Tag Archives: romance

Summer Catch Up

23 Aug

I am very disappointed in myself for neglecting my blog.  I love writing this blog, love reading, and love sharing what I’ve read with others.  Still, life got the best of me and I just…stopped.

To kick-start my return as a blook bogger, I’ve decided to post a brief paragraph about each book I’ve read since I vanished.

Enchantment, by Orson Scott Card
E
nchantment, by Orson Scott Card

This is a very intelligent book!  I love novels that take fairy tales and adapt them (I’m very slowly writing my own version), and that is what this book does.  However, this pulls from Russian and Jewish folklore as well as the original versions of fairy tales.  I had to stop reading a few times and look up the stories that Card seems to expect me to already know.  Thank goodness for Wikipedia!  Because I wasn’t smart enough, this was a slow read.  There’s magic, romance, philosophy, history, and action.  When I got to the romance and action, I zoomed through it.  I’m very glad I read this book because it gave legitimacy to the genres that I enjoy.  It’s smart and fun, and it made me think!

Full Dark, No Stars, by Stephen King

Book Cover

Since it’s King’s newest book, I read this collection of novellas.  I’ve read all of his novels, but only randomly choose to read the short stories and novels.  I don’t really know how to describe my impression of the stories in Full Dark, No Stars.  If I said that it’s darker than his usual stuff, someone would undoubtedly point out that this is the guy who once wrote about a guy committing suicide by sticking his hand down a garbage disposal (Firestarter, I think?  I can’t get that image out of my mind!).  This is more realistically dark.  Rape, murder and relationships gone wrong are common themes.  There are still supernatural aspects, and I enjoyed the whole book.  To me, the title is very fitting and it reveals another facet of Stephen King’s world.

book coverMarry the Man Today, by Linda Needham

Of course there are romantic paperbacks on this list!  I just finished this book, and as historical romance goes, I’m usually not much of a critic.  So imagine my surprise when I realized that this book just didn’t do it for me.  The characters fell flat, the drama was always lacking something, and there didn’t seem to be any passion between heroine Elizabeth and Earl Blackstone.  There were cutesy moments but nothing much more than that.  I’ll be seeking out some new romance novels soon to make up for the disappointment!

A Kiss at Midnight, by Eloisa James

27 Nov

Kiss at Midnight cover

 

“The only thing completely clear about the situation is your infatuation,” Wick said.  “Let me sum it up for you: Kate, very sensibly, shows no interest in you.   Frightened by the imminent arrival of your bride, you are now running shrieking in the direction of the one woman who not only doesn’t want you, but isn’t eligible.  Really, could you be a bit more original?”

 

I was planning on reading a more sophisticated book this weekend, but sometimes you just crave something light.   So I went to my bookcase dedicated to paperbacks and picked out this little gem.

A Kiss at Midnight is Eloisa James’s version of a fairytale.  Usually, I turn to Christina Dodd (highly recommended!) for that kind of thing.  Still, this has its cute moments, including a wicked stepmother, quirky godmother, and glass slippers!

The story starts slowly, introducing Kate Daltry and Prince Gabriel.  I really liked Kate right away, but it took some time to get used to Gabriel. The circumstances bringing Kate and Gabriel together are pretty random and far-fetched.  As a connoisseur of romance novels, I’m used to accepting the implausible, but some of this plot seemed unnecessarily strange.  Still, this was a fairy tale, after all, and it was easy to root for a happily ever after.

One of the easy pitfalls for Regency romance is having too many characters.  I know it leaves the possibility open for spin off stories, but sometimes it just seems too cluttered. In this case, I could barely keep up with all the characters, and it was a bit odd how they were involved in the wrap up in the end.  The best character was definitely Henry, the industrious godmother.  Her fun personality carried this book. Add in some of the hottest…ahem…romantic scenes I’ve read in a long time, and this book was a solid three stars. Overall, this is cute and enjoyable as long as you are willing to accept some of the weird parts in the plot.

The Tairen Soul Quintet

21 Nov

I’ve been holding off on this post because I’m smack in the middle of book four in a series of five.  Still, with the release of the final, fifth book occurring this month, I had to get this out there.

For at least a year, I had a cute paperback book on my bookshelf featuring a redheaded young woman laying in the grass, surrounded by magic.  I don’t know why I didn’t look too closely, but I’m very glad that it just sat on my shelf.  Eventually, I found another book at my favorite used book sale and recognized the same style cover and the author.  Still, both books sat, waiting.

How fortuitous that I decided to read the first in the series, Lord of the Fading Lands, so close to the release date of the final book.  When I started, I had no idea that I was about to plunge into an epic.  I’m still in the middle of the fourth book, but I had to share this with you as soon as possible.

The Tairen Soul is a very special version of the Fey, with the ability to change into a large, flying cat-like creature called the Tairen.  Rainier, the last Tairen Soul in the Fading Lands, serves as king over both the Fey and the Tairen.  Rain hasn’t left the Fading Lands in thousands of years, but the mysterious deaths of his kind have caused him to leave in search of a solution.

That solution just happens to be Ellysetta, a simple, mortal girl hiding a lot of secrets.  From the moment she meets Rain, Ellie is forced to face the magic and talents that she has spent her whole life meticulously hiding.  She’s afraid to accept her powers, but with Rain, her truemate, by her side, Ellie will begin a journey to accept her destiny.

The love between Ellie and Rain is wrought with conflict.  Ellie’s soul calls Rain down from the sky, and he immediately professes his love for her as her one true soulmate.  I thought that this would take away from the drama in their relationship, but that is not at all the case.  The couple must still find their way together, in the midst of war and danger.  Ellie is especially intriguing.  Initially, her story read like a Cinderella tale where a simple young girl suddenly becomes a queen.  However, her character is always evolving and growing in depth and strength.  Ellie is no delicate princess to be swept off her feet.  She’s powerful beyond anyone’s understanding, and deeply empathetic.

Written originally as a complete novel, there are really no good endings and beginnings among all the books.  I highly suggest collecting them all, and then reading all the way through.  I hesitate a little to rate The Tairen Soul Series prematurely, especially since I find that it’s the endings that always disappoint me.  Still, I already know that the journey is well worth the read.  I rate this five out of five stars!

Breaking the Rules to Love

31 Oct

Weekend Reads

To many, the idea of spending a Saturday afternoon curled up and engrossed in a book doesn’t sound all that excited.  For me, a good book, a blanket, and a cairn terrier at my side all make a recipe for a great weekend.  In fact, I often find myself unable to sleep until the story is complete.  My genre of choice for a weekend read?  A good romance novel.  Since it’s easy enough to average one of these books per weekend, I decided it wasn’t enough for a book review post.  So I did something different.  I chose two books that seemed similar and I read them both.

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, by Sarah MacLean

Nine Rules to Break CoverThis Regency romance (set in the early 19th century) features Lady Calpurnia Hartwell, nearly “on the shelf” and coming to terms with the fact that she is bland and uninteresting to anyone in the high society.  The only time she ever felt desirable was ten years ago during a brief run-in with Gabriel St. John, notorious rake (of course).  Since that time, Callie has harbored a crush that she knows will never amount to anything.

Until Callie’s younger sister becomes engaged.   This causes Callie to re-evaluate her life.  Realizing that she is practically invisible to society anyway, she creates a list of things that “a lady” can’t do…And decides to complete them.  First on her list?  A kiss from Gabriel St. John.

Gabriel has problems of his own, so when Lady Calpurnia shows up unexpectedly to request a kiss, she’s like an answer to his prayers.  He needs her to help him out, but one kiss quickly leads to complications he didn’t expect.

I personally love the “damsel in distress, strong man sees past the exterior to ignite passion and make the woman’s dreams come true” plot line.  This is definitely one of those books.  Callie occasionally brought me to tears with her vulnerability.  That being said, she was also very self deprecating.  This is a woman who felt that basically her life had no value, and for some readers it may really get on the nerves.  It was fun to see a man work so hard to break down those walls, and it was fun to see a woman slowly grow in self-confidence.

Additionally, the stunts Callie pulls in order to complete her list are full of fun and adventure.  This romance was an easy to read, fun four and a half stars!  Also, I read this just in time for the recent release of MacLean’s next book, Ten Ways to be Adored when Landing a Lord.

A Lady’s Guide to Improper Behavior, by Suzanne Enoch

Lady's Guide to Improper Behavior coverTheresa Weller is a very proper lady in the Regency romance.  In fact, she wrote the book on exactly how a single young lady should conduct herself.  However, from the moment she meets Colonel Bartholomew James, she can’t help but to act completely improper.  She looses her temper, but can’t seem to keep away.  Theresa suddenly considers breaking all the rules in order to become the pursuer and court a man.

Bartholomew, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with anyone.  Injured while in service in India, his leg isn’t the only part of him scarred.  He can’t figure out why someone so proper and adored like Theresa would have anything to do with him, but she is the first person in a year to make him feel alive.

Isn’t this cover cute and fun?  I certainly thought so, which is why I was surprised to learn how dark this was.  Unlike the previous book, which was a debut for the author, this book is authored by one of my favorites.  I re-scanned my previous reads by Suzanne Enoch, and I realized that they were a bit dark and brooding as well.  Those books made up for it with deliciously bad boys as main characters.

The refreshing part of this story is the way there is very little tiptoeing around their relationship.  Both are very direct with each other.  This meant that we got to watch the story unfold as their love deepened.  They confronted adversaries together.  On the other hand, the story was a little strange, and full of characters that I think were only there to justify their own story in a series.  Also, for some reason, the nicknames (Tess and Tolly) got on my nerves.  I know that’s kind of personal, but still it distracted me.

I usually really enjoy Enoch, but in this case it is a three out of five stars.  Nothing special, just a quick read.

The Search, by Nora Roberts (narrated by Tanya Eby)

26 Jul

The Search book coverI don’t often listen to audiobooks, but whenever I take the long drive home or to visit friends (I find that most drives from central Iowa tend to be long), I enjoy an audiobook to pass the time.  Most recently, I completed this unabridged version of The Search, by Nora Roberts.

Fiona is dog trainer enjoying her quiet, organized life on the island of Orcas in the Pacific Northwest.  She lives alone with her pack of dogs, teaching obedience classes and responding to the occasional search and rescue calls.  Simon is a carpenter/artist who is new to the island and escaping a high-profile, volatile relationship.  He and his new puppy Jaws show up on Fiona’s doorstep and Fiona sets right to work training them both!

Of course, romance ensues, but Fiona’s life isn’t as quiet as it appears on the surface. Her past is catching up with her as someone wants her dead–again!  Fiona and Simon fight to embrace their unexpected love throughout not only the normal pitfalls of a relationship, but also through deadly circumstances.

Since I am biased as a dog lover, I think I was able to forgive a lot of things in this book.  First, it fits a tried-and-true formula that is definitely no stranger to Nora Roberts.  Romance blooming in the face of danger is a popular plotline.  I personally don’t often begrudge an author for following such a formula, as long as it stays interesting.  Fiona’s search and rescue responses are definitely helpful in keeping things fresh.  I also love her dog stories; the dogs become supporting characters.

The dialogue occasionally felt awkward to me, but I am willing to place some of that blame on the narrator, who often used a patronizing voice that didn’t feel real for the characters.  Fiona seems kind of timid about some things and very fierce about others. She outright confronts Simon about their love on a regular basis.  This couple talks out their issues like no other couple I’ve read about!  Simon can be a bit annoying.  Fiona loves his winey, grudging admissions of love, and at first I thought it was cute but it did get a little old.  For example, here is how a discussion between the two of them goes once they first meet:

“You’re not beautiful.”
“There you go again, Mr. Romance.”
“You’re not, but you grab hold. I haven’t figured out why.”
“Let me know when you do.

Still, I laughed out loud a lot in this book, and rooted for them to catch the bad guy.  Because I’m a dog lover, I give this romance suspense novel four out of five stars.

The Mercy of Thin Air, by Ronlyn Domingue

20 Jul

The Mercy of Thin Air “Why, it beats so I can love you.”

Young Razi Nolan is at the cusp of a life-changing decision when she dies suddenly at the age of 22 in 1929.  Now, as a ghost, Razi has access to all of her life memories, as clearly as if they all happened yesterday.  After all, time no longer has much meaning.  Razi shares her memories, centering on life as a young woman in love in the 1920s.  Razi intertwines her story with the story of the young, modern-day couple with whom she now “haunts.”  While Razi gathers hints and learns more about the couple she is living with, they are doing the same.  The result is a hint of mystery that keeps everything moving with a forward momentum.  We are also given two passionate love stories made real with challenges and pitfalls along the way.

I loved the patchwork story telling in this novel.  I learned about New Orleans in the 1920s and the book has motivated me to learn more about the women of this era and how they fought for women’s rights.  The Mercy of Thin Air is, on the surface, a love story that brought me to tears several times.  It’s the mysticism, however, that makes it a stand-out read.  That love lasts beyond death is a touching theme.

I found this book a year ago for sale for a quarter at my hometown library.  Even though it was highly recommended by a friend, I just now got around to reading it.  I’m sorry I delayed.  I highly recommend this as a summer read. Five Star!