But from the moment he spun Emily onto the dance floor he was captivated by her. Emily had faith in Javier – and in the passion that made him long to shed his bachelor ways. What would it take to get her to say yes? To take that fateful walk down the aisle…with him?"

I found this one in my local library and picked it up mainly because it's a) new and b) has a nice cover. This is an OK book.

At the start of this book the heroine Emily is bridesmaid at her cousins wedding, however it should have been her wedding. After finding out her ex-fiancé had got another woman pregnant, she had cancelled the wedding and has suffered from the gossip ever since. At the wedding she connects with Javier, the hero, who is the only one who is able to see through her bravado and wants to talk to her rather than about her. As they build a friendship Emily realises that she needs to make changes and lead her own life away from her controlling family. Javier helps her find her own home and get her confidence back and she helps him to be strong and confront his mother about her constant disappointment in him. Both of them think they don't want a long term relationship after being hurt, but there is more that just a fleeting attraction between them.

This is a quick read and quite sweet as a romance. But I found it rather dull and at times quite frustrating. There are way too many 'family issues' in this book that are really not that big a deal. To me the heroine was too spineless to be appealing and the hero was nice enough but didn't really leave an impression. The ending is lovely and romantic but just that little bit too cheesy.

Like I said, this is a sweet romance but falls very short of what I was expecting.


365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #119

His Hired Baby - Jacqueline Diamond
Harlequin American Romance
Harlequin, 2010
ISBN: 9780373753246

My rating

From the back cover:

"Surrogate mom Kate Evans, a widow with a five-year-old son, isn't looking forward to her upcoming delivery - not because of the pain, but because when it's over the doctor will place her baby in the arms of the couple who hired her. When Kate gets the startling news that Tony Franco's wife has abandoned him, it only makes her feel more conflicted.
Second thoughts or not, Kate signed a contract, and she won't go back on her word. Instead, she offers to help prepare Tony for single parenthood, never expecting to fall for him in the process. But once their baby is born, she'll lose both of them forever...unless she can convince Tony to give love another chance."

This is another book I found in the second hand book shop in NYC. I really liked the last few books I read from the American Romance line, this one was OK.

The heroine Kate is a surrogate and seven months pregnant with the child of Tony, the hero. Kate is a widow with a young son, with dreams of going back to college to become a nurse. She is being paid for the surrogacy but is also pleased to give an infertile couple the chance to have a baby. Then she discovers that Tony's wife Esther has left him for a high power legal career in Washington DC, leaving Tony behind and insisting on a divorce. Tony feels betrayed by Esther's actions, but still wants to raise his daughter. But as a busy hospital lawyer, Kate makes him realise that he needs to make changes in his life and asks for her help. Kate is beginning to have reservations over the surrogacy, but agrees to help Tony and they forge a very strong friendship. Their feelings begin to get deeper causing Tony to be harsh to Kate about the surrogacy contract and Kate's reservations turn to serious doubts.

This is quite an interesting read, and I particularly liked the issues raised about surrogacy, I think these are handled well and written with sensitivity. Kate is a really caring heroine with a strong personality that made her very believable. Tony is a little harder to like, I think he is too stiff and the issues relating to his priorities that are raised are never fully resolved. I also had doubts over the timing, Tony's wife only left him 2 months before he and Kate fall in love, so it makes me question it a little.
There is also a sub plot running though relating to a scheme at the hospital it's mainly set in about young mothers bringing unwanted children there, frankly I just didn't 'get' this and I don't think it was explained enough.

Overall though, this is a nice, quick and warm romance.


365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #118

Wedding Night with a Stranger - Anna Cleary
Harlequin Presents Extra
Harlequin, 2010
ISBN: 9780373527809

N.B. The above details relate to the North American release of this book.

My rating

From the back cover:

"Bride: signed, sealed and delivered!
Ariadne Giorgias has been set up! Instead of being welcomed in Australia by family friends, she’s picked up from the airport by a lone, strikingly gorgeous stranger...
Sebastian Nikosto doesn’t know what to expect from his contract wife-to-be. But it certainly isn’t the beautiful Ariadne, or the combustible attraction that sizzles between them. Perhaps there might be an upside to this ridiculous arrangement? But once the bartered bride’s been wedded, it seems that neither party is in such a hurry to annul the marriage as planned..."

I seem to have slipped back into that Modern/Presents hold and can't stop reading them! Oh well. This is a book I picked up from a second hand book shop in NYC.

The heroine Ariadne arrives in Australia excited about her holiday and being able to get away from the scandal back home in Greece after she cancelled her wedding at the last minute. However he excitement ends when she finds out that her uncle tricked her into going away and he has arranged for her to be married to the hero Sebastian as part of a business deal. Ariadne is devastated by her families betrayal and terrified that she has been left stranded without any money. She has no choice but to meet with Sebastian. Sebastian is angry that he has been blackmailed into a marriage he doesn't want and initially thinks Ariadne is spoilt and pampered and on the look out for a rich husband, and is as much to blame as her uncle. But when he meets her and recognises her sadness he rethinks his decision. Despite both of them not wanting the marriage they agree to a temporary marriage of convenience, and they get to act on the attraction to one another.

This is a very fun and sweet book, that also has some intense and passionate moments. The plot is interesting and well executed. What makes this book shine, though, are the two characters. They are fantastic; Ariadne is wonderfully sweet, at first I thought she was a little too naive but she grew more and more strong as the story progressed. Sebastian is also brilliant, he is written with a very down to earth personality, little fun things such as him not realising his shirt wasn't cleaned or his bathroom was a bit messy made his character very appealing. The dialogue and passion are both spectacular.

This is a really enjoyable book that leaves you feeling great.


365 books in 365 days Challenge ... book #117

The Forced Marriage - Sara Craven
Mills and Boon Modern, 2002
Reprinted in 'His Wife, His Revenge' Mills and Boon Special Releases
Harlequin Mills and Boon, 2008
ISBN: 9780263869019

My rating

From the back cover:

"Possessed by her husband!
Powerful Italian Marco Valante was used to taking what he wanted -- and he wouldn't let a little thing like Flora's engagement stand in the way! Flora had been trying to convince herself she was happy with her steady fiance, but her head hadn't stopped spinning since she'd literally bumped into Marco!
The sexy tycoon wasted no time in whisking her away to his villa -- for privacy, passion and a surprise marriage proposal. Marco was determined to marry Flora before she could discover their accidental meeting hadn't been quite so innocent..."

Sara Craven is one of the authors I have read most in this challenge so far. I have really grown to like her books a lot and this one is another really great book.

The heroine Flora is on the verge if getting married when she meets the hero Marco, after he saves her from an attempted mugging. Flora is awkward and tense around Marco's very obvious flattery and attentions, and she tries to ignore his advances. However when she becomes frustrated over the lack of affection from her fiancé she agrees to have dinner with Marco. The attraction between them is fierce and Marco seduces her, showing her what she had been missing. She knows she has to end her engagement but this is taken out of her hands when Marco takes her away for the weekend to the same hotel her fiancé is staying at. Flora is left feeling unsure of herself after her fiancé's lack of care about her betrayal and scorn from her family over her actions. But when Marco takes her to his home in Italy she is whisked into paradise and begins to fall in love with him. However all this comes crashing down around her when she learns that she was a pawn in a revenge act and discovers she is pregnant.

This is a fantastic book, which I think has it all; deception, hurt, passion, regret etc. Sara Craven is really a master when it comes to writing a traditional Modern book. The writing in this book is flawless, and really sets the mood perfectly. Flora is a great female character and she is very believable . There are a lot of elements of mystery to this book and it keeps you guessing about what will happen next.
I do think this would have benefited by including Marco's point of view, instead of just Flora's.

This is a really great book, definitely recommended.