Review: Blood Kiss

Blood Kiss is the first book in a spin off series from the Black Dagger Brotherhood and, after reading it, I can’t wait for the second. What a fantastic way to start off a series.

Paradise is a high-class, well-protected vampire. She actually wants to try out for the training centre program of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. She, unlike the other women of high society, wants to think for herself, act on her own and be her own person. Shockingly, she even wants to fight. Like the men.

Her father is a wonderful supportive man and though he has more than one quibble at his daughter’s request, he finally agrees to let her try. So, there was Paradise, from carefully preserved, protected, high class lady to warrior.

It’s not an easy change and we’re there for the ride. The training in the program is tough as nails and the other recruits are all characters with determined personalities that don’t trust each other or her. Becoming a team and working together takes more than a few moments. These guys bond through the program though and come through it together pretty well. Personally, I thought J.R. Ward did a really good job of presenting a physically challenging program that wasn’t ridiculously unrealistic yet presented vampires with challenges designed to help them grow. I not only bought it, I loved it.

One of the other recruits is Craeg. A tough, quiet guy who’s come from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s there to find his own path and get a little vengeance. Along the way, he discovers Paradise and the two become inseparable.

There are plenty of challenges for the two. Paradise comes from a background that determines who she can and cannot marry (oops, mate) and Craeg has his own issues on the subject, not to mention there’s a war going on. Still, they make it and its both beautiful and credible.

I can’t recommend this one highly enough. If you haven’t tried J.R. Ward, give her a chance. You won’t regret it. She’s a master of the genre and a fantastic writer. I know I can’t seem to get enough of her books.

(credit:goodreads.com)

(credit:goodreads.com)

Note: To go to site, just click on cover.

Review: Walk Through Fire

Walk Through Fire is the latest Chaos novel by Kristen Ashley. It was one I saw while buying groceries and I thought: ‘I’ll just take a quick read…’. Well, one chapter and I was done. Kristen Ashley is like that. I just can’t read one part. I’m hooked.

Please understand, I was shopping with my hubby at the end of a very long day. We were both tired, hungry and crabby. I didn’t have time to stop and read. I had things to do at home–namely his lovely mother was coming–and not a lot of time to do everything in.

I managed to read one tiny chapter while he put the groceries on the conveyor belt. That was all it took. I bought the book and took it home.

Millie Cross made a mistake a long time ago. A huge one and Logan ‘High’ paid for it. Now, she’s run-in with the old Chaos gang and she’s the most hated woman in the planet for them. They treat her like dirt–Logan included–and she takes it, knowing she hurt him. She hurts and tries to get by. It’s absolutely delicious angst.

Still, how on earth was Kristen going to reconcile these two?

Well, I’m not one to spoil things, so I’ll just settle for telling you that they do reconcile, it’s romance after all, but it’s a credible reconciliation and that was what made me a believer. Millie and Logan don’t just go from hurt to love overnight. Things are worked out and along the way there are misunderstandings and mistakes that are both adorable and believable.

We also find the reason why Millie did what she did. And I won’t reveal it here except to say it was both credible and understandable. Which made that angst all the sweeter because she was an undeserving victim of their hatred.

Like all of Kristen Ashley’s books, this one is a great, long read and that wasn’t a disappointment for yours truly. I love getting into her books because she’s a reliable author, who delivers a great story with solid characters and spicy romance. But a great aspect of her books is the length. There’s nothing better than knowing I’ve got a nice, thick book to read. Heavenly.

This is one I’d recommend for any reader of contemporary romance or those who are into edgy, urban romance. It’s one in the Chaos series but can easily be read alone and it’s certainly a great intro to Kristen Ashley. I would highly recommend it.

(credit: goodreads.com)

(credit: goodreads.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

Review: Only a kiss

I actually took a while to pick up Only a Kiss. I had just finished another heavy round of work at my DayJob and it drained any of my free time. By the time I got home, I was usually too exhausted to do more than reconnect with my hubby, pet the dogs and crash. So the lovely book sat, untouched and unloved on my desk and I started to wonder if it was worth the read. Was Mary Balogh as good as I remembered or did I just become biased to her writing?

She’s not good. She’s unbelievable. Mary Balogh is absolute gold.

Only a Kiss is an incredible read. It’s part of the Survivors’ Club series but definitely stands alone by itself. It tells the story of Imogen, a widow who witnessed the death of her husband and still carries the scars of that war. She’s hiding, with a couple of friends at Hardford Hall and that’s where our hero finds her.

He’s Percival Hayes, Earl of Hardford and they are at each other’s throats from the get go. His first words to her are, “And who the devil might you be?” since the Hall is his home and he hadn’t expected her to be there. Imogen, though gives back as good as he does and we’re off to a feisty romance.

It’s a credit to Mary Balogh that she can credibly move the characters from dislike to love within the story and do so organically, without my carefully sharpened cynical antennae twitching. But, more than that, the love story was so real that I knew these two had to be together. They were destined for each other, like mint and chocolate.

One other thing I must mention is the inimitable humour in the book. Very British and subtle, it still made me chuckle out loud and turn the pages eagerly. The two ladies that live with Imogen are completely adorable characters who are just a little…off. They collect an assortment of rescued animals that cause the Earl to raise an eyebrow more than once and make the reader laugh at their antics. It’s funny without being ridiculous or forced and, not only does it do wonders for the story, the humour makes the serious parts all that more striking.

This one is an absolute keeper, but most of Mary Balogh’s books are. If you’re a lover of historical romance, don’t miss this one. It’s one of those gems you’ll love like a child and place in a cherished place on your book shelf. I know I have. What a wonderful book.

(credit: amazon.com)

(credit: amazon.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

Review: Ride Steady

Ride Steady is the latest in the Chaos series by Kristen Ashley. Chaos is the name of the bike club where all the stories take place. The heroes are tough as nails bikers who fall for some pretty awesome heroines. They’re edgy stories with just the right amount of romance.

In Ride Steady, our heroine is Carissa, a really kind, nice woman who came from the right side of the tracks but has ended up on tough times. At just about the worst possible moment in her life, she meets a tough, mean-looking biker known as Joker and things start to change for her. She’s pretty skeptical of the help offered at first, not surprising considering the betrayal in her background, but soon starts to see Joker in a new light.

Life might have given Joker a tough set of cards, but he’s made good choices with them and now has Chaos as a family that supports him. Not only that, he’s got raw talent that starts to shine and help both him and the club. To add to that, he knew Carissa way, way back in the day and meeting her again just seems to be the icing on the cake of his story. He fell for her as a kid and the years haven’t changed those feelings one iota.

Both Carissa and Joker have to learn to trust each other. Carissa because of her past, doesn’t trust easily and Joker, because he thinks he doesn’t deserve her, has to see that she’s the right woman for him. Along the way, we get to see old favourites from other books and learn a bit about the on-going issue with a nasty enemy of the club but the main story is about Carissa and Joker and we get lots of lovely time with them both.

At over 600 pages, the books by Kristen Ashley are all nice, long reads and I love finding a new one by her. I can’t imagine the hours and hours of editing she must do on these mammoth-creations but I love her for it because when I pick up one up, I know I’ll have a good long read ahead. Ride Steady didn’t disappoint and I would highly recommend it for having both great characters, tons of chemistry, smoking romance and an edgy story I don’t want to give up. For those of you who read contemporary romance, if you haven’t tried Kristen Ashley, I would encourage you to pick one of hers up.

(credit: goodreads)

(credit: goodreads)

Note: to go to site, click on cover.

Review: Worth Any Price

I adored Lisa Kleypas’ contemporary books but I was doubtful about her historical ones. I’m very picky about historical romance. The dialogue has to be authentic, the characters true to the times and the plot must be captivating. I picked up Worth Any Price with a heavy dose of skepticism.

Nick Gentry is a man who’s seen the darkest part of society and lived to thrive in it. He’s a Bow Street runner, a sort of hit man who does the undoable for those who can afford it. His assignment is the capture of a Miss Charlotte Howard. Apparently, she has run away from her husband-to-be and is hiding from the man.

They meet under false pretences, but it’s soon apparent to Nick that Charlotte is not a wilful woman but a desperate one who is trying to avoid a fate worse than death at the hands of a very nasty man. In a short time, Nick goes from trying to capture her to offering her his help. The solution he proposes is marriage. To him.

I love stories about marriage of necessity. It gives the couple time to discover each other’s faults and gifts and, while they fall in love with each other, I end up falling in love with them both. Usually, they’re fantastic love stories and this one was no exception. The true journey of the characters starts when they marry and start to support and challenge each other.

Charlotte has to face her enemy and set him straight once and for all–something pretty intimidating for a woman of the time, since men held all the power back then. Nick has to accept his heredity and position in life–something he had been avoiding his entire life.

So was I impressed by Lisa Kleypas? Absolutely. Enough that I’m heading back to the used book store to find other historicals by her and enough that I’m encouraging you, my gentle reader, to give her a try. She has a way with a story that’s captivating and, if you’re a fan of historical romance, she does that beautiful period of time the justice it deserves.

(credit: goodreads.com)

(credit: goodreads.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

Review: Holding the Dream

I was a huge fan of this book. I know it’s only part two and some times those middle books tend to sag, but this one shone.

It’s by Nora Roberts, so it was incredibly well written. There was witty dialogue and the characters were awesome but, if I’m honest, the big hit with me was the heroine, Kate Powell.

Kate is a woman after my own heart mostly because she’s a lot like me. She’s determined to rescue herself (I might defer there. I love a well-timed rescue), she’s hard working, a bit bookish, nerdy, nervous and she loves math. To make her even more likeable, she adores the hero’s two puppies.

Byron is the hero and he rescues a very reluctant Kate from the mess she finds herself in. Nora being Nora, Byron only helps Kate get back on her feet before she finds her voice and fixes the issue herself. Still, there was enough of a rescue to satisfy the romantic in me and make me sigh with delight. And Byron was determined without being obnoxious which Nora does with tons of class. He was awesome, easy going, yet very determined to get his woman.

The trio of women who create this series are easy to like. They’re all hard working women (when has Nora Roberts ever written a woman who’s not?) and stand by each other through thick and thin. Add in a touch of humour and a beautiful love story and you’ve got a hit. If you haven’t tried this series, give them a go. They’re absolute keepers.

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Note: click on the cover to go to site.

Top 5 series I keep rereading obsessively

I reread some books over and over. I reread some series over and over. These are the series I keep rereading like an obsessed addict.

5. The Mackenzie Mountain series from Linda Howard. Just yum!

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4. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Of course!

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3. J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood. Sigh…so good!

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2. Lisa KleyPas’s contemporary series starting with Sugar Daddy.

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1. Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series. I just can’t get enough of her writing.

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How about you? Do you reread some series over and over?

 

(Note: click on covers to go to sites.)

Inspirational TV

I’ve just watched Pride and Prejudice.

I watched it with rapt concentration while my dogs snored at my feet.

I find the movie Pride and Prejudice delicious. There are different versions but my favourite is the A&E special. They do an amazing job of staying true to the book. Elizabeth says things like: “Your argument will not induce me to be explicit.” The dialogue alone is worth it, add the incredible acting and I’m over the moon. It’s so absolutely, incredibly, decadently good.

This version of the classic book has incredible scenery, reminding me of Braveheart–another must see movie. From beautiful houses, to horse rides, to incredible, misty-covered hills, it reminds me why I loved England so much and why historicals are some of my favourite romance.

As a bonus, where we live, mother nature had let it rain for three days straight. It was as if the UK had appeared in our backyard. To finish the scene, I made myself a cup of tea. All I needed was Mr. Darcy and the scene would be complete. I finished the movie with a sigh of delight.

Then one of the dogs saw a chipmunk and mad chaos ensued.

Do you have movies that you absolutely love? Which ones?

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Strong is the new skinny

A friend of mine told me: “Taylor, strong is the new skinny.” I think she might be onto something.

Our idea of beauty as pertaining to women and men is not carved in stone. It’s a concept that changes with time. Check out this great post on what was considered beautiful in the 1700s and 1800s. And things just kept changing. Check out this post on more recent views on beauty. http://www.rehabs.com/explore/womens-body-image-and-bmi/

I think romance books reflect our changing views. Today’s heroines are more active, determined and fit than their predecessors. To match, our heroes have a sharp sense of humour and are also determined, successful and fit.

While I keep thinking that it’s sad we put so much emphasis on the physical, I’m delighted with this new trend towards fitness. Though Romance can’t change a society, it’s so lovely to see it reflect healthier attitudes towards beauty in women and men. Go fitness!

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Fight night

As payback for taking him to see Twilight, my hubby made me watch a UFC fight.

Having read about fights in my romance books and having watched movies, I was confident I knew what to expect. The hero would have quiet dignity and not be very demonstrative. Neo-like, he’d move so quickly the naked eye would have trouble following his actions. Rocky-like, he’d take punches stoically without so much as a flinch. He’d wait until just the right moment, when he’d unleash his punch and with minimal fuss, subdue the bad guy in seconds. It would be a thing of beauty.

I was taken back as soon as the fighters emerged. Neither of them looked right. For one, their hair didn’t look like Fabio’s and they weren’t cool and aloof. They were tattooed, with shaved heads, broken noses and had ‘cauliflower’ ears–an item never once mentioned in a romance book.

When the fight started, it was a huge let down. For minutes on end, all the fighters did was circle each other giving their opponent their version of the ‘evil eye’. I stared as time passed and not a single arm was lifted. When I finally asked my hubby what was going on, he explained they were ‘looking for an opening’. An opening? Napoleon didn’t plan as long as these two did.

When they finally got into the actual scuffle, their punches were ridiculous and uncoordinated. While Rocky had punches that could fell a tree, these guys seldom hit their target and their hits looked feather light.

Something romance books never mention is that the chin is like a On/Off button on people. When a flailing limb somehow hit one of the fighters on the chin, he went down like a sack of potatoes.

Another fact that romance books blatantly ignore is the power of the elbow. Fists might look powerful but if you want to really hurt your opponent, you should use your elbow. Harder than any knuckle, the elbow can do incredible damage and can actually cut someone’s face. To my knowledge, not one of my romance heroes has ever elbowed someone.

And to bring about submission, you writhe on the ground with your opponent looking a lot like two earthworms who have gotten very friendly with each other.

Watching two well trained athletes slither on the ground, grinding against their opponent burst what was left of my hope that this fight would ever resemble those in my romance books. Not one ounce of dignity, not an iota of romantic flare, this wasn’t a hero and a bad guy, this was nuts.

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I practically ran back to my romance books.