Audio Review: Thunder and Roses (Fallen Angels, Book 1) by Mary Jo Putney

thunder and rosesHeroine: Methodist schoolteacher Clare Morgan is not noble, but she has noble ideals. Her village is in trouble and she’s determined to do her late father’s memory proud and find a solution. The one that comes to her is to petition the Demon Earl. She remembers him as a young boy when he would meet with her father and she can’t believe the stories the villagers say about him. But when he places a lucrative and impossible price on his aid, she’s not so sure anymore. What kind of man demands a respectable woman give up her reputation and live with him for three months, knowing the villagers will think the worse?

Hero: Nicholas Davies, the Demon Earl, is the legitimate son of a nobleman and a gypsy. His mother gave him to his cruel grandfather, for a bag of gold. His grandfather would have happily seen the estate go to someone else, and worked to ruin it. The betrayal of his youth coupled with his traumatic childhood growing up in his grandfather’s home has made Nicholas the man he is today. So when the little schoolteacher, Clare, comes to him for aid, he puts a devilish price on his intervention and support. He never expects her to agree to it, so while he must care again and fight alongside her to save the community that rejected him in the past, he’s looking forward to stealing his daily kisses… and if Clare can be persuaded, more.

Review: I loved the bet, the stolen kisses, and the chemistry between Nicholas and Clare. The narrator, Peter Bishop, did a good job. It’s always a treat to be read to by a male narrator in this genre.

This book was on a fast track to a 4.5 or 5 Star rating, with great scenes like a summertime dip in the pond with imported penguins. Then, midway through it fell apart for me and if you want to know why, you should note that spoilers and personal opinions lie ahead.

What didn’t work for me was finding out along the way that Clare felt like an impostor in her own skin. Her faith falls short of the face she gives to it around others and that bothered me. I like when a character is true to their faith and I don’t particularly enjoy reading about doubts of God’s existence and if we’re a good Christian if we don’t feel like connect with Him. Clare’s doubts about her faith are the excuse for why she can be with Nicholas, because she never really felt like she belonged and that’s crap. I would have much preferred a line of thought that went more like this… Nicholas is not the Demon Earl he’s been made out to be, I find that each day I am falling more in love with him, and because of this I am willing to be with him. I felt the line of reasoning given in the book, cheapened Clare’s character and the romance between her and Nicholas.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Thunder & Roses

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Review: Curse of the Gypsy (Lady Anne Mystery, Book 3) by Donna Lea Simpson

Curse of the GypsyHeroine: When Lady Anne Addison visits the gypsy camp on her father’s lands, she swears she spies Tony in the woods. Unacceptable! She meant it when she said she needed space. Did the man never listen? Well he can’t misunderstand her if it is in writing!

Hero: Anthony, the Marquess of Darkefell, has proposed to Anne and her rejection has stung. Who does think she is to order him away from her side? Then to write such a letter! He wasn’t in Kent, but if she didn’t spy him in the woods, who was it? He intends to find out what is going on and convince Anne to wed him in the process.

Mystery: Sickness is spreading in the village and gypsy camp and both sides blame each other. Both sides curse each other and superstitions run amuck. As fear and tension grows, Lady Anne and Tony strive to get to the bottom of illness and what is causing it.

Review: I love that despite his disappointment, Tony still wears his love on his sleeve. I could have done without the focus on the illness, perhaps a string of escalating “incidents”? There were several in the story that were a tangent mystery. I love how Donna brings back the mystery of the first novel and wraps up the trilogy nicely.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Curse of the Gypsy: A Lady Anne Mystery

Review: Flesh and Blood (Gypsy Road Series, Book 2) by Karen Wiesner

Flesh and BloodReviewed by Sandra Scholes

When pain is the only emotion a woman has felt, it can’t get any worse, can it? For one woman, JoJo Summers the pain had got so bad she decided to block out others so she could never be hurt again, but when she has loved so much and tried to block it out – she can only go so far before someone comes and promises to take the pain away, but will she believe him and trust him as she had once trusted the other man who had drifted into her life.

Randy Briggs might be the one, who has all the answers, and if she will listen to him, she might be better for it. Randy also has feelings of his own that are deeper than even JoJo thinks.

He could be the one, but she has to take a leap of faith and trust him – and believe that not all men are bad as the one who broke her heart. JoJo wants to go through life without the most basic emotions of love, hurt, fear and longing, but I somehow don’t think that Randy will allow her to live her life that way for long.

This novel continues from the previous one, Leather and Lace Book 1: Gypsy Road Series where Bethany and Rod have got together as partners and act as background characters overlooking Randy and how his love life changes over the course of the story. Randy has had his problems; he has had a woman fall out of love with him, and fallen in love again.

If you like general romance novels that involve characters who have known a lot of pain and are damaged types, both this one and the previous one might be ones to read as they show the full depth of tragedy and the results of what love can do even in the most awful of circumstances.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Gypsy Road Series, Book 2: Flesh & Blood

Review: Leather and Lace (Gypsy Road Series, Book 1) by Karen Wiesner

Leather and LaceReviewed by Sandra Scholes

The girl next door is every man’s dream, but for Rod Summers, it is a reality. Bethany Briggs is the sort of girl who never found love where she wanted it, and got men she would rather pass up when it came time to let them go. She never had any luck with the opposite sex, but when she meets Rod, she thinks he can’t possibly be the one to break the chain of failures in her life – or could he?

He knows she isn’t the type of woman he would normally go for – he picks the bad girls, the tramps, the ones who are no good for him. Rod understands soon enough that she is the most different woman he has ever met, and the reader will wonder if he will be able to get her to trust him even though he is a rogue.

At 75 pages, this is a short story for Karen, and it is great for those who don’t have enough time to read as they had hoped. Rod is the wild man in leather, while she’s the cute one in lace he comes to love albeit with a lot of problems. Karen’s description of Rod is an amazing one:

There were three things Rod Summers looked for in a woman: good responsive breasts; the enjoyment of kissing and cuddling with or without sex; and the desire to have lots of babies.

It makes him sound almost the perfect man, as women tend to want foreplay, but not all women want lots of children to look after, so once she hears the gossip about him, it makes her pause. As she thinks Rod is a man who is used to getting what he wants, including women, she feels he would not understand her needs for not being taken for granted by him. He has had so many women; she thinks he might not give her the benefit of the doubt. There are other aspects of his personality that trouble her, but she would get through them if she takes her chances and decides to date him.

There is another man in her life who tries to warn her off Rod, as he is seen as too much of a lothario in that part of town, but as Rod is a persistent character, she might not be able to resist him for much longer, not when he sends her flowers and knows how to please a woman so much.

Karen can write tense romance novels, and this short is interesting to read.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: Gypsy Road Series, Book 1: Leather & Lace

Review: Seduce Me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas

bookreview

Seduce Me at Sunrise is darkly passionate, sensual, and utterly devastating. Kev is the type of hero that is pure indulgence. He’ll make your hips grow just looking at him… or should I say reading him. In summation he is fierce, broody, and desperately in love. Half Romany, half Irish, Kev was raised by his abusive uncle. The man turned him into a cruel heartless Romany warrior, hurting him emotionally and physically until everything soft inside him died… or so Kev thought. Left for dead by his clan and taken in by the Hathaways provides Kev with another chance. It’s unclear his exact age when this happens, I would say sometime between his teens and early twenties. While recovering under the Hathaways’ roof Kev notices Winnifred, young, delicate, and fragile. She is everything good and kind and gentle. In her presence the vicious side of him quietens. He decides to stay and in doing so changes his whole life.

Tragedy strikes the Hathaway a few short years later leaving the older siblings in charge of the younger ones. Fate takes a hand again when scarlet fever strikes two members of the family. One is Win. Both survive, but Win is left weakened. Two years of being weak and helpless watching others live life while she stays in bed incite Win to get herself better at all costs. She makes plans to go to France to a unorthodox clinic (they make you exercise gasp!) which Kev tries to stop from taking place. Win offers him a choice – tell her he loves her or she goes. He can not bring himself to say it, because if he did he could never refrain from claiming her… which he doesn’t want to do because he doesn’t think he’s good enough for her. Lots of circular logic, but there you go.

Win is at the age of spinsterhood upon her return from the clinic. She’s twenty-five if I remember correctly and more than ready to begin her life. She refuses to take anything for granted and plans to marry (Kev) and have children (his).

The emotional drive of this novel is completely fulfilling and can get you high on endorphins. For example:

When Win leaves to go to France she says to Kev:

“I am running after you, and life, in desperate pursuit. My dream is that someday you will both turn and let me catch you. That dream carries me through every night I long to tell you so many things, but I am not free yet I hope to be well enough someday to shock you again, with far more pleasing results.”

Or Kev when he finally declares himself:

“All the fires of hell could burn for a thousand years and it wouldn’t equal what I feel for you in one minute of the day. I love you so much there is no pleasure in it. Nothing but torment. Because if I could dilute what I feel for you to the millionth part, it would still be enough to kill you. And even if it drives me mad, I would rather see you live in the arms of that cold, soulless bastard than die in mine.”

Edward Cullen eat your heart out. Blissed out sigh.

And while some of the motivation is a little hard to grasp, it’s so good, you can’t help but be drawn in by the magic spell Kleypas weaves.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Seduce Me at Sunrise

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Review: Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas

Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas is book 1 of the Hathaways series.

Cam Rohan is a character from Devil in Winter, an earlier Lisa Kleypas novel. He’s part gypsy (Roma) and part (Irish). As a character he is somewhat of an inbetweener. He holds strong gypsy ideals, especially concerning money. He doesn’t want gobs of it and tries to throw it away on dozens of harebrained-unlikely-to-succeed ventures only to have it return time and again 3 fold to him. He fits well enough into the gadji world because of his wealth and many connections.

In a conversation with his boss and friend, Rohan is told that he’s bored in life and with sex because he always picks the same type of woman. When Amelia Hathaway comes to the gentleman club he manages looking for help finding her wayward brother, he decides she’s as different from his usual fare as gold is from dirt, for she is as proper and spinsterish as they get.

Kleypas builds sexual tension hot and fast and just when things begin to look brighter Amelia’s former suitor shows up to make a nuisance of himself. It seems this wastrel has been jilted by the woman he jilted Amelia for and is back supposedly to win her heart again.

A big part of the romance is relationship covers the prejudice heaped on the Roma. So while Cam makes more money than any ten families could spend, he’s not considered a good catch on the marriage mart.

There are many recognizable events and portions of this book that are found in the Seduce Me at Sunrise. As such I recommend waiting a spell between the books and not reading them back to back.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Mine Till Midnight (The Hathaways, Book 1)

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Review: Sexiest Man Alive by Diana Holquist

I picked this up from the library because it was recommended in the AAR forums as a book about heroines who have low self-confidence. The heroine in Sexiest Man Alive has panic attacks around men, especially good looking men. On the whole it’s a semi-cute read, but it’s very campy in a bad way, like it tries to hard. I show you what I mean…

Jasmine Burns really wants to be a costume designer, but she can’t even make it through the interview with Arturo because he’s handsome. Her sister Amy is a psychic gypsy who lost her powers. Amy gives Jasmine the name of her One True Love. Two thousand dollars poorer, Jasmine has a name, Josh Toby. The only Josh Toby she knows is the gorgeous Hollywood actor, which means she’s screwed because she’ll never leave New York to find him.

Through a quirk of fate, Arturo loves Jasmine’s work and hires her to be his assistant even with her bolt, barf, and run. She is sworn to secrecy and meets him at a restaurant to discuss the details. The secret she has to keep? Josh Toby is in town to do an off Broadway performance as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. She runs.

Her sister catches her in a taxi and drops her off at a library where another Josh Toby exists. He is a carrot top, extremely shy librarian. Jasmine is relieved. Josh thinks she is a homeless nutcase. One True Love indeed!

The actor Josh Toby pursues Jasmine. He needs her to disguise him from the paparazzi and of course he’s instantly attracted to her weird and quirky behavior. He figures it’s because he’s a famous actor. Josh finds himself spilling a bunch of secrets. How his Hollywood girlfriend, Cleo Chan, is really not his girlfriend. They pose that way for publicity and to keep the crazies away. Oh and how he’s terrified of onstage acting… so the two can bond over irrational fears, which of course they overcome without much difficulty at all later in the novel.

Cleo Chan meanwhile is in love with Josh Toby and is determined to get him back. It doesn’t help that Amy also tells her that Josh Toby is her One True Love. You can guess from here what hijinks end up happening. It’s totally predictable and very unsatisfying.

Rating: 1.5 Stars

Buy: Sexiest Man Alive

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