Review: Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly Harper

better homes and hauntingsReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Nina Linden is in one of the areas of the country that I love to visit – this would be a great book to take with you when you go to visit. She’s trying to come back after having someone try to discredit her. She’s just one of those characters that you want to root for and that all will be right in the world for her.

Deacon Whitney is a law unto himself and has brought some people, Nina included, to help him restore his ancestral home. The attraction between them is muted compared to the ghostly mystery that is afoot. I found that I was more interested in what is going on with the house then any type of romance.

This author introduces you to a character named Dotty. She’s a relative of Deacon’s and she appears to be the comic relief in this story. There’s one scene in this book that just solidified my awe in Dotty. You will understand when you read the scene where she talks about how she reads a book – that used to be me before I broke that bad habit.

This is one of those books that I would read more than once. The author does a great job in building the momentum that carries the reader from beginning to end and leaves you wanting more. I can picture having this around come Halloween. What a perfect time to set the mood, add the perfect music, the perfect drink and sit back and relax. And speaking of setting the mood, I had to laugh to myself when some music is referenced in the book–I just happened to be listening to that music as I was reading.

Now I’m anxious to see what Molly has in store for her readers now that this book has come out.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Better Homes and Hauntings

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Review: Savage Hunger (Heart of the Jaguar, Book 2) by Terry Spear

savage hungerReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

This book picks up where book one left off. This is Maya Anderson’s story. She goes into a club where she comes across two real bad boys. David and Wade Patterson are on assignment at the same club. Then Maya seems to be causing something of a stir.

During the altercation, you will find that you just have to chuckle. I’m sure it’s not the most appropriate thing to do but you just won’t be able to help yourself. It also leaves you with a sense of anticipation. Terry always creates her shifters to be very sensual. But she also leaves you feeling that shifters may actually live amongst us.

And then Terry turns up the heat. Our author gives us just the right amount of romance, intrigue and sex. Plus she includes some great settings – in this case it is the country of Belize. Today (July 3) I found it interesting that she chose Belize – I watched two programs that made me think of this jaguar series.

I started my morning watching Good Morning America. They had Jack Hanna on and he had some wild babies with him. One in particular caught my attention since it was a 4-month old black jaguar. It puts Terry’s characters into perspective – the baby had such large paws and very sharp claws. The second show was on Animal Planet titled North America and the narrator was talking about an online poll where viewers (originally aired on Discovery Channel) got a chance to vote on destinations. Number 5 destination was none other than Belize.

Between the book and the series on Animal Planet it has left me wanting to go there for a visit. Plus I want to see if I could find any of those wild shifters lurking about. If you ever get a chance to visit there, what a great book to pack in your suitcase.

This was definitely another action packed page-turner. It also brought home how illegal trafficking of wild animals is something that needs to be stopped. I’m one of those people that hates to see anything caged. Wild animals need to be in there own environment roaming free. Animal Planet has another show titled Big Cat Diaries that I’ve been watching in repeats. I just love watching the cheetahs lounging in the trees. When I read about Terry’s jaguars, I can picture them doing the same thing.

I’m afraid that all I can tell you is that there will be another book in this series title Jaguar Heat. The bad news is that it’s not scheduled to come out until August of next year. In the meantime, it gives you plenty of time to get this book read and if you haven’t read book one you can get that one done too. Also, you may want to mark your calendar so that you remember a year from now that book three should be hitting shelves at your local bookstore.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Savage Hunger (Shifter)

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Review: Tall, Dark and Disreputable by Deb Marlowe

tall dark disreputableSetup: Portia Tofton was rejected once by adventure seeking Mateo Cardea when their fathers tried to arrange a match. He runs all the way to another continent to ensure he wasn’t snared into a marriage with her and he’s stayed far away until now. Even from the grave his father is trying to throw him into her path by willing the shipping company into her lap. It’s a scheme he can see straight through and he’s going to give her a piece of his mind.

Goose Chase: Except everything he thought about grown up Portia is wrong and everything he remembered from their childhood was right. All Portia wants his Mateo’s help in securing her house, which her dead husband had gambled away without telling her about. But what should have been simple leads to a wild goose chase as more and more layers are woven and the new owner of Stenbrooke. If she gets it back, he can have his family’s company back too.

Review: I really liked the goose chase in this book. It was well set up. I really liked the little rendezvous that Mateo and Portia got up to in the woods along the way. Hot stuff! What I liked best was that there was a little of The Gift of the Magi at the end. Each was willing to give up what they loved most for the other to make them happy and if that isn’t love, what is?

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Tall, Dark and Disreputable

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Review: Happy Hour at Casa Dracula (Casa Dracula Book 1) by Marta Acosta

In the first installment of Casa Dracula, Milagro De Los Santos, Miracle of the Saints, reluctantly goes to her college boyfriend’s party celebrating his huge success as a newly published author. She thinks his novel is garbage, but the critics love it. She also thinks he’s a superficial stuck-up snob and isn’t proven wrong.

At the party she runs into Oswald Grant, a handsome man who asks her to join him for drinks at his hotel. Never one to deny herself a good time, Millie follows him back. Just when she thinks all he’s interested in is Sebastian Beckett-Witherspoon, Oswald kisses her and so exuberant are they that they accidentally nick each other and swap a little blood.

She thinks she’s been drugged but little does Milagro know she just traded smoochies with a certified vampire, even though he and his family will go to the ends of the earth to claim that all they have is genetic autosomal recessive disorder.

Her reckless behavior attracts Sebastian’s attention, but he’s not what he seems. As a card carrying member of CACA or Corporate Americans for the Conservation of America, Sebastian’s main goal is to eradicate the threat of vampires and use their blood to serve a higher financial purpose.

Gabriel, a gay bodyguard from the Grant family, rescues her and brings her to the ranch where Milagro finds out that Oswald is engaged. The more she hangs out with Winnifred (Winsome) Jardine, the more she likes her and the more despicable Oswald’s behavior seems… when Winnifred’s cousins Ian and Cornelia (Corny) Ducharme show up she latches onto the group.

Hot wild sex with Ian blows her mind, but Ian is much darker and more dangerous than a sincere and serious girl should want and so when she finds out the reasons behind Oswald’s indiscretion she bumps uglies with him. Then Winnie shows up pregnant and Millie can’t hardly stand herself and runs away… and right into disaster with CACA and her ex.

It ends happy, and Milagro gets her man, but did she get the right one? The love triangle theme continues in the next three books and explores this theme along with others like classism, racism, and finding personal happiness. Keep an eye out for those reviews!

For a fun time with a heroine who’s smart, sassy, and funny and just a little naïve who stumbles from one disaster into the next, you should try the Casa Dracula series, a perfect blend of the supernatural and comedy of manners. Acosta will leave you in stitches from laughing so hard while at the same time craving the next bite.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Buy: Happy Hour at Casa Dracula

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Review: Beastly by Alex Flinn

I saw the trailer announced at Katidom and like Kati I’m a sucker for fairytales, especially Beauty and the Beast fairytale retellings.

After viewing the trailer I went immediately to the library and got a copy of the book. (How about you are you planning to do the same?)

It’s an easy read, directed toward young adults. It is high school meets fairytales without losing its magic. Oh and it’s from the Beast’s pov – hot stuff right there even if he’s a jerk of the first sort to begin with (not unlike most alpha males.)

Kyle Kingsbury is the popular boy at school. He has looks, athletics, and riches. Together they get him girls – any girl from the ugliest hag to the vapid self-obsessed head cheerleader. He’s arrogant, conceited, and cruel which combined lead to his ultimate destruction and reformation.

Unlike the trailer, in the book Kyle Kingsbury really does turn into a hairy beast, not a deformed, scarred, and tattooed boy. I liked the idea that he was forced to look as hideous on the outside as he was on the inside, so I think I will like the movie version of his beastiness. He’s also given two years in the book to find someone to love him, not one. The trailer also shows him walking the halls of school in his Beast form (which never happened, he goes into near immediate seclusion venturing out only at night or to various doctors looking for a cure).

Linda Taylor (or Lindy) is the shy scholarship book nerd at Tuttle Prep. When Kyle gives her the rose corsage meant for his girlfriend (who snubbed it) he unknowingly bought himself a second chance clause to his curse. It takes him a while to figure it out, but ultimately he realizes Lindy is just the right girl to break his spell.

The bad YA parental units are explained in a manner that fills in some gaps otherwise found in most fairytales. Even the witch who turns Kyle Beastly doesn’t leave him hanging, she’s watching him, helping him, and ultimately befriending him, which is interesting to say the least.

Definitely worth a try if you love the storyline and even if you don’t!

Rating: 4 Stars

Buy: Beastly

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Review: The Mermaid Garden by Santa Montefiore

by Marcia, guest reviewer

The Mermaid Garden is the story of two women who are desperately longing for love and fulfillment told with beautiful, sumptuous prose as well as witty, wry humor and a touch of mystery.

Ten-year-old Floriana is a lonely, lost child, yearning to have something worthwhile and beautiful in her life.  Her mother ran off with a tomato seller, taking her baby brother and leaving Floriana with her worthless alcoholic father.  She is drawn to La Magdalena, an elegant mansion just outside town, and meets eighteen-year-old Dante.  La Magdalena and Dante are everything that is missing in Floriana’s life and she is determined that she will have them both.  Unfortunately, Floriana does not ‘belong’ with either.

Clementine has come home to live with her father and stepmother in a beautifully quaint family run hotel in Devon.  She is angry, bitter, discontented and still carrying the childhood angst leftover from her parent’s divorce. The hotel is buried under a mountain of debt but Clementine is too self-involved to help.  Marina, her stepmother, hires Rafa as a resident artist in an effort to attract new and repeat guests.  Rafa, who is also a gorgeous and charming Argentinean, is happy to help but he has a secret agenda.

Montefiore creates characters that are tangible, real and accessible so that we feel their yearning, hope and joy as they discover how to overcome life’s harsh and beautiful lessons.  She draws her readers into a bittersweet atmosphere with joy and wit, capturing the breathtaking scenery of Devon and Tuscany with such skill that the readers feels that they are there, in each and every scene, as a silent observer.

The deftly interwoven plot and complex characters finely crafted prose make The Mermaid Garden a must read.  This is a book that will stay on readers shelves for years to come, to be reread an appreciated over and over again.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: The Mermaid Garden

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Review: England’s Perfect Hero by Suzanne Enoch


What makes a perfect hero? Is it his dashing good looks, his heroic deeds, or his charm? Third in the series Lessons in Love by Suzanne Enoch, England’s Perfect Hero, delves into the challenge of defining a hero.

Lucinda and her two best friends, Georgiana and Evelyn, create three separate lists on how to be a gentleman of high caliber. Each one is highly personal and defines what each girl feels about herself and what she looks for in a mate. On Lucinda’s list there are four items she wishes to teach a certain dashing gentleman, also known as Lord Geoffrey Newcombe, about being a gentleman.

Only her lessons are getting the attention of a different man; another soldier and nobleman whose past is a mystery and whose character is mysterious. Robert Carroway, brother to Dare, Georgiana’s husband. All she knows about Robert is this: he was at Waterloo, he came home from war injured, his experiences in war have made him withdrawn and edgy, and her father doesn’t like him.

Robert Carroway for his part has lived in a personal hell for three years. The darkness threatens to claim him, chew him up and spit him out. If only it would kill him so he didn’t have to live in silent agony about what had been done to him. The only ray of pure sunlight in his whole existence is Lucinda whose cheery disposition and sweet nature draw him like a moth to the flame. If helping her snare the husband of her dreams could also pull him from the darkness he would do it, or so he told himself. What he really wanted was to be the husband of her dreams.

Rating: ★★★★½

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Review: Merely Magic by Patricia Rice

by Susan S., guest reviewer

Merely Magic is part of Sourcebooks Casablanca Classics Collection. It’s an out-of-print romance novel re-released for the enjoyment of new readers as well as old.

Summary: Heroine, Ninian Malcolm Siddons, is a woman who marches to the beat of a different drum. She doesn’t look, dress, or act as other ladies. There’s also the fact that she’s financially independent. And a witch. Further proof she’s…different. Ninian has healing abilities and aids the sick with her herbs. She also acts as the village midwife, and possesses a gift for sensing human emotion. But she’s also a lonely woman. Men tend to avoid Malcolm witches. Yes, being a witch and accepting one’s heritage can be a lonely undertaking.

Or at least it was…until Drogo Ives, the Earl of Ives and Wystan, visits his Wystan estate. Legend and family warn the danger of Ives men. Ms. Siddons believes she can avoid Drogo along with his mysteriously dark and handsome features. That she’s strong enough to resist him.

Or so she thought. Until a meddlesome step-sister intervenes. Unbeknownst to Ninian, she imbibes some wine tainted with a magic potion. When a Malcolm witch finally succumbs to the charms of an Ives, will it bring calamity or happiness encountered only in legends?

Review: Merely Magic has some pros adding to the overall enjoyment of the story. For instance, the mystery man who calls himself Adonis. He appears various times and always unexpectedly; leaving us wondering if he’s friend or foe. The secondary characters really added a fun twist. Drogo has a lot of brothers, half-brothers, and one half-sister. Makes for an interesting family dynamics.

We also have some cons. The heroine’s behavior was a bit contradictory. Ninian is believed to be independent, but allows Drogo’s half-sister and friends to override her decisions. Leaving Ninian’s assertiveness to take its leave. There’s also some descriptive redundancies, e.g., too many “references” to the hero’s eyebrows. They were: curled, wretched, dark, craggy, thick and curling, etc. The same held true for Ninian’s mental status. Because she’s different, the earl thinks her: dim-witted, rattled, insane, a madwoman, lunatic, etc., etc.

If you disregard the cons, it really is quite a lovely story. The crashed wedding chaos alone is an incredibly well-written scene. As was Drogo’s near-drowning.

Further Commentary: This novel leaves readers with a few unanswered questions. For example, what is Adonis’s real identity? There’s also an unsolved murder. It’s possible the answers may reveal themselves in future installments. If I’m not mistaken, when Merely Magic was released in 2000, it was followed by Must Be Magic. Mayhap the answers lie within the pages of the aforementioned sequel.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Merely Magic

Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. Romance, March 2011, Trade Paperback, 344 Pages. ISBN# 978-1-4022-5193-1.

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