Our Little Secret

Our Little Secret

Time for a true crime review of Our Little Secret by Kevin Flynn and Rebecca Lavoie.

For twenty years Daniel Paquette’s murder in New Hampshire went unsolved. It remained a secret between two high school friends until Eric Windhurst’s arrest in 2005. What was revealed was a crime born of adolescent passion between Eric and Daniel’s stepdaughter, Melanie–redefining the meaning of loyalty, justice, and revenge.

I was drawn to this book because I remember the Unsolved Mysteries segment about it. The case seemed so strange and mysterious. The book makes it a lot less mysterious, in part because the back cover reveals who committed the crime. Still, Our Little Secret is an interesting glimpse into how so many people could know what had happened but yet nothing was done about it for so long. Several people had small pieces of the puzzle, and those who actually knew the truth were family members who weren’t about to turn anyone in.

This book is also an interesting glimpse of what happens to a person who does something like this. Neither Eric nor Melanie is able to put it behind them. Eric in particular is weighed down by what he did. And truly, he should be. Whatever Paquette may have done to his stepdaughter–and nothing has been proven there–killing him was not the way to go about resolving it.

Our Little Secret was an engaging read that offered intriguing glimpses into the people involved: 4 out of 5.

TBR Challenge: Make Me Over

Make Me Over

Harlequin Temptation, how I miss you. These days I turn to the Harlequin Blaze line for a sexy, fun read, but I loved Temptation while it lasted. So one of the books from this line was a natural choice for the TBR challenge. This month’s TBR theme is the ugly duckling. Leslie Kelly’s Make Me Over doesn’t really qualify, but I figure the makeover theme is close enough.

Professor Drew Bennett is thrilled when he learns he’ll get the chance to promote his latest book, Beyond Eliza Doolittle, on national television . . . even if it means getting involved in reality TV. But still, how hard can it be? All he has to do is turn five country bumpkins into ladies. Too bad Drew doesn’t know that he’s the prize . . .

Tori Lyons only agreed to embarrass herself in front of a nationwide audience in order to fulfill a not-quite deathbed promise. But she’s going to be the first to leave–she’ll make sure of it. But that’s before she falls head over heels in love with the sexy professor. And realizes that if she plays the game right, Drew’s heart is the one thing she can’t possibly win. . . .

Make Me Over has a copyright date of 2004, and I’m pretty sure I’ve had it since then. Leslie Kelly is an author I’ve enjoyed before, so I figured it would be a good read. I was right.

I’ve said before that Kelly has a talent for creating vivid and interesting characters, and that’s true in this book. I found myself really liking Tori and rooting for her, despite her . . . shall we say, colorful language.

The plot itself was a bit predictable. You can probably guess it too just from the blurb on the back cover. I have to admit that I’m not too interested in reality TV, so I wasn’t all that interested in the twists and turns of the TV show. And the result of the show . . . well, I know it is supposed to be funny and cute and statement making, but I just found it corny.

So here’s the thing: I enjoyed the story when it focused on Tori and Drew. Not so much when the reality show took center stage. Because of the dramatic difference in my enjoyment level depending on which part of the book I was reading, I’m struggling on putting a rating on it, but I’d probably give it a 3.5 out of 5.

Bespelled by Austen

Bespelled by Austen

The Bespelled by Austen anthology is the second book I read on my new Kobo. (Yippee! Still loving this.) Since I love Jane Austen, it was an obvious choice when I was offered a free review copy. I liked it, but not as much as I hoped.

What if Austen had believed in reincarnation and vampires? Join four bestselling romance authors as they channel the wit and wisdom of Jane Austen.

Almost Persuaded In this Regency tale of Robert and Jane, New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh brings together former lovers who have seen beyond the veil of forgetfulness to their past mistakes, and are determined to be together in this life, and forever.

Northanger Castle Caroline’s obsession with Gothic novels winds up being good training for a lifetime of destroying the undead with her newfound beau, in this Regency by Colleen Gleason.

Blood and Prejudice Set in the business world of contemporary New York City, Liz Bennett joins Mr. Darcy in his hunt for a vampire cure in New York Times bestselling author Susan Krinard’s version of the classic story.

Little to Hex Her Present-day Washington, D.C., is full of curious creatures in Janet Mullany’s story, wherein Emma is a witch with a wizard boyfriend and a paranormal dating service to run.

Almost Persuaded is the story I was most excited to read. I felt there was a little too much reliance on the connection from the past lives, as this was discussed frequently in their conversation. A longer story with more time to develop the romance in this life could have added a lot.

Northanger Castle was both interesting and frustrating. The heroine did a lot of speculating about the people around her based on the books she read, which was a big part of Northanger Abbey. I must admit I found it frustrating in the Austen story, so it’s no surprise that I struggled with it here. I love the way the story played out, though. Would have loved more time to strengthen the romance.

Blood and Prejudice was the weakest story of the anthology. It stuck to the original story a bit too closely, and used much of Austen’s dialogue for Darcy. Yes, Darcy has been a vampire for two hundred years, but his formal language combined with Elizabeth’s modern lingo seemed rather jarring. Unlike the other stories, which could have benefited from a longer page count, Blood and Prejudice went on a bit too long. I have to wonder if my familiarity with the original story kept me from enjoying this one more. I’d love to hear from someone who read this who hasn’t read Pride & Prejudice.

Little to Hex Her was a charming story. This one followed the plot of Emma quite closely but gave it a enough of a twist to make it fun. I loved the matchmaking element—it was perfect for Emma. This story was a lovely way to close the anthology. I don’t agree with her thoughts about Knightley, though.

All in all, Bespelled by Austen was worth reading, but I don’t think I’ll go back to it: 3 out of 5.

Back Where I Started

When I started this blog, I was leaving my historical romance comfort zone and checking out new authors. Now, I’ve returned to historical romance and am (for the most part) sticking with my tried-and-true favorite authors.

Go figure.

My Lisa Kleypas marathon continued with Married by Morning and Love in the Afternoon. Enjoyed them both but really loved the latter. Since I’ve reread it already and have been listening to the audiobook in the car, it’s safe to call it a keeper: 5 out of 5.

I love books with letters in them, and this one doesn’t disappoint in that regard. The letters Christopher and Beatrix exchange are delightful and real. Really, the only quibble I have with the book is that I do NOT advise holding a dog’s muzzle closed to teach him not to bite. Dog training has come a long way since the 1800s. :)

I have some contemporary romances waiting for me to read: the latest by Erin McCarthy and Rachel Gibson, among others. But I can’t bring myself to leave the realm of historical romance, so they will sit a bit longer.

As for what I’m doing with my time these days . . . a lot of scrapbooking, some decluttering (I’m actually letting go of some books!), and I spend a bit of time with my pups.

It’s good fun, but I’ll continue to post here when I have something to say.

Lisa Kleypas Marathon

Since I’ve been reading historical romances lately, I decided to catch up a bit with Lisa Kleypas. In the past few months, I’ve read It Happened One Autumn, Mine until Midnight, Seduce Me at Sunrise, Tempt Me at Twilight, and A Wallflower Christmas. Below are ratings and quick thoughts about each one.

It Happened One Autumn: I absolutely loved Kleypas’s depiction of Marcus, who is completely infatuated with Lillian and is at the same time baffled by that infatuation. Their chemistry is hot, hot, hot. 4.5 out of 5.

Mine until Midnight: I’ve had this ARC for a while—I believe I got it in San Francisco—and I’m just now reading it. It’s a fantastic read, with a hero who understands how much Amelia needs to have someone to lean on every now and then. I loved the scene where that is clear (I won’t say more to avoid giving spoilers). 4.5 out of 5.

Seduce Me at Sunrise: My least favorite of the books I read in this marathon, but still a nice installment. I find myself rereading bits of this, but they aren’t the romance. Instead, they are specific scenes between Cam and Kev. If you’ve read the book, you know which ones I mean. The connection between these characters is exceptionally well done. 4 out of 5.

Tempt Me at Twilight: My favorite of the Hathaway series so far. When Harry interfered in Poppy’s romance, I initially wondered if this would be a bit too much like Prince of Dreams, but the story plays out differently. And it fantastic to see Harry working to win her back. I actually listened to this one on audio, which was different. I often listen to audiobooks but not generally as a first read. 5 out of 5.

A Wallflower Christmas: A very nice revisit of the Wallflowers with a heartwarming romance in the bargain. 4.5 out of 5.

I still need to read Scandal in Spring (I don’t have that one), and then I’ll be caught up.

My Sister Is a Werewolf

My Sister Is a Werewolf

After reading several chapters of a historical romance, I decided I wasn’t in the mood for dark angst and set it aside. Despite being a bit burned out on paranormals, I picked up Kathy Love’s My Sister Is a Werewolf. I liked the Young brothers vampire series, so I thought I might like this one.

Elizabeth Young’s brothers think they have it rough as vampires? Ha! Two words for them: unwanted hair. What werewolf Elizabeth craves is a normal life with a husband, kids, and less shaving. Unfortunately the vaccine she’s researched isn’t working yet. Worse, she’s in heat—and soon every dangerous wolf pack for miles around will be at her door. To buy time, she needs to have sex, and often, with the first human male she can find.

Veterinarian Jensen Adler just meant to drown his sorrows, until a stunning, leather—clad brunette made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Now he’s caught up in something really weird, definitely dangerous, and, okay, extremely hot. So his new girlfriend’s hiding something (and she’s a little freaky about the moon), but Jensen knows true love when he feels it, and this time, he’s not giving up. no matter how hairy things get.

As you can see from the blurb, it turns out that this book is part of the Young series. I’m not sure how I missed that, so it was a nice surprise. And nice pretty much describes this book. It was a refreshing break from the dark angst, a quick and easy read, and I liked the characters.

Like I said, nice.

It didn’t quite get beyond that, however. Romances can take place in a short period of time and still be convincing. In this case, though, I wasn’t fully convinced. I believe that Elizabeth and Jensen are off to a good start, but that’s as far as I’d go. The villain was defeated in a scene that went so quickly I wondered if I’d missed it.

On the plus side: Jensen and the way the vaccine element is resolved.

My Sister Is a Werewolf: 3.5 out of 5.

Broken Wing

Broken Wing 

When Kristie recommends something with enthusiasm, I listen. After all, I love Lisa Kleypas’s Dreaming of You almost as much as she does. And I adored North and South. So her recommendation of Judith James’s Broken Wing caught my attention, and I ordered it immediately.

Abandoned as a child and raised in a brothel, Gabriel St. Croix has never known tenderness, friendship or affection. Although fluent in sex, he knows nothing of love. Lost and alone inside a nightmare world, all he’s ever wanted was companionship and a place to belong. Hiding physical and emotional scars behind an icy façade, his only relationship is with a young boy he has spent the last five years protecting from the brutal reality of their environment. But all that is about to change. The boy’s family has found him, and they are coming to take him home.

Sarah Munroe blames herself for her brother’s disappearance. When he’s located, safe and unharmed despite where he as been living. Sarah vows to help the man who rescued and protected him in any way she can. With loving patience she helps Gabriel face his demons and teaches him to trust in friendship and love. But when the past catches up with him, Gabriel must face it on his own.

Becoming a mercenary, pirate and a professional gambler, Gabriel travels to London, France, and the Barbary Coast in a desperate attempt to find Sarah again and all he knows of love. On the way, however, he will discover the most dangerous journey, and the greatest gamble of all, is within the darkest reaches of his own heart.

I read Broken Wing in a few days, and I enjoyed many of the things Kristie praises—Gabriel’s journey from wounded to warm and loving; Sarah’s acceptance of his past; the slow development of the romance. All of these elements, especially the last, made me read this book quickly.

Then the story takes a turn. Spoiler ahead.

I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of long separations. They don’t usually work for me, and Sarah and Gabriel spend a goodly chunk of the book separated. And I was a little disappointed in the reunion itself—mainly the way that Sarah has to seek out Gabriel after he returns to England.

Also, James’s writing style includes a tendency to tell rather than show. The technique works well in some places, since the story takes place over a long period of time. But some judicious showing would have helped me connect to the characters more.

The end result is that I liked Broken Wing but didn’t love it: 3.5 out of 5. But I’d still read any other book Kristie gets this enthusiastic about.

Yule Be Mine

Yule Be Mine 

Every December I look for a few good Christmastime romances. When I was out shopping last weekend, I snatched up one I thought I would like: Jennifer LaBrecque’s Yule Be Mine. Harlequin Blaze, guilty-pleasure plot—what’s not to like?

He’s one big no-no. But all she wants to do is scream, “Yes, yes, yes!” This is going to be a Christmas to remember for journalist Giselle Randolph! Especially when she meets her new photographer. Because she’ll be working—in very close quarters—with the man she’s lusted after for years. Sexy Sam McKendrick . . . her former brother-in-law!

Sam’s been in love with Giselle from the first moment he met her. Too bad he was married to her sister at the time. But he’s not married now . . . and he’s going to make sure Giselle knows how he feels. With a little help from a native shaman, he tunes in to her fantasies . . . and makes it a point to fulfill every one! But perfectly taboo sex always has a price. And fantasies can take a guy only so far . . .

With a premise I love and an author I like, you’d think I’d love Yule Be Mine. It was nice enough to keep me reading, but it’s not one of LaBrecque’s best: 3.5 out of 5.

I like both Sam and Giselle, but I wasn’t as invested in their story as I wanted to be. I think this is because the sexual attraction is there from the first—and they are already halfway in love with each other as the main action begins. For me, this removed some of the story’s punch.

But I enjoyed reading about Giselle and Sam’s Christmastime activities in the town. And LaBrecque’s skill with love scenes is excellent.

In short, Yule Be Mine is a charming holiday read even if it’s not one I will reread often.

Pleasure Unbound

Pleasure Unbound

Larissa Ione‘s Pleasure Unbound is another one of the books I read while in San Francisco. While I liked Riding the Storm, which she wrote as part of the Sydney Croft team, I loved everything about Pleasure Unbound. To put it simply: paranormal romance doesn’t get much better than this: 5 out of 5.

She’s a demon-slayer who hungers for sensual pleasure—but fears it will always be denied her. Until Tayla Mancuso lands in a hospital run by demons in disguise, and the head doctor, Eidolon, makes her body burn with unslakable desire. But to prove her ultimate loyalty to her peers, she must betray the surgeon who saved her life.

Eidolon cannot resist this fiery, dangerous woman who fills him with both rage and passion. Not only is she his avowed enemy, but she could very well be the hunter who has been preying upon his people. Torn between his need for the truth and his desire to find his perfect mate before a horrific transformation claims him forever, Eidolon will dare the unthinkable—and let Tayla possess him, body and soul . . .

Pleasure Unbound has it all: awesome characters, energetic sex, a very real conflict, explosive sex, pacing that kept me turning the pages, and did I mention the sex? Though the story is definitely steamy, the sex never overwhelms the story.

Speaking of the story, I loved it. The premise is original, the world-building fantastic. I dragged this book with me everywhere I went for the few days it took me to read it. Lunch, dinner, my San Francisco movie tour, you name it.

Regular visitors of my blog know that I don’t always enjoy secondary plotlines. With this book, I enjoyed the secondary characters and became invested in their lives. Ione sets up several characters I not only liked reading about, but can’t wait to read more about.

The Demonica series is one I’m sure to follow. The next one is scheduled for March 2009. (Is it March yet? Damn it. The wait may kill me.)

Overhexed

Overhexed

I’m a longtime reader of Vicki Lewis Thompson. She’s written many of my favorite series romances: After Hours, Old Enough to Know Better, The Nights Before Christmas, and more. I keep trying her single titles hoping to feel the same magic (pun intended), and such was the case with Overhexed. Though it’s a quick read, Overhexed lacks the snappiness (is that a word?) and emotion of my favorite series books: 3 out of 5.

Banished. Until their unconventional techniques landed them in hot water, Dorcas and Ambrose were the matchmaking sex therapists for lovelorn witches and wizards. The Grand High Wizard has exiled them to the very conventional and unmagical town of Big Knob, Indiana, Pop. 947. But that doesn’t mean they’ve given up matchmaking . . .

Now they’re doing it for mere mortalsalthough all agree: Sean Madigan is something of a god. Because he’s tired of being the town sex object, Dorcas and Ambrose strip him of his appeal and then introduce him to his destiny, Maggie Grady. This time winning a girl’s heart won’t be so easy for Sean. It means rediscovering the charms buried beneath a gorgeous surface.

Thompson starts with a unique idea: a reverse makeover. Unlike most makeovers, this time the hero is the one on the receiving end. And I loved the way Sean falls almost instantly for Maggie, who is not conventionally beautiful.

However, the makeover goes a bit too far for my tastes; even Sean’s package is affected, which put me off just a tad. Humor is subjective, I know, but this didn’t quite work for me. Maybe because I cringed to think how this would work if a woman had received this “makeover.”

I did enjoy some of the dialogue, such as when Sean tries to impress Maggie by telling her about a sex bench he’s building.

Ambrose and Dorcas play a significant role in the story. This is OK, but I always found myself wanting to get back to the main romance.

I’ll keep trying with Thompson’s single titles, but I hope she’ll write more books for Harlequin. Pretty please, another Blaze or ten?

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