MarkAlan

I read anything and everything

Cold-hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas

Cold-Hearted Rake - Lisa Kleypas

This is my first Lisa Kleypas, and it won't be my last. Very Heyerish with a bad-tempered rake who needs taming, and a heroine who refuses to be tamed. And a sub-plot that's the same. Quite enjoyable, with lots of historical detail. I like that it takes place when railroads were being introduced to England, and the old aristocracy were being forced to cope with a modern world that was undermining their old way of life. Quite a bit of bonking, but I skimmed rather than skipped, because it dealt with the heroine drawing boundaries, and the rake respecting them. Here's the blurb: 

 

A twist of fate . . .

Devon Ravenel, London's most wickedly charming rake, has just inherited an earldom. But his powerful new rank in society comes with unwanted responsibilities . . . and more than a few surprises. His estate is saddled with debt, and the late earl's three innocent sisters are still occupying the house . . . along with Kathleen, Lady Trenear, a beautiful young widow whose sharp wit and determination are a match for Devon's own.

A clash of wills . . .

Kathleen knows better than to trust a ruthless scoundrel like Devon. But the fiery attraction between them is impossible to deny—and from the first moment Devon holds her in his arms, he vows to do whatever it takes to possess her. As Kathleen finds herself yielding to his skillfully erotic seduction, only one question remains:

Can she keep from surrendering her heart to the most dangerous man she's ever known?

 

 

Fallout by Sara Paretsky

Fallout - Sara Paretsky

Fallout ranks with the best of the VI Warshawski crime novels. From a simple break-in at a Chicago home, VI follows the leads to small town Kansas. From there, as usual with VI, things start to get complicated. And, as usual with VI, politics are the undercurrent The plotting is intricate but clear and the prose tight. At no time was I tempted to skim.

 

Here's the blurb:

 

A small Midwestern town is way outside VI Warshawski’s comfort zone, but in Fallout, the detective spends a month in Lawrence, Kansas, where author Sara Paretsky grew up.

At loose ends – her lover is in Switzerland while her beloved cranky neighbor, Mr. Contreras is on a Caribbean island with his niece –VI responds to a plea from a couple of college athletes: their trainer has disappeared. August Veriden is African-American and the two young women are sure he’s being framed for a drug robbery. VI starts searching, and learns that August has left Chicago, apparently accompanying an aging film star who wants young August to film her origins story.

VI tracks Veriden and the actress to Lawrence easily enough, but then she loses all trace of them. As she hunts in the town and the surrounding farms, VI starts finding dead or dying women; the local cops are suspicious of her role in their deaths.

Long-simmering conflicts in the town over an old protest at a nearby nuclear missile silo start coming to the surface, but locals won’t tell an outsider their secrets. Meanwhile, a distinguished scientist, a decorated Army colonel, and the head of a big-Ag company all seem bent on blocking the detective’s path. Who or what is the trio hiding? Are they covering up an ancient murder? Germ warfare? Missing nukes? Before long, it begins to look as though the next dead woman will be the detective herself.

 

 Highly recommended.

What the Librarian Did by Karina Bliss

What the Librarian Did - Karina Bliss

This is the best pure romance that I've read in a long, long time. Wonderful characters, a believable plot, and the ups-and-downs of relationships portrayed for once without the irritating Dr. Phil-style psychologising that infects so many modern American romances. The author is from New Zealand, and that's where the book's events take place, which is so refreshing. Too often non-American authors place the plots in the US, and it gets a bit monotonous. It's nice to read about places that aren't Montana or Wyoming or New York or Seattle. 

 

Here's the blurb:

 

Is Rachel Robinson the only one on campus who doesn't know who Devin Freedman is? No big deal except that the bad-boy rock star gets a kick out of Rachel's refusal to worship at his feet. And that seems to have provoked his undivided attention. Devin, the guy who gave new meaning to the phrase "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll." Devin, the guy who somehow becomes wedged between her and the past she's kept hidden for years.

It's up to this librarian to find out firsthand just how "bad" he really is. Because her secret—and her growing feelings for a man who claims he's bent on redemption—depend on his turning out to be as good as he seems. Which is really, really good.

 

What's not mentioned in the blurb is that the book is also about parents who should never be parents, religious fundamentalism, domestic violence where the wife constantly refuses to admit that her husband is an abuser, a mother who was forced to give her child up for adoption, what happens when they find each other, a son who needs to confront the fact that his mother has a lover at 65. And, of course, that love conquers all :)

 

And there is a very, very funny bedroom scene.

 

Highly recommended.

Behind in my review

And sorry about that. The site was glacial at one point. I'll try and catch up during the Holiday break. There ware at least a couple of books that deserved more than just giving them a star rating.

Legend by Katy Evans

Legend (The REAL series Book 6) - Katy Evans

This is the last in the Real series, but can be read as a stand-alone. It's a sweet, a bit too sweet, coming-of age romance, basically. But it's really well written. There are a lot of bonking scenes, but they fit and I actually skimmed them instead of just skipping them. Almost everyone in the book has some sort of weakness or something in their past that needs fixing. Here's the blurb:

 

Maverick “the Avenger” Cage wants to rise to the top and become a legend in the ring. Though he keeps his identity well guarded, he’s known on the fighting circuit as the new kid with a chip on his shoulder and a tattoo on his back that marks him as trouble. He’s got a personal score to settle with the Underground’s one and only Remington “Riptide” Tate.

As Mav trains, he meets a young girl—the only other new person in the town—and sparks fly. When things get heated between them, he finds out she’s none other than Reese Dumas, the cousin of Remington Tate’s wife. A girl who’s supposed to root against him and a girl he’s supposed to stay away from.

But Maverick fights for the woman in his heart, and the monsters in his blood. The world’s eyes are on them and the victor will go down in history as the ultimate fighting champion; the ultimate LEGEND.

 

It's not my usual fare,but I did enjoy it.

The Bone Labyrinth by James Rollins

The Bone Labyrinth - James Rollins

It's been a while since I've read a "traditional" thriller. It was a fun read, breakneck action in almost every chapter. The only "message" I could find was: watch out for the sneaky Chinese - they're everywhere! That took away half a star.

 

The female characters were good, showed variety and were not particularly stereotypical which I quite enjoyed. 

 

Here's the blurb: 

 

In this groundbreaking masterpiece of ingenuity and intrigue that spans 50,000 years of human history, New York Times bestselling author James Rollins takes us to mankind’s next great leap.

But will it mark a new chapter in our development . . .
or our extinction?

A war is coming, a battle that will stretch from the prehistoric forests of the ancient past to the cutting-edge research labs of today, all to reveal a true mystery buried deep within our DNA, a revelation that will leave readers changed forever . . .

In the remote mountains of Croatia, an archaeologist makes a strange discovery: a subterranean Catholic chapel, hidden for centuries, holds the bones of a Neanderthal woman. In the same cavern system, elaborate primitive paintings tell the story of an immense battle between tribes of Neanderthals and monstrous shadowy figures. Who is this mysterious enemy depicted in these ancient drawings and what do the paintings mean?

Before any answers could be made, the investigative team is attacked, while at the same time, a bloody assault is made upon a primate research center outside of Atlanta. How are these events connected? Who is behind these attacks? The search for the truth will take Commander Gray Pierce of Sigma Force 50,000 years into the past. As he and Sigma trace the evolution of human intelligence to its true source, they will be plunged into a cataclysmic battle for the future of humanity that stretches across the globe . . . and beyond.

With the fate of our future at stake, Sigma embarks on its most harrowing odyssey ever—a breathtaking quest that will take them from ancient tunnels in Ecuador that span the breadth of South America to a millennia-old necropolis holding the bones of our ancestors. Along the way, revelations involving the lost continent of Atlantis will reveal true mysteries tied to mankind’s first steps on the moon. In the end, Gray Pierce and his team will face to their greatest threat: an ancient evil, resurrected by modern genetic science, strong enough to bring about the end of man’s dominance on this planet.

Only this time, Sigma will falter—and the world we know will change forever.

 

 

Wow! The world still seems the same. :)

 

Navy Seal Six Pack by Elle James

Navy SEAL Six Pack (SEAL of My Own) - Elle James

Great plotting and action, and a modern romance with a thoroughly modern woman and a puzzled man who doesn't "understand women". Kate is a trained CIA agent who's been burned in love once, and vows not to let it happen again. She fell in love with a double agent, and is demoted to a desk job, But she can trade blows with the best of them and knows what she wants, and that goes for men too. Circumstances partner her with Ben, nicknamed Montana, who gets a rude introduction to Kate when she tackles him to the ground to save him from an apparent bomb.

 

Besides the action plot, which is done very well, the exchanges between Kate and Ben are very interesting. Ben doesn't understand signals. Kate asked him to help her pull out her bed in her apartment. Ben did, then left. Kate: “Why should you have waited? I asked you to help with the bed and you did. The end.” But Ben feels he needs to explain:"I left because I didn’t want to take advantage of you.” What? “Kate: "Take advantage? What kind of man-logic is that?” And Ben confesses he has no clue: “I don’t know.” He shoved a hand through his sweaty hair. “I’m not a mind reader. I don’t know what a woman wants.” Kate needs to clue him in: “Obviously. When a woman says she wants you to help her with a bed, it’s a sign she wants you to stick around to test the springs.” (They've already slept together once.)

 

This next bit is a real role role reversal: "Now you, on the other hand, are a man and you think just because a woman sleeps with you, she’s falling in love with you. Trust me. Just because I slept with you doesn’t mean I plan on keeping you around or committing my life to you. I was just looking for a little fun.” And Ben answers; “Darlin’, you’ve read me all wrong. I’m not the kind of man who falls in and out of bed so  carelessly. You might not want to fall in love, but maybe that’s what I want.” Well well! 

 

Here's the blurb: 

 

For a SEAL undercover on a top conspiracy, attraction could be dangerous… 

Raised on a ranch and trained as a Navy SEAL, Benjamin "Montana" Raines has a work ethic that's unshakable—even in the midst of a beautiful and jaded CIA operative. A dangerous conspiracy threatens the United States, and Benjamin has a new case. And a new partner.  

Kate McKenzie has been burned before. And now she is paired with someone she's supposed to trust against her deeper instincts. In the cutthroat world of millionaires and politicians in Washington, DC, Kate and Benjamin must go undercover to prevent an attack. But as the risks to their safety heighten, so does their undeniable attraction to one another…

 

A terrific read. 

 

 

 

It's late, and I'll post my review of Navy SEAL Six Pack by Elle James tomorrow. There were some interesting subjects brought up in it, and I'm too tired to gather my thoughts right now.

The Girl Who Cried Murder by Paula Graves

The Girl Who Cried Murder (Campbell Cove Academy) - Paula Graves

We're back at the Campbell Cove Academy for this Paula Graves Intrigue, and, once again she delivers action and a great heroine in Charlie (Charlotte) Winters, a woman from a poor family who got mixed up with a girl from a wealthy one. She feels someone is watching her and she may be in danger, so she signs up for self-defence classes at the Academy, where her instructor is Mike. Here's the blurb:

 

A cold case is reopened, placing a witness in the crosshairs—and a bodyguard by her side… 

Charlie Winters has caught security expert Mike Strong's attention. A member of his self-defence class, she seems to need to know more than just how to protect herself. After a little digging, Mike discovers that the cute redhead has a reason to worry—she may have witnessed a murder. Using all of his connections, Mike tries to solve the cold case. But as Charlie's memories from the past begin to resurface, her future seems marked for death. Offering up his skills as a bodyguard, Mike promises not to leave her side. And Charlie's obvious relief at not having to fight alone convinces him there's much more to this mystery he has yet to uncover. 

 

Charlie is really the core of the book. Mike is OK, but he's not the mega alpha maie that's often found in Intrigues. Nor is he someone who's damaged in some way, so there's none of that "two damaged people find and heal each other" business going on.

 

As usual in Paula Graves' Intrigues, there's a definite undercurrent of class politics involved, and that suits me fine. 

 

And no bonking! Wonder of wonders! But there's a mutual attraction that's given a chance to grow during the course of the book. 

Kentucky Confidential by Paula Graves

Kentucky Confidential (Campbell Cove Academy) - Paula Graves

Paula Graves is one of my favourite Harlequin Intrigue and RomSus authors, and this book doesn't disappoint.

 

What I particularly like about her heroines is that they're strong, but show it in their actions and behaviour, and don't need continual reassurance from other characters.

 

And Graves is quite good at sneaking in social commentary and feminist viewpoints without preaching. In this case, Here, Risa is 8 months pregnant, yet keeps doing her job and reminds the hero that women have been working and giving birth for thousands of years, thank you very much. And pregnant women can lust! Who'd a thunk it!

 

Graves' male heroes are more vulnerable emotionally, and more human, then ones in most other men in the genre; there's much less of the alpha in them.

 

The plot was tense, and ends on something of a cliffhanger, which is to be expected in what is the first book in an offshoot series. There's no kidnapping of the heroine, which is a nice change, and problems are solved by teamwork, and not the amazing heroics by one man.

 

Here's the blurb:

 

The return of the wife he thought was lost and a baby he never knew existed will make this a Christmas to remember… 

Captain Connor McGinnis has seen a ghost. Staring at a surveillance photo of a Kaziri immigrant, there can be no mistaking that the starkly beautiful—and visibly pregnant—woman in a head scarf is his wife, Risa. The woman he presumed was dead after her plane crashed into the ocean. 

Risa McGinnis, relocated by the CIA when they learned of a price on her head, has settled into the guise of a widowed immigrant. Confronting Connor again resurrects sweet memories and a burning passion. But until this unknown enemy is captured, Risa must focus more on Connor's protection than on their attraction. After all, the strength of her marriage—and the safety of her baby—depends on it…
 
 The blurb is rather misleading, because she's actually the target. She was misled into thinking she was protecting Connor, which is made clear very on.
 

Dust Up with the Detective by Danica Winters

Dust Up with the Detective (Harlequin Intrigue Series) - Danica Winters

Very enjoyable with a good feminist angle. Blake West is a single mother, a deputy sheriff, living with her over-protective, bossy mother. Her dad took off when she was young. Jeremy Lawrence, who is divorced from a woman who didn't think he lived up to her fantasy husband, with whom he has a daughter he rarely sees. is a detective in a nearby town, but went to high school with Blake,  His family is dysfunctional - his parents have been constantly at each other's throats for as long as he can remember, and his brother is involved in shady businesses, and is breaking up with his wife.

 

Blake feels constantly that she has to prove herself, and is often very quick to jump to conclusions when her judgement is questioned. Sometimes it's justified, and sometimes it isn't. But it's a pressure many women in positions of responsibility very often. 

 

The love scenes at times feel like "better move the love interest along, but they're still well done.

 

The intrigue 150-or-so pages format can force a hectic pace, and there's a lot of "she/he likes me, wait, doesn't, wait does, but it's not going to work" worrying from both. 

 

Here's the blurb:

 

Murder in Montana is never simple 

Every dead body in Butte is someone's kin. Detective Jeremy Lawrence has investigated so many wrongdoings, but he still never imagined how it'd feel to be standing over his own brother. Until now. Thankfully, he has the help of Deputy Blake West, a woman he's known his entire life—and wanted for as long as he can remember. 

It's been forever since Blake has seen Jeremy, and she has questions for the hot-as-sin lawman. But her interrogation must wait once she learns the killer has set his sights on Blake's daughter. They promise to put family first, but time is running out to uncover the Lawrence family's secrets—and rebuild what Jeremy and Blake thought they'd broken long ago

 

Fast-paced, at times a bit hectic, but I really enjoyed it.

 

 

No Good Deed by Allison Brennan

No Good Deed (Lucy Kincaid Novels Book 10) - Allison Brennan

This is my first Allison Brennan book and I was breathless at times - The plot moved along at breakneck speed, and I enjoyed it very much. Women are front and centre, both as heroes and sociopathic and psychopathic villains. There were a few well done bonk scenes, and some might call the book romantic suspense, but it was much more of a thriller to me.

 

Here's the blurb:

 

Lucy Kincaid understands the dangers of corruption. As an FBI agent, she has witnessed some very bad deeds committed by seemingly good people. That’s why she’s glad to see corrupt DEA Agent Nicole Rollins behind bars for murder, conspiracy, and gunrunning. But when Rollins makes a daring escape—jeopardizing a busload of children and killing five officers—Lucy becomes the key to the biggest manhunt in Texas history…and the target of a brilliant killer.

Some believe Rollins has fled the country. But Lucy suspects her plan is far more sinister—a taunting game of cat and mouse that hits much closer to home. First, an FBI agent with a connection to Texas is killed in Washington. Then, Kane Rogan disappears on a mission. When Rollins ups the ante again, Lucy is determined to save the people she loves—before her enemy strikes again. Time is running out. The body count is rising. Rollins wants more than revenge—she wants to destroy everything Lucy holds dear…

 

All in all, a terrific page turner.

Never Tear Us Apart by Monica Murphy

Never Tear Us Apart - Monica  Murphy

This book is Book One of a series. Here's the blurb:

 

Crazy how eight years can disappear in an instant. One look at Katie Watts, and I’m a fifteen-year-old again—the one who risked everything to save a terrified girl from her twisted kidnapper. She’s grown-up now—beautiful, quiet, composed—and telling her story to the world. A story that involves me in more ways than you can imagine. She used to call me her guardian angel. Sure, I risked my life, but she was worth dying for. I need to make contact with her. Just to ensure that she’s safe. Somehow we reconnect. We become friends . . . but I want more. I want to make her mine. And she wants me too. Does she know who I am? Has she figured me out? Not yet. But she will. In the meantime, I need to make sure that whatever hold that animal had on her is gone. So, yeah, I’m stealing these moments with her. Savoring them. Knowing, dreading, that she’ll soon find out who I really am. And everything will fall apart. All because of that twisted, perverted monster sitting on death row. Her kidnapper. A convicted serial killer. My father.

 

The book is constructed using separate chapters for each POV; Katie now, Katie then, Will then, Ethan now. The separate chapter for each different POV is a convention that seems to be used more and more. It works well here, but I preferred the "then" chapters. The "now" chapters have just a touch too much anguish, especially those devoted to Ethan (the name Will used in the present to get away from his past).

 

It's quite a gripping book on the whole.I actually skimmed the bonk scenes because there was a tension there I liked.

 

Will/Ethan comes off as a bit of an obsessive, and I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with it. I do understand how that could happen, though.

 

I'm wondering if the TV journalist, Lisa Swanson, who seems to be the catalyst for the key developments in the relationship between Katie/Katherine and Will/Ethan, will get a more fleshed-out treatment in the second book, Never Let You Go.

 

 

The Light of Hidden Flowers by Jennifer Handford

The Light of Hidden Flowers - Jennifer Handford

A lovely book - heartwarming, challenging, and a few other things. I related almost immediately with the main character, Missy (Melissa). I was also shy and introverted (still am), though with the advantage of also being very good at sports. 

 

It's also coming-of-age, though Melissa is 35.But she's chosen, in a way, to never grow up, even though she's a partner in a very successful money management firm. 

 

It's a love story, but with many crinkles. It's also about bullying, recovery and all sorts of other things. It was the sort of book I put down, did other stuff, but kept thinking about.

 

Here's the blurb:

 

Book-smart Melissa Fletcher lives a predictable life in her hometown, working behind the scenes for her charismatic father in a financial career that makes perfect sense. But when her dad is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Missy is forced to step up and take over as his primary caregiver and the principal of the firm.

After her father's death, Missy finds a letter from him in which he praises her for being a dutiful daughter but admonishes her for not taking any risks in life.

Devastated, Missy packs her suitcase and heads for Italy. There she meets a new friend who proposes a radical idea. Soon, Missy finds herself in impoverished India, signing away her inheritance and betting on a risky plan while rekindling a lost love.

The Light of Hidden Flowers is a deeply felt story of accepting who we are while pushing our boundaries to see how much more we can become. It's a reminder that it's never too late to pursue our dreams.

 

One thing that irritated me was that I could only get by buying a print copy second hand. I don't do Amazon, and the ebook is only available there, as far as I could tell. The print book was available elsewhere, but cost a fortune. So I ended up buying a paperback second hand online.

The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire by Sara Humphreys

The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire - Sara  Humphreys

I'd sworn off vampire novels up to now, because I was just tired of them. This one is pretty cool. And there are gargoyles! The small irritating point was Trixie being described as 'feisty' much too often. I've come to hate that word, along with 'strong' when applied to women. Strength should be obvious from the text. And 'feisty' as a condescending feel. And  I'm not particularly a baby fan, and there's one in the book. 

Here's the blurb:

 

He wants eternity?
Dakota Shelton is a vampire cowboy with a penchant for cinnamon lollipops and Johnny Cash. Though highly skilled and deadly dangerous to his enemies, he's still a Texas good ol' boy at heart. And he has that heart set on wooing Trixie LaRoux-the most badass punk rock chick in town-the old-fashioned way.

Over her undead body...
Trixie is tough as nails and sharp as a silver stake-the last thing she wants is a man to sit on a porch and not grow old with. So it'll take going to hell and back fighting a new threat to vampires before she admits Dakota's courtship makes her blood hum. Turns out chivalry's not dead after all.

 

It was a page-turner despite 'strong' and 'feisty' because I really wanted to know what would happened.

A Ghoul's Guide to Love and Murder by: Victoria Laurie

A Ghoul's Guide to Love and Murder - Victoria Laurie

An OK read, The style is breezy, and occasionally breathless. It's the last book in the Ghost Hunter series, and I'm not really tempted to go back and read the others. Here's the blurb:

 

Medium M. J. Holliday battles demons in the tenth Ghost Hunter Mystery from the "New York Times" bestselling author of "No Ghouls Allowed."
M.J., Heath, and Gilley, are back home in Boston, where their new film is sure to be a "monster "hit! To promote the film, the studio is sponsoring a special exhibit of supernatural artifacts at a local museum. Unfortunately, Gilley whose mind is engaged with wedding plans gets talked into donating to the exhibit the very dagger that keeps the dangerous ghost Oruc and his pet demon locked down in the lower realms. Before M.J. can recover the bewitched blade, there s a murder and a heist at the museum, and the dagger is stolen.
Now Oruc is coming for M.J. and her crew, and he's bringing with him some fiendish friends from M.J. s haunted past. She, Gilley, and Heath are certain to be in for a devil of a time. M.J. may even need to recruit a certain skeptical Boston detective to help stop the paranormal party crashers from turning Gilley s wedding bells to funeral knells. . . ."

 

I did like the action parts, and thought they were well done.

Currently reading

Marriage Confidential (Harlequin Intrigue)
Debra Webb