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Monday, January 31, 2011

The Pretender - Celeste Bradley

Synopsis:
She had a secret she'd do anything to hide.

Agatha Cunnington, a headstrong beauty from the country, has come to London in search of her missing brother James. The only clue she has is a cryptic letter signed The Griffin. Agatha decides to disguise herself as a respectable married woman so that she can go about the city unnoticed. But for her charade to work she needs a suitable "husband," preferably someone tall, elegant, and rakish-someone like Simon Montague Rain.

He had a secret he'd do anything to hide.

Simon Montague Rain, also known as The Magician, is a member of The Liar's Club, a renegade group of rogues and thieves in the service of the Crown. When someone begins murdering members of the undercover cabal one by one, Simon is given the mission to bring in The Griffin, one of his comrades who is suspected of betraying his brothers. Simon goes undercover and infiltrates the home of "Mrs." Agatha Applequist who he believes is the Griffin's mistress. Before Simon knows what's happened, he finds himself irresistibly drawn to Agatha's soft, feminine charms-and he is tempted beyond reason to break the first rule of The Liar's Club: never fall in love.

Review:
The Pretender is the first book in the Liar's Club series and I absolutely adored this book. Agatha Cunnington is looking for her brother James who has gone missing for 2 months now. She leaves for London, marrying an imaginary man named Mortimer Applequist to help her get her way to London with minimum hassle. However, it is harder to maintain an imaginary husband once Agatha has settled in a townhouse and now that she needs to travel among the Ton to seek clues to James' whereabouts. She needs a man to pretend to be Mortimer. She believes she has found the perfect gullible man in Simon Rain, a supposed chimney sweep who happens to be there at right time and place. I love Simon. his occasional lack of polish at times can be so adorable. And Agatha (I love that she wasn't made as a pencil thin and beyond beautiful, just wonderfully ordinary), is exuberant, charming, can tell the wildest tales if she has to, and best of all, she's no innocent dingbat despite being a virgin, she's no martyr, and she is not stupid. Her plans make sense, she has a strategy, and she actively aids Simon rather than acts as a liability. When the novelty of a heroine who isn't dingbat personified fades, there is enough sparking fizzy chemistry and sexual tension between Agatha and Simon that kept me riveted.

Notable Quote:
She snorted "Simon, I practically ravished you."  He grinned, "I know, I feel so cheap".

Rating:
I describe this book as a romantic suspense in the 1800's.  I am not a historical reader, they don't usually hold my interest, but The Pretender had a great mix of the old world, plus introduced the readers to the Club of misfits that protect the crown at all cost, even at the cost of their own lives.  Agatha was a complete fun to read, she has sass with smarts and wits.  Simon was enough to make you swoon.  If I had one complaint about this book is at times, it seemed a bit descriptive for me, but that was easy skimmed and overlooked as the story itself was wonderful.  Can't wait to download that next book The Impostor (Dalton's book)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

All Through The Night - Suzanne Brockmann

Synopsis:
It’s Christmastime in Boston, and this year the silver bells will be wedding bells as FBI agent Jules Cassidy ties the knot with the man of his dreams, Hollywood heartthrob Robin Chadwick.

The pair plan a quiet, intimate ceremony, to be witnessed by family and close friends from the FBI, SEAL Team Sixteen, and Troubleshooters, Incorporated, including Sam Starrett and Alyssa Locke. But the holiday season brings more to the happy couple than they expect.

A waterfall coming through their kitchen ceiling, a bat colony in the attic, old family tensions . . . even an international incident can’t dampen their spirits. But add to that a parade of unexpected guests, including a reporter looking for a scoop, an ex-lover hell-bent on causing trouble, and a dangerous stalker, and suddenly the wedding is poised to unravel in chaos.

But nothing will stop Jules and Robin from getting their happy ending, because along with a guest list featuring the most elite counterterrorism force in the world, they have their own secret weapon–true love.

Review:
All through the night is the 12th book in the Troubleshooter series.  I fear that someone picking up this book, would see on the cover "A Troubleshooter Christmas" and think they will be following the Troubleshooters on a mission at Christmas.  That is soooo not the case.  This book is the wedding of Jules and Robin. Of course lots of our friends from the Troubleshooter organization make an appearance, as to some of SEAL Team 16, but when I first fell in love with this series, it was because of the missions. Granted, there is a small mission in this book. It lasts for about 6 pages, and during this time, Robin is at home and the wives of the SEAL Team 16 and Troubleshooter's visit Robin to help him get through his first crisis. There's a secondary romance that blooms between Dolphina, Robin's and Jules's personal assistant, and Will, a newspaper reporter, who catches Robin in a too-candid moment that results in unwelcome publicity. Will's acting as guardian for his niece while his sister serves in the military in Iraq.  

I had a huge issue with some of the verbiage that was used in this book. The male characters - gay and straight - seem to be comfortable discussing love and relationship issues in depth and at great length. Men can talk about subjects other than hot chicks, sports, cars, and cool gadgets? Who knew? The SEAL, Troubleshooter, and FBI characters are ultra-macho with enough testosterone to float a battleship, but nobody -absolutely nobody - has even a hint of homophobia. Jules and Robin are getting married. Isn't that sweet seems to be the consensus.

Notable Quote:
"Yeah, I was just practicing being an asshole.  It takes hard work and constant dedication to my craft to excel the way I do..." (Sam helping Robin along in his quest to ask Jules to marry him)

Rating:
Ms. Brockmann's personal agenda permeates the story. Her son is gay, and she is very active in organizations trying to end discrimination against gays. This is a position I support, but I'd just as soon not have it hammered it at me in a romance novel.  A lot of the dialogue borders on TMI.  I did enjoy getting to see a few of the TSI and SEAL's lives, and how they have changed with marriages and babies.  In my opinion, we seem to have veered way off course to what this series was advertised as.  I need a rescue, someone stopping a terrorist, some bombs and highly tense situations and a HEA.  It was there, it has been done in most of the books in this series, but the last 2 books, haven't worked for me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Second Chance Pass - Robyn Carr

Synopsis:
In the space of a few months Vanessa buried her husband, Matt, and gave birth to their son — breaking her heart while filling it with a whole new kind of love. But the one man she longs to share this love with now acts as if she doesn't exist.

Paul Haggerty lives by the marine motto: Semper Fi. Ever faithful to his best friend, he's done right by Matt's widow as best he can...considering he's been secretly in love with her for years. Now, just as he's about to make his move, another woman has staked her claim on him — a claim that will be tough to escape.

With courage, humility and not a little meddling from the good folks of Virgin River, Vanni and Paul might just get a second chance to have the love they both desire and deserve.

Review:
Paul falls for the bestfriends girl before the girls belonged to the bestfriend.  But in true Paul form, he steps back and lets Matt woo the woman of his dreams.  Years later, he is still in love with her.  Matt died in the war in the last book, and Paul helped Vanni cope and give birth to her son.  In this book he tried to distance himself from her a the beginning, thinking she needed more time to grieve.  She is getting more and more frustrated because she misses him and he keeps avoiding her.  Through many challenges, tears, and a nosey mother-in-law they finally find their way.  We visit with lots of secondary characters in this book as well.  Tom and Brenda are getting ready to be separated by West Point and are trying to come to grips with what that change will bring to them.  Rick comes back from basic with his own set of news that Jack doesn't take so well.  Mel & Paige deliver their babies with a few complications.  And good ole General might just get his own HEA!!!

Notable Quote:
"Not mch longer.  Jack promises we're going to take a break after this one.  And I've promised that if he doesn't keep his word, I'm going to shoot him in his sleep." (Mel chatting with Cameron about her upcoming baby)

Rating:
It is no secret that I have loved the Virgin River series, and truly look forward to each book.  This book was especially hard for me to get through.  The focus was rarely on the headlining couple, which has its good points and its bad.  Seems like the Paul and Vanni situation was wrapped up early on then we moved on to Joe, then back to Jack and Mel...I think it is great to revisit characters, I actually look forward to it.  This time the book seemed to focus on others more than the main characters Second Chance Pass was billed for.


Monday, January 17, 2011

The Gift of Joy - Valerie Maarten

Synopsis:
When Joy Tate was just a na├»ve, little girl that still believed in dreams and wishes, she had only one wish for Santa Claus. It was a selfish hope that caused her to lose the most important person in her life. Now all she wishes for is… THE GIFT OF REDEMPTION Gabriel Hawthorne spent his entire childhood ignoring the sad, lonely girl from across the street, but could never fully keep her from his thoughts. But after reuniting with her, he’s impressed with the strong, fierce advocate she’s become. And when he’s with her, she gives him the greatest gift of all… THE GIFT OF JOY

Review:
A truly heartwarming holiday story.  Joy endured so much at the hand of her father, oh no, he never hit her directly, but he took away the one thing she truly loved, her mother...and on Christmas Eve.  Joy spends the next 20 years helping those that need help, abused mothers and children, by opening a shelter, helping them get on their feet and get on with life.  The one thing she wants more than anything is Gabe, the boy across the street has grown in to a man that still have impeccable aim with a snowball.  There is a great supporting cast as well in the form of Gabe's sisters, and women at the shelter, and YES, there even a few appearances by the one and only Santa.  This books begs the question...Are the bonds of friendship that were formed so many years ago strong enough to bring them to a Happy Ever After?

Notable Quote:
"You young people don't know love if it had teeth and bit you in the ass" she said bluntly.  (Mrs. Browne giving Joy a stern talking to)

Rating:
4 out of 5.  I really enjoyed this story.  It was everything I look for in a good story, there was love, romance, heartache and pain.  I cried and giggled and felt lots of hatred towards the father.  This was a quick read, but definitely worth the time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fatal Justice - Marie Force

Synopsis:
Standing over the body of a Supreme Court nominee, Lieutenant Sam Holland is hip-deep in another high-profile murder case. The fact that she was one of the last people to see Julian Sinclair alive just complicates things even more. On the plus side, her relationship with Senator Nick Cappuano is heating up—but it's also attracting a lot of unwanted media attention and blinding flash bulbs.

The pressure is on for Sam to find Sinclair's killer, but a new lead in her father's unsolved shooting puts her in unexpected danger. When long-buried secrets threaten to derail her relationship with Nick, Sam realizes that while justice can be blind, mixing romance with politics has the potential to be fatal...

Review:
Fatal Justice is the 2nd book in the "Fatal" series, and is another smash hit.  We got to know Sam and Nick and many other great characters in the first book and in Fatal Justice, their story continues.  Nick has taken his oath as Senator and Sam has taken her own oath as a new Lieutenant.  This time, Sam is investigating the murder of a Supreme Court nominee with a secret that would turn his nomination in to a circus, but he also happens to be a close friend of Nick, which again does pose a few problems for the new couple.  The press has a field day with the relationship between the Senator and new Lieutenant and tracks them everywhere they go.  

This book is a page turner, I had a difficult time putting it down.  The strength and vulnerability combination that IS Sam, makes her so relatable too.  She has such a dynamic relationship with her family, her dad in particular, that brought tears to my eyes.  A secret that Sam has carried for many years comes to light, thus giving her an unlikely ally.  There is great banter between Sam and Nick again, one minute she is planning to stab him with a rusty steak knife and the very next minute, he uses his charms to woo her back in to a docile state, well as docile as we can hope from Sam.  From the very beginning, this book offers a roller coaster of emotions, a tried and true plot line and several villains that you can't help but hate.

Notable Quote:
"While your driving clearly leaves something to be desired, they weren't just after you."  Smirking, he filled her in on what he'd heard about the gang initiation. "I was worth triple extra points.  You were just regular points." 

Rating:
5 out of 5.  A non stop adventure of love, heart ache and justice.  This is a must read in the "Fatal" series and one that is definite on the keeper shelf.  The nonstop action and suspense was well written and the love story wasn't over the top, but written so that you are rooting not only for the lead couple, but for some of the supporting cast, who also seem to have found love.  Mrs. Force keeps you guessing till the end, when the villain isn't who you expect but lives are changed forever.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Force of Nature - Suzanne Brockmann

Synopsis:
Florida private investigator and ex-cop Ric Alvarado’s life is spiraling out of control. His beautiful new girl Friday, Annie Dugan, is far more interested in fieldwork than filing, and despite Ric’s best efforts to ignore the attraction, sparks are flying between them. Then one of Ric’s clients turns femme fatale and tries to gun down an innocent man. Thanks to quick thinking and even quicker reflexes, Ric comes to the rescue, only to learn he’s done a very good deed for some very bad people.

Suddenly Ric finds himself deep undercover with Annie, working for notorious crime boss Gordon Burns. One mistake from Ric’s painfully inexperienced partner and they’re both dead.

FBI agent Jules Cassidy’s life isn’t in much better shape. For years the FBI has been trying to prove Gordon Burns’s ties to terrorist activity. Now, thanks to Ric and Annie, Jules has found a way into the lion’s den. But in the course of his investigation he comes face-to-face with Robin Chadwick, the charismatic but self-destructive and closeted movie star for whom Jules feels a powerful attraction. Robin’s in town promoting his latest film–and Gordon Burns is a star-struck movie buff.

With Robin and Jules’s help, Ric and Annie are soon entrenched in Burns’s organization, surrounded by killers who may already have executed an FBI infiltrator. Before long the couple realizes that many more lives besides their own will be at stake if they make a false move. As the heat between them reaches dangerous levels, so do the risks they’re willing to take–in the line of duty, for the sake of loyalty, and in the name of something that runs even deeper.

Review:
Force of Nature is the 11th book in the Troubleshooters series, it is also a book that I have deemed "the necessary evil".  Normally her books are cover to cover reads with only bathroom breaks, however, this one took 5 LONG days.  Ric and Annie were just taking up space, and didn't serve a purpose, much less 'hot couple' status. Where is all the action, the snappy dialog, the actually chemistry between the characters, the entertainment value, and the TS crew? Instead of being an entertaining read, it was more like a social commentary.  Some familiar characters, including Max Bhagat, Sam Starrett and Alyssa Locke, make a VERY brief appearance. We are also introduced to a new secondary character, Martell Griffin, a former cop who used to be on the force with Ric and still remains his best friend. I'm not sure whether he is absolutely necessary for the story, but he is a wonderful character who is very likely to turn up again, and I really loved getting to know him.  Martell, in my opinion, was the highlight of this book.  The love story with Annie and Ric seemed forced, and didn't seem to have much flow.  Jules and Robyn's story seemed to take center stage, which would have been ok, if they were supposed to have top billing in this book. While the story line is okay, the characters are obsessed with sex and sexual orientation. Said once was enough, said repeatedly detracts from what the author is trying to say.  I also take offense that Max is grooming Jules to be his replacement, but NO grooming happened, and it was a brief scene that we find out Max is leaving the FBI.  The FBI was his life for MANY years, and I get that Gina has "fixed" him, but that just seemed to no make a ton of sense to me. Then there is the fact that the "Troubleshooters" were NO WHERE in this book.  Sam makes a VERY brief appearance as does Alyssa but only in an e-mail.

Notable Quote:
"If I let you ride along", he finally said, "will you promise never to discuss blow jobs with me again?" (Ric having a hard time with the turn the discussion took with his best friends little sister)

Rating:
2 out of 5.  I will keep this book only because it is part of a series that I totally enjoy.  I have to assume that Suzanne had a momentary lapse in judgement when it came to this story, since there was absolutely no rhyme or reason for this story other than more gay rights info, that seems to get more and more prevalent.  I don't enjoy a book that I feel I HAVE to get through, but as this is a series book, I knew more characters would be introduced.  I will, of course, be moving on to

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Into The Storm - Suzanne Brockmann

Synopsis:
In a remote, frozen corner of New Hampshire, a Navy SEAL team and the elite security experts of Troubleshooters, Incorporated are going head-to-head as fierce but friendly rivals in a raid-and-rescue training exercise. Despite the frigid winter temperatures, tension smolders between veteran SEAL Petty Officer Mark “Jenk” Jenkins and former cop turned Troubleshooter Lindsey Fontaine after an impulsive night goes awry. And then, suddenly, Tracy Shapiro, the Troubleshooters’ new receptionist, vanishes while playing the role of hostage during a mock rescue operation.

Teaming up with the FBI to launch a manhunt in the treacherous wilderness, Jenk and Lindsey must put aside their feelings as a record snowstorm approaches, dramatically reducing any hope of finding Tracy alive. The trail is colder than the biting New England climate until a lucky break leads to a horrifying discovery–a brutally murdered young woman wearing the jacket Tracy wore when she disappeared. Suddenly there is a chilling certainty that Tracy has fallen prey to a serial killer–one who knows the backwoods terrain and who doesn’t play by the rules of engagement.

In a race against time, a raging blizzard, and a cunning opponent, Jenk and Lindsey are put to the ultimate test. Rising everything, they must finally come together in a desperate attempt to save Tracy–and each other.

Review:
This is book 10 in the Troubleshooter series. Suzanne Brockmann had skillfully woven the many personalities and storylines together, and adds enough tension and suspense to keep the reader turning the pages.  With a blend of humor and suspense, she adds enough passion and angst to make this a realistic and fascinating tale.  The banter between Izzy and Jenks kept me in giggles and Lindsay is a sassy and remarkably smart woman that no one underestimates after their first encounter with her.  One of the great things I love about the Troubleshooter series is while the stories move forward, lots of old friends pop up and we are able to keep tabs on their lives while getting to know new characters.

Notable Quote:
"Why do people say, I hate to break it to you, when they're obviously gleeful about the news they're going to share?" (Jenks reply to Izzy after Izzy told him that Tracy wants to jump his bones)

Rating:
5 out of 5.  I love this series.  There is a great mix of suspense & romance, new and old characters and the story flow is flawless.  The chemistry between all of the characters just "works".  There is also a short story at the end of the book, kind of a bonus with Sam and Alyssa (and Sam is my FAV).  Highly recommend this entire series, although I would suggest reading from the beginning as there are so many recurring characters.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Whispering Rock - Robyn Carr

Synopsis:
A decorated U.S. Marine reservist, LAPD officer Mike Valenzuela was badly wounded in the line of duty, but has found hope and healing in Virgin River. When he agrees to become the town’s first cop, he does so knowing it’s time he settled down. Twice divorced and the lover of too many women, he secretly longs for the kind of commitment and happiness his marine buddies have found—a woman who can tie up his heart forever. He finds that woman in Brie Sheridan, a Sacramento prosecutor who understands his drive to protect and serve. Virgin River becomes a safe haven for Brie after nearly losing her life at the hands of a crazed criminal. Though tough and courageous, she’s got some fears she can’t escape—but now she has someone who will shower her just what it means to trust again.

Mike will do anything to help Brie free herself from painful memories. Passionate, strong and gentle, he vows to give back to her what she’s so selflessly given him—her heart, and with it, a new beginning.

Review:
I truly love how characters from all of the books, seem to pop up in the subsequent books.  It is great getting to know characters and be able to follow their lives after they get their own happily-ever-after.  In Whispering Rock, we get to know Mike and Brie a lot better.  Brie is a victim of a brutal rape and beating. She comes to Virgin River to recover and get her bearings back.  Eventually she returns to Sacramento and to her dad.  Mike feels such a connection to Brie, after his own brush with violence, that he starts calling and visiting and eventually becoming very good friends.  Mike takes a job with the town a cop, of sorts, and is immediately blindsided with Mel bringing to his attention several girls and suspicions that chill him to the bone.  He becomes determined to bring peace back to Virgin River while also help Brie conquer her own demons that come calling.

Notable Quote:
"They wanted to know two things, have I ever shot anyone and have I ever been shot.  My answers were yes and not yet.  Shortly after that I was shot.  I don't think that'll get the department any recruits".  (Mike talking to the new teacher, Zach, after being asked if he would come talk to his class about being a cop)

Rating:
5 out of 5.  This series just gets better and better.  I am loving getting to know the people of Virgin River along with following the old friends we have already met.

Against the Wind - Kat Martin

Synopsis:
They were known as the "no-account Raines boys" but they've grown into successful, honorable men and everything they have, they've fought for tooth and nail. Now each of the three brothers has one last obstacle to overcome to claim what's eluding them: love.

Secrets don't stay buried long in cattle country. Sarah Allen, the beautiful girl who humiliated Jackson Raines in high school, is back in town. Not so long ago, she couldn't wait to leave Wind Canyon, Wyoming, in her dust. But, recently widowed, she has nowhere else to go and finds herself on Jackson's ranch. And despite everything, Jackson's finding himself reluctant to get rid of her.

Sarah brings her own kind of trouble, and he can't resist trouble. Enemies of her dead husband show up making threats, thinking she has something they're owed. They're not taking no for an answer, but what they will take is the one thing she has left—her daughter. Jackson's the only one who might be able to save little Holly and bring her home.

Review:
This was a great mix of classic down home detective work, and cowboy ranching-meets-old-flame.  It was a long road for Sarah during her marriage she was beaten inside and out.  She fears now that her husband is finally gone for good that his enemies will never leave her alone.  She retreats to her home town and from the first time she needs help with a flat tire, Jackson is there to help.  Through many twists and turns and life threatening scenarios they Jackson forgives Sarah for how she humiliated him so many years ago and falls hopelessly in love with her and for Sarah's 6 year old daughter, Holly.  Jackson is determined to have them in his life for the rest of his life and Sarah is determined not to let her past mess up Jackson's life.

Notable Quote:
"You can be a real pain in the ass sometimes, you know?"  Sarah grinned more broadly than he had ever seen her.  "I'll take that as a compliment."  (Sarah refusing to wait at the hotel when a meeting is set with an informant)

Rating:
4 1/2 out of 5.  I really enjoyed this story.  The relationships were believable and I found myself tensing up when there was trouble.  I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.  I truly can't wait until Gabe's story, Against the Fire, is available in Feb. (my only issues with this book, isn't with the story, there were several typos and it really bugged me, BUT, the story was great and I will be pre-ordering the next book as soon as I can).

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