Monday, October 20, 2014

Rocky Mountain Miracle

Rocky Mountain MiracleRocky Mountain Miracle by Christine Feehan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Someone has been spreading rumors that, to get his hands on millions of dollars in inheritance money, Cole Steele killed his father and intends to kill Jase, his fourteen year old brother. Itinerant veterinarian Maia catches Cole's attention when he hears her defend him to the locals, and he starts hanging out in the bar watching her play drums several nights a week. Cole is doing his best to convince her to sleep with him when he gets a call from Jase, frantic because his favorite horse has been severely injured. Cole insists Maia go with him to the ranch. As they drive through the increasing snowstorm, animals swoop down from the darkness and run into their path, frantic to warn Maia of danger ahead--men and blood and violence.

However, between the snowstorms, the injured horse, and a wounded mountain lion, Maia isn't leaving the ranch any time soon. Thank goodness for Jase's presence because Cole gets sexier as his secrets come to light and barriers soften and collapse. When she learns Christmas is a traumatic time of year in the Steele household, Maia is determined to do what she can to banish the hateful ghost that permeates the house. But it isn't a ghost causing the dangerous accidents, and Cole soon realizes that whoever killed his father is still out there.

Seriously, I got it the first time--he's a sexy bad boy inexplicably obsessed with the traveling vet, and even though she knows better, she's attracted to him, too. Despite the obnoxiously repetitious beginning, I eventually enjoyed this story of abused brothers learning to trust each other and heal with the help of a vet who can communicate with animals. I kind of wanted the mountain lion to have a bigger role in the story, though.

For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary. There is a fair amount of swearing; some pretty explicit sex scenes; and a ridiculous number of descriptions of the main characters' potent attractiveness destroying all good intentions of self control, liquid fire of desire, careful defenses not working, branding kisses, yada yada yada.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I really wish all romance authors would take Alison Armstrong's Queen's Code workshops (see before they wrote any more novels. Lust does NOT equal love, and too much sexual chemistry is a bad thing, not the fire that keeps a relationship going as so many people seem to believe. Which is not to say that attraction isn't critically important, just that both parties need to feel comfortable enough to be their true selves in order for a relationship (of any kind, really) to grow and strengthen over time. Desperately twisting oneself into a pretzel in an effort to be what one thinks the other wants never works in the long run, and neither does invading someone's personal space with blatant sexuality. Ms. Feehan does eventually get her characters to the point of showing their true selves to each other, but I almost didn't read far enough to find that out because the beginning of this novella was so full of raging lust and hormones.

I received a free eGalley copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.  Apparently this novella was published a decade or so ago as part of a couple of story collections and is now being repackaged on its own in ebook format.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Heroes Are My Weakness

Heroes Are My WeaknessHeroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I almost quit reading within the first few chapters because I really didn't much care for any of the characters, but I'm glad I kept going because they eventually started to grow on me.

The novel opens with Annie Hewitt, a debt-ridden ventriloquist stricken with pneumonia, driving through a blizzard on a small island off the coast of Maine to a cottage she must live in for the next 60 straight days lest ownership revert to her ex-stepfather. The sudden appearance of a man on horseback causes her to skid off the road into a snow-filled ditch, and things don't improve even after she drags her feverish self and her suitcases of puppets through the cold night to the dark cottage where the caretaker hasn't turned on the utilities as requested. The rider turns out to be her former step-brother and ex-boyfriend whom she hasn't seen in 18 years--since he tried to kill her. Theo Harp is now a famous author and recent widower, but this time she has the courage to stand up to him, in the process learning that all wasn't as it seemed back when they were teenagers.

Annie's mother never treated her very kindly, but on her deathbed, she promised Annie that the cottage contained "her legacy" and there would be plenty of money, so Annie begins the search, hoping to discover something that could help pay off the bills she incurred catering to her mother's dying whims. Annie spends hours up at Harp House trading housekeeping labor (to prevent Theo from firing her friend who can't do the work due to a broken foot) for wi-fi access so she can research the art and objects she finds. None of it seems valuable, but someone sure wants to scare Annie away because there is a series of break-ins, vandalism, threats, and once someone even shoots at her.

My favorite part of the book, I think, is the subplot about Jaycie's four-year-old daughter Livia who became mute after witnessing her mother shoot her father. Annie's talent for ventriloquism helps draw Livia out and start the healing process.

For reader's advisors: character and setting doorways. There is some swearing and eventually some sex scenes.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Curtsies & Conspiracies

Curtsies & ConspiraciesCurtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #2 in the series kicks off with the girls in Sophronia's class at the floating Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality undergoing their six-month evaluations, the results of which put everyone out of sorts. Sophronia is grateful for the friendship of Vieve and the sooties in the boiler room, and visits them even more frequently. It's with their assistance that she begins to work out the threads of the complicated machinations afoot regarding a new guidance valve and a test of aether travel. Many factions seem to have a stake in the outcome, from Picklemen to flyway men, vampires to government agents, and it's up to Sophronia to figure out who is trying to kidnap her friends Dimity and Pillover, and for heaven's sake, why?

Although I still haven't managed to work out exactly who the Picklemen are and what their agenda is, I thoroughly enjoyed this fast-paced romp through an alternate 19th century England where werewolves and vampires live side by side with ordinary humans, and most of the servants are mechanical. It was interesting to watch Sophronia grow and learn the hard way that sometimes her actions have unexpected consequences--a lesson all teenagers need, even the exceptionally mature ones.

For readers' advisors: setting and story doorways are primary. No sex or bad language. Sophronia is in a bit of a love triangle, but so far everyone is very formal and respectful.

I received a free ebook copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Sixth Grave on the Edge

Sixth Grave on the Edge (Charley Davidson, #6)Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book #6 picks up only a few days after Book #5 ends. Charley's life hasn't become any less chaotic or complicated. Since Reyes proposed, Charley has been stalling and trying to uncover more information about his background, namely his human family. As a favor to FBI Agent Carson, she's looking into a long-unsolved kidnapping where the missing child just happens to be the one and only Reyes Farrow--a fact Agent Carson does not know. However, it's not as straightforward as Charley thinks: there is more than one kidnapping in this particular story, which mucks everything up.

While she's trying to figure out what to do, gunmen break in and threaten to harm her nearest and dearest if she doesn't track down a witness to a murder who is being kept in protective custody. Again, there is more to this story, and not everyone will escape unscathed.

She also gets a visit from a panicked man who lost his soul to a demon in a card game and needs her to get it back for him so he can someday go to heaven to be with his 3-year-old daughter who just died. Over Reyes' objections, she goes to meet the demon and makes her own bargain with him. A demon with an ulterior motive? What a shock!

Then there is the ghost who so terrifies her teenage friend Quentin, that she traps him on a tram car until Charley can come to his rescue and help the girl cross over. The child's abusive life and horrible death prompt Charley to make it her mission to discover what really happened and ensure supernatural justice takes place.

In the midst of all this, Angel's mom tracks Charley down, demanding a truthful explanation for the money Charley has been depositing into her bank account every month. Angel is furious when (some of) the truth comes out, and it leads to more revelations of what really happened when he died.

Add to that Charley's "ingenious" plan to make Uncle Bob jealous enough to ask Cookie setting her up on several consecutive blind dates. As with all of Charley's plans, it goes awry. It's a busy week in Albuquerque.

There is actually so much going on in this installment of the series, that it felt very much like a middle book--a way station enroute to a larger climactic moment in a later book. Lots of loose ends that don't get tied up, especially with Charley's dad's mysterious behaviour. It feels to me like it ended mid-scene, in fact. I was a little startled when the credits music started playing, as I had been expecting another chapter to follow.

While I still enjoy the author's style, I did find myself a little frustrated that there really wasn't any character development for Charley. Despite all her catastrophes and near-death misadventures, she just never seems to grow up at all. I appreciate that much of her attitude and banter is a defense mechanism, yet I really wished she would learn to think things through a little more, to heed other people's warnings and not barrel head-down into danger all the time, forcing others to come to her rescue. She's got a big heart, but I'm growing a little weary of her foolish recklessness.

I wonder how much of my dissatisfaction has to do with the fact that I listened to the book instead of reading it? The narrator, Lorelei King, did an excellent job, I thought, of giving each character a distinct voice and personality. I'm not sure why Cookie's voice was so deep as to sound masculine, but otherwise I thought Ms. King did an excellent job of bringing to life the words on the page. However, when read out loud, I really noticed the repetition of certain elements, like Charley asking, "What can go wrong?" or all the ways to talk about Reyes being hot--in all senses of that word. I found myself much more impatient than with earlier books. I think I'll go back to print rather than audio with Book #7.

For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary. There is a great deal of swearing and sexual content. I've seen this book characterized as "urban fantasy," which makes a certain amount of sense--it's too chaotic and lacking a central mystery to call it a "mystery." I listed it as "suspense," but it's also not terribly suspenseful, although "humorous romantic paranormal suspense" is more or less how I'd describe it.

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