Audio Review: Midsummer Magic by Catherine Coulter

midsummer magicHero: Philip Hawsbury is no longer the second son. When his older brother died, he became the next Earl of Rothermere. Now his father is on his deathbed and Philip must fulfill a longstanding promise his father made to impoverished Alexander Kilbracken, the Scottish Earl of Ruthven. He must marry one of the daughters – Viola, Clare, or Frances.  He has no desire to wed anyone and would prefer to stay in London with his mistress. Now how can he proceed to do both?

Heroine: Frances does not want to be married off to Philip or really anyone sight unseen. She’s certain he’s going to be an arrogant Sassenach. She’s the apple of her father’s eye and has a premonition that her father would like to see her marry the man. Since she must be present and participate, she decides to do so in the worst way possible. While her sisters, Clare and Viola, vie for the young earl’s attention, she’s going to make herself ugly, aloof, and a shrew. Little does she know that she presents the perfect image of a wife for Philip – who wants to fulfill his father’s promise, but leave the missus behind at Desborough Hall while he pursues his London life unchecked and unencumbered.

Review: This book comes from the era of the “bodice-ripper” / “forced seduction” and has the flaws that associate with that period of romances. The hero for instance is not a worthy hero by today’s standard’s. He’s shallow and doesn’t learn to love the heroine in her disguise, but rather falls for her [beauty] when it comes off. He’s also either a product of his times or an idiot because he doesn’t think wives should be treated like mistresses and in so believing makes zero attempts to please his bride when he and she do their “duties” to conceive.  But it’s supposed to be acceptable and tolerable because both characters don’t know any better. Baloney. He also likes to pretend he’s the wounded party in all of this, which is very aggravating.

When he’s not being an irritating jerk he at least remembers the cream (which is not saying much.)

It should be noted that the heroine’s characterization starts off great – she’s feisty, stands up to her father, and tries to trick the hero with a “clever” ugly duckling disguise. But then this tom-boyish, heart of gold (she walks miles to visit her father’s tenets,) strong heroine gets replaced by someone else entirely during their “honeymoon” stage. She’s uncertain, quiet, mousey, and timid – and not just for the appearance of keeping up her disguise.

So what did work for me was the beginning and the initial set-up.

Narrator: Anne Flosnik as usual had a wonderful performance. She is one of the reasons I stuck with the story to the end.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy: Midsummer Magic (Magic Trilogy), Midsummer Magic (Audiobook)

Review: Under Her Skin by Susan Mallery

I had some issues with Cruz Rodriguez, the hero of the story. First, he’s paying his nasty evil father blackmail money like a little kid with a secret when he’s supposed to be extremely powerful and self-confident now. Second, and more importantly he eschews all contact with his daughter, Kendra. He clearly doesn’t want to be a dad and this is waved away like it’s no big deal because he doesn’t want to be like his evil father. Grr…

This is not a marriage of convenience plot, but it should have been. Lexi Titan needs 2 million dollars to pay off a loan that was called. Cruz offers it to her in exchange for bringing him into the “first families” and elite tier of Texas Society. He wants them to be engaged (with sex – not negotiable – my thoughts: tacky and in bad taste on his part worse when she accepts) and he wants to be introduced to potential trophy wives so that when they ultimately separate he can move on with ease. Ugh.

Lexi and the rest of the Titan girls have daddy issues too. Daddy Titan pits them all against each other because with him it’s all or nothing and no in-between. Where she’s unwilling to trust her sister’s with her problems she easily accepts Cruz, bringing him into her personal and social world at the same time. She’s also a strong advocate of Kendra, which is nice.

….Spoilers ahead….

Skye’s story will be like Jane Austen’s Persuasion which will be interesting. I’m looking forward to that too. Izzy’s not so much. Dana’s either – she goes for weak men and while I know her story will be flipped and the hero will be a strong man, I’m not particularly drawn to her.

I really liked the plot that will fuel the remaining novels. The whole thing with Garth, their evil half brother is pretty exciting. I can’t wait to see where that goes. I’ve picked up the next in the series to read just because of it. I can’t wait to see what stunts he pulls next. I’m almost rooting for him – how crazy is that? It would be nice to have it twist and prove he’s a good guy, but that would probably take some work.

On a side note I just love the cover.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Buy: Under Her Skin

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Review: How to Marry a Rake by Deb Marlowe

how to marry a rakeHow To Marry a Rake is a spin-off from The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor.

Back story: Mae loved Stephen and followed after him as often as she could. He never pushed her away, reveling in her attention. Then she manipulates him into a kiss and he tramples on her infatuation with a sharp rejection. The next day she and her parents set sail for Europe.

Hero: Lord Stephen Manning is determined to make a success of his brand new racecourse Fincote Park.  To do that he’s got to get a race set up to inspire the racing community to travel far and wide to come. He thinks he can get that match with Earl of Ryeton’s horse, an unbeatable race champion, Pratchett.  The last thing he needs is an encounter with a girl from his past.

Heroine: With a newly mended heart, heiress Mae Halford returns from Europe ready to face the ton and make a splash. It’s only a matter of time before her father marries her off to the first gentleman to ask for her hand so she’s made a plan. She’s going to find her own husband and she’s going to do it the only way she knows how, by being someone else… at least at the start, so she doesn’t scare them away like Stephen.

Second chance: Stephen requires Mae’s help to find a stolen horse. They strike a bargain. Her help collecting gossip and leads from places Stephen can’t get at for his help finding her a husband and eliminating the gentlemen who wouldn’t like and/or fit her.

Review: How To Marry a Rake is a fun, flirty, fantastic read! There’s a second chance romance, a hero who realizes his own flaws, a mystery involving a stolen horse, and characters you can root for. If you love regency romances, don’t miss out on this one.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: How To Marry a Rake

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Review: The Chase by Erin McCarthy

by Carla F., guest reviewer

I have a confession to make. Despite having no interest in sports except for the occasional tennis match, and no interest in cars except their ability to get me from Point A to Point B, I started watching NASCAR this year. This is entirely the fault of Erin McCarthy and her Fast Track Series about NASCAR drivers.

The Chase is the fourth book in the series, and it has in fact two drivers as the main characters: Evan Monroe (brother of Elec Monroe from Flat-Out Sexy – Fast Track #1) and Kendall Holbrook, the first female driver in the cup series. Evan and Kendall were teenage lovers but broke up. Evan doesn’t even know why. One day they were together and the next she wouldn’t talk to him or answer his phone calls. Now Kendall is a rising star and Evan is on a losing streak.

Spoilers (perhaps): It was interesting to finally hear Evan’s story. In the previous books he seemed like a guy who only wanted to drive fast, chase women, and argue loudly with his sister Evie. To find that he was terribly hurt by his breakup with Kendall and is really sweet man is a pleasant surprise.

Kendall was a disappointment. After she and Evan get back together (extremely early on in the story) and face a serious situation, she wants to hide from Evan and not talk it over with him. Even though she knows that was what caused their teenage breakup.

Favorite scene that sounds like it would be cheesy but ended up hot: The deodorant commercial that Evan and Kendall film together.

Overall: This wasn’t as strong a book as others in the series. (Flat-Out Sexy and Hot Finish are better). I would recommend this whole series though. If you don’t like (or think you don’t like NASCAR), but love stories about teenager lovers coming back together, you should take this one out for a spin.

Fast Track Series:

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: The Chase

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Review: Bella and the Merciless Sheikh by Sarah Morgan

I just finished reading this amazing Sheikh category romance by Sarah Morgan. Oh my goodness, this is a book to glom! There’s so much to love about the book…

The Heroine: Bella Balfour has the public image of a bad girl. Her recent media explosion landed her smack dab in the desert for a forced retreat as punishment. If you looked sassy up in a dictionary you’d find Bella there. She’s perfect and her terrible jokes are pretty funny if only because you can image the hero’s eye-rolls in response. Her father couldn’t have picked a better spot to strand her because the resort took away her laptop, cell, ipod, makeup, and hair products. The threat of another cup of herbal tea and more hours spent in boring introspection and meditation are enough to inspire a jailbreak.

What I liked about Bella is her very believable transformation from the spoiled socialite into the fiercely independent woman. Without the armor of her bad girl reputation, deep vulnerabilities are exposed. Bella is keenly aware that nobody likes her, that she doesn’t have any true friends, that men only want her for sex. For once she’d like to be desired for herself, flaws and all. When she’s back inside city limits all she wants is to be given a chance to prove to herself and others that she’s not a mess.

The Hero: Sheikh Zafiq Al-Rashid loves the 5 days he gets every year to vacation in the desert and put aside his responsibilities. It’s the only time he gets to relax and enjoy peace, quiet, and most importantly solitude. This year his trip to a quiet oasis is foiled by a chance encounter with an unconscious dehydrated woman and a horse… his most prized mare to be exact. Determined to rescue and then punish the horse thief, Zafiq is unprepared to handle a conscious Bella.

What I liked best about Zafiq as a Sheikh hero he was that he prized self control above all else and realized in the face of Bella that he had never truly tested his control. A quality he thought he had a lot of ended up being something he had surprisingly little of. Usually the heroine is the virginal miss who appears so virtuous until she’s tested by the hero and winds up having very loose morals in most cases. So the fact that it’s reversed (even if the quality in question is different) is wonderful. I liked how it came to play in the category.

He also hates socialites because of how his father acted around his stepmother. He finds love to be a weakness and has literally expunged from himself as many emotional ties as possible, with the exception of perhaps his siblings. He doesn’t understand how to act like a man in love or how to act in a relationship and it’s bittersweet at times to see his reactions to Bella. He can be as merciless and arrogant and prickish as any alpha hero, but inside he’s just a lovable uncertain mess.

Don’t miss out! Go grab yourself a copy!

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Bella and the Merciless Sheikh

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Review: Cinderella and the Sheikh by Natasha Oakley


My only complaint is that this novel isn’t longer! I feel like this was a good start and now the author should flush it out with more details, more scenes, more, more, more. The ending was much too rushed to wrap everything up to my satisfaction. I felt like I read half a book only to get about four paragraphs of the ending. I feel very deprived. Pout.

This story is very chaste, no sex and only a few passionate kisses. The build up was there and could have developed further. I did enjoy the line about her response to him making a mockery of her modesty.

Pollyanna (Polly) has devoted her energies into Shelton, the historic seat and castle of the ducal Missenden family. Polly’s mother, had been the family’s housekeeper for years and married into the Missendens, but Richard’s offspring do not approve. Anthony the heir puts up the most fight and subsequently Polly has never felt she belonged. She does not have any rights on the castle that has always been her home and Anthony would just as soon be rid of her and the castle. (He gambles and the money would help him pay his debts.)

It’s time for a change. Joining her friend Minty’s documentary production crew Polly is off to Amrah, the Arbian kingdom her great-grandmother fell in love with (at a price.) Polly is also instantly drawn to Amrah’s playboy sheik, Rashid.

For his part, Rashid wants to keep a close eye on Polly. He’s determined to find out if she knew and was behind her stepbrother’s plot to swindle him on a thoroughbred horse. Of course his intentions and attentions get muddled as his motivation changes from revenge to lust.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Review: The Indy Man by Janet Dailey

This wasn’t a bad book per se but it wasn’t all that interesting either. It’s not an average read, more of a ho-hum read. A good time filler, but nothing spectacular. Now that the dithering it out of the way… I’ll tell you more about what is actually in the book.

The hero, Mitch Braden, is a racecar driver. Don’t you love palindromes? Anyway, he spies the heroine across a restaurant and decides she must be the love of his life because she’s stunningly beautiful. Never mind the man doesn’t know her and hasn’t ever had a conversation with her. Bold as brass he walks up to her and starts hitting on her in front of her date and fiancé.

Warren, Susan’s fiancé doesn’t take this well at all and it literally foaming at the mouth. He’s too good mannered to cause a scene but he ruffles his feathers like any good alpha male. I couldn’t decide if Mitch was an alpha male or not because in comparison to Warren he lacks a lot of features an alpha hero possesses. Warren is taller, broader, and walks with a military stride. He’s full of pride and arrogance. Mitch is also arrogant, is more charismatic than stern, and has an open lolling gait.

Mitch insinuates himself into Susan’s family and warmly accepts their invitation to house him after he is injured in the Indy 500 race. Most of the novel revolves around Susan saying, “Back off! I’m engaged to Warren” and Mitch countering with something mocking and conceited. He’s only good line as far as I can tell is, “I haven’t got time to play fair.”

The end is wrapped up a bit too quickly for my liking and I never really saw why Warren was not good enough for Susan and why Mitch was.

Rating: 1.5-2 Stars

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Review: Taken by the Highest Bidder by Jane Porter (no spoilers)


By: Cara Lynn, guest reviewer

This one had a few twists and turns I didn’t see coming, and it was more believable. The background of the leading characters unfolds throughout the book, and some of it you don’t find out until mid-point.

Samantha van Bergen is in a disastrous marriage, mothering a step-daughter that she dearly loves. This little girl is bright and precocious, and knows more than anyone realizes she does. Her mother died, and Samantha had been her nanny.

The book begins with a bang. Samantha’s husband, Johann, is a compulsive gambler, who has gambled away a family fortune. He loses it all to Cristiano. And come to find out, he has tossed in Samantha to sweeten the pot, but only after he offers his daughter first (nice guy, right?!) but Cristiano rejects this.

Of course, Cristiano has fallen in love with Samantha at first sight. He knows that the little girl will come with her stepmother.

The question is why is he going to this trouble? And what other unfoldments might we find along the way that unlock the puzzle?

Sam takes Gabriella and goes to England from Monte Carlo. When she is there, we learn more about her early life. She is definitely worthy of the best.

Lucky for her, Cristiano agrees with this. He wants to settle a fortune on her in a pre-nup, but she isn’t interested in his money. They marry without a pre-nup, and when a divorce seems imminent, he wants her to use an attorney to guarantee her rights.

Instead, she decides to fight her fears, and she is successful.

She is a plucky heroine and you root for her when she comes out on top. There’s very little fighting or whining; there is a strong, wealthy and scarred hero.

I give it a 3. Have you read it?

If you’d like to submit a review on a novel you’ve read, check out LRP’s guidelines for submission.

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