Review: Until There Was You (Coming Home, Book 2) by Jessica Scott

until there was youReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Can two people who are opposites really find attraction? This is the general idea of Until There Was You. Jessica Scott had her debut with Because of You, and started her foray into military romance novels, and gave readers a good idea of what she wanted her characters to act like, leaving their general look to the imaginations of thousands.

Sergeant Reza and Captain Claire Montoya aren’t supposed to associate with each other, but when he is the only one out of the brigade she knows, she doesn’t really have an option to ignore him. This shows what a lonely life service men and women can have in the army, but that kind of life isn’t for her, she wants a bit more than that, and sees her opportunity for fun with Captain Evan Loehr, even if Reza is always trying to set her up with guys to date. She doesn’t need any more one night stands with guys who work with her, it would only complicate things, yet love can do strange things to people, and it does to her.

This is a romantic story, starting with Claire chatting with Evan. She embarrasses him, and he is interested in her, but doesn’t want to be getting with a woman he thinks Reza might have had a relationship with, as Reza does have a reputation for being a ladies man as well as a hard drinker. Claire is easy going and approachable, she is comfortable around men, and casual too, but Evan is the exact opposite. He can’t relax and isn’t friendly at all, more so to women, especially army women who he, as a rule doesn’t date. They spend most of the novel annoying the hell out of each other, and when they get in a clinch, they break from it as though they are doing something wrong in enjoying something akin to a sex life.

I especially loved this line in the novel:

But Evan couldn’t take his eyes off Claire. A woman who ate napalm and pissed razor wire and inspired Evan to want to throttle her every time they were in the same room together.

Evan acts like he doesn’t like her at all, but he knows he has an obsession with her he has to get under control, or, he thinks he might regret it. There are a lot of funny moments between the couple when they act out their rants. The two of them keep acting as though they don’t like each other most of the way through, and the romance of it is lost in the annoyance the two feel about each other. They never actually have a romance, as it is more of a would-be romance that never happened. It is a shame as I would have liked them to have come to a truce near the end. This is an excellent novel for those who like couples who are on each other all the time, bickering back and forth with witty repertoire.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Until There Was You

Review: Just Remember to Breathe by Charles Sheehan-Miles

Just Remember to BreatheReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Pre-law student, Alex Thompson wants to make something of her life; she studies hard and needs to forget the boy who broke her heart before. Dylan Paris returns from his stint in Afghanistan, hurt and injured and intends to never tell Alex he has even come home. This doesn’t work however, when he and Alex end up on the same work study program, and have to work together, and cope with each other’s foibles.

Review: Professor Allen going on a leave of absence from the work study program is only one problem Alex has to face, for the rest she is on her own – with the past coming back to haunt her. How she treated her former boyfriend back then doesn’t make her proud of what she did, and even though she was drunk at the time, she still remembers the words she said to Dylan. Dylan on the other hand remembers that drink led him to dropping out of school early, and having to get further education later as a disabled war veteran. He also wishes he hadn’t come back home, as there are so many bad memories there. Alex is shocked at seeing him for the first time, but once this initial shock is gone, she has to accept she said a few things she shouldn’t, and Dylan has to accept he did things a little wrong when he ran out of her life so easily. No one is going to admit their failings so easily though, and that is half the fun of reading this story.

Charles writes the book well, as each chapter has a separate title plus a name, so you know who’s thinking what, and who it’s about. He puts the emotions of both characters into the novel: Alex’s regrets over her words before, and her second chance at making a go of their relationship now that he is back in her life. Dylan has seen a lot of pain, death and anguish in the war, and has to learn to enjoy life again away from it, and only one person can help her – the one woman who he never wanted to see again.

I liked the character development in the story, and the fact that Alex has to understand what horrible experiences Dylan had in the war before she can truly help him recover from it.

Extra thoughts: Charles isn’t new to writing books that are gripping and insightful on people who have worked in the military. From Republic, Insurgent, Prayer at Rumayla, two non-fiction books and several short stories, he is quite the authority on this subject when dealing with the harsh reality of war, and the sensuality of love. He uses his knowledge and understanding of the military and disabled veterans and puts it into his writing. He also works doing outreach and public affairs for a law firm which represents disabled veterans.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Just Remember to Breathe

Fighting the Attraction

Julie Ann WalkerGuest blog by Julie Ann Walker, author of Rev It Up

Hidey-ho to all you romance and romantic suspense fans out there! My name is Julie Ann Walker, and I’m tickled pink to be on Love Romance Passion today, discussing my process for creating tension between my lead characters…

But before we get into that, let me quickly introduce my series, Black Knights Inc. to those of you who haven’t heard of it (or me) – ’cause, you know, I’m kind of the new kid on the block… just sans pithy lyrics and provocative dance moves. <– Uh, oh. Did I just date myself there? Okay, I admit it, I spent my entire eighth grade school year mooning over Joey McIntyre, but I digress…

Back to my series. In a nutshell, it follows a group of ex-military spec-ops warriors who run their own private government defense firm under the guise of a custom motorcycle shop. I like to say they’re grease-monkey motorcycle mechanics by day, Uncle Sam’s last resort by night. To make it easy, think Sons of Anarchy meets 007.

Well, then the question becomes, with all those motorcycle chases and flying bullets – or, as I like to say, with all the vroom and the boom – how do I weave in the sexual tension between my hero and heroine? And the answer? IT AIN’T EASY! And if you guys could read the first drafts of any of my manuscripts, you’d think you were reading a thriller as opposed to a romantic suspense. See, for me, the action and the plot are fairly seamless, painless to get on the page, but the angst? The longing looks, shuddery sighs, and soft, yearning touches? I liken it to squeezing blood from a stone. Which probably says a little something about me – I am very analytical and I did get a degree in mathematics. So is it any wonder creating the tension is the hardest part?

Which might lead you to ask, given I’m basically Borg in real life (Star Trek reference for all you non-Trekkies out there), how it is I can write steamy, hot romance? Well, like any dyed-in-the-wool mathematician, I do it logically and step-by-step. Here’s my process: I write the scene – all the vroom and the boom - and then I go back and sprinkle in the looks, sighs, and touches. I ask myself tons of questions, such as, “Would she notice his hands here?” “Would he be thinking about her butt there?” “Would they have time to steal a kiss in this moment?” “Would he be distracted by her hair in that scene?” “Would she be in awe of his masculinity and skills during this action sequence, or would she be too scared to notice?” In answering those questions, the sexual tension and angst is revealed. And you know what? I find that part the most rewarding. Probably because it is a challenge and, therefore, incredibly satisfying once I’ve Got. It. Just. Right.

So, there you go. Not very romantic, right? But, as my husband likes to say, no one wants to see how sausage is made; they just want to enjoy it. LOL!

Thank you, Love Romance Passion, for having me on today. It was a blast! And, if you kind readers would indulge me, I’d like to know: What do you prefer in romantic suspense? More romance, more suspense, or an equal amount of both?

Rev It Up

REV IT UP BY JULIE ANN WALKER – IN STORES OCTOBER 2012

He Never Misses a Target…

Jake “the Snake” Sommers earned his SEAL codename by striking quickly and quietly – and with lethal force. That’s how he broke Michelle Carter’s heart. It was the only way to keep her safe – from himself. Four long years later, Jake is determined to get a second chance. But to steal back into Michelle’s loving arms, Jake is going to have to prove he can take things slow. Real slow…

She Aims to Make Him Beg…

Michelle Carter has never forgiven Jake for being so cliché as to “love her and leave her.” But when her brother, head of the Black Knights elite ops agency, ticks off the wrong mobster, she must do the unimaginable: place her life in Jake’s hands. No matter what they call him, this man is far from cold-blooded. And once he’s wrapped around her heart, he’ll never let her go…

Buy: Rev It Up: Black Knights Inc.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Ann Walker is the USA Today and New York Times Bestselling Author of the Black Knights Inc. romantic suspense series. She is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics. She’ll never say no to sharing a glass of wine or going for a long walk. She prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind, and she takes her coffee with milk. You can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission. Look for the first two books in her fast-paced series: Hell On Wheels (August 2012) and In Rides Trouble (September 2012). For more information, please visit www.julieannwalker.com or follow her on Facebook www.facebook.com/jawalkerauthor and/or Twitter @JAWalkerAuthor.

GIVEAWAY: 1 copy of Rev It Up. 1 winner, US and Canada only. Enter by leaving comment! Last day to enter: October 12, 2012.

Buy: Rev It Up: Black Knights Inc.

The Women at Home and the Men at Waterloo

Guest Blog by Jack Caldwell, author of The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men

“Ah!” cried Captain Harville, in a tone of strong feeling. “If I could but make you comprehend what a man suffers when he takes a last look at his wife and children, and watches the boat that he has sent them off in, as long as it is in sight, and then turns away and says, ‘God knows whether we ever meet again!’ And then, if I could convey to you the glow of his soul when he does see them again; when, coming back after a twelvemonth’s absence, perhaps, and obliged to put into another port, he calculates how soon it be possible to get them there, pretending to deceive himself, and saying, ‘They cannot be here till such a day,’ but all the while hoping for them twelve hours sooner, and seeing them arrive at last, as if Heaven had given them wings, by many hours sooner still! If I could explain to you all this, and all that a man can bear and do, and glories to do, for the sake of these treasures of his existence! I speak, you know, only of such men as have hearts!” pressing his own with emotion.

“Oh!” cried Anne eagerly, “I hope I do justice to all that is felt by you, and by those who resemble you. God forbid that I should undervalue the warm and faithful feelings of any of my fellow-creatures! I should deserve utter contempt if I dared to suppose that true attachment and constancy were known only by woman. No, I believe you capable of everything great and good in your married lives. I believe you equal to every important exertion, and to every domestic forbearance, so long as—if I may be allowed the expression—so long as you have an object. I mean while the woman you love lives, and lives for you. All the privilege I claim for my own sex—it is not a very enviable one: you need not covet it—is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone!”

Persuasion, Chapter 23

Jack Caldwell here, the author of The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, my latest novel from Sourcebooks Landmark. As you may know, this book is a sequel to two of Austen’s most beloved tales, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

So why did I start this post with a quote from Persuasion?

Jane Austen was a genius, period. While she wrote about a very small part of English society—the English country gentry, the lowest rung of the aristocracy—her themes of love vs. practicality are universal. She also had a great insight into the differences between men and woman, remarkable for a woman who never married. She never mocked those differences; instead, she celebrated them. If she lived today, I have no doubt she would subscribe to the notion that men are from Mars and women are from Venus—heck, she may have wrote that book, instead of John Gray.

The quote from Persuasion perfectly illustrates Austen’s understanding of men and woman. When it comes to love, men and woman are equally capable of commitment and devotion. Never is this shown to greatest pathos than when soldiers and sailors must leave their homes to face battle.

She is not the first to observe this, of course. Indeed, the plot of Homer’s The Odyssey is Odysseus’ struggle to return home from the wars to his beloved Penelope. For her part, she remained remarkably faithful to his memory, even though her husband has been gone for twenty years.

The theme of warriors leaving their loved one behind as they face their destiny is found in countless books and movies. Just a short list: War and Peace. Cold Mountain. The Lord of the Rings. War and Remembrance.

Thus the theme of The Three Colonels.

Peace has finally come to England. Colonel Brandon enjoys his life at Delaford with Marianne and their daughter. Colonel Fitzwilliam, while visiting Rosings Park, finds himself falling in love with a now-healthy Anne de Bourgh. And a chastised Caroline Bingley enters into a marriage of convenience with an aide to the Duke of Wellington, the notorious Colonel Sir John Buford. From idyllic Dorsetshire to troubled Kent to the intrigues at the Congress of Vienna, these three couples try to build their happily ever after.

All this is disrupted by Napoleon’s escape from his exile on Elba. An unprepared Britain is at war again and must call out all their reserves to defend king and country. The men march off to battle, while their women pray for their safe return, all while the majority of the country acts as if nothing of particular is happening.

The wars of eighteenth and early nineteenth century Britain affected the populace remarkably like the American conflicts abroad after Korea. The battles are over there, not here, and therefore easy to ignore. Many of the military are volunteers, not conscripts, so unless your family had a soldier or sailor, you could choose not to think of the wars.

War is tough on the families left behind. In fact, it could be argued that it is tougher. Soldiers and sailors control their own fates, to a certain extent. They could at least fight back; they have swords or guns. The families back home cannot do anything but wait, pray, hoping and dreading news, and try to keep on living.

The story of Marianne, Anne, and Caroline trying to carry on at home while theirs loves, Brandon, Fitzwilliam, and Buford prepare to face Napoleon is timeless and relevant. Thousands of military families today face the same uncertainties as my Austen heroines. We don’t have to imagine how wives, mothers, and girlfriends would have felt during these conflicts, for we only have to talk to our neighbors.

I hope you enjoy The Three Colonels. Please remember of brave military and their familes.

Buy: The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men

About the Author – Jack Caldwell is an author, amateur historian, professional economic developer, playwright, and like many Cajuns, a darn good cook. Born and raised in the Bayou County of Louisiana, Jack and his wife, Barbara, are Hurricane Katrina victims who now make the upper Midwest their home.

His nickname—The Cajun Cheesehead—came from his devotion to his two favorite NFL teams: the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. (Every now and then, Jack has to play the DVD again to make sure the Saints really won in 2010.)

Always a history buff, Jack found and fell in love with Jane Austen in his twenties, struck by her innate understanding of the human condition. Jack uses his work to share his knowledge of history. Through his characters, he hopes the reader gains a better understanding of what went on before, developing an appreciation for our ancestors’ trials and tribulations.

When not writing or traveling with Barbara, Jack attempts to play golf. A devout convert to Roman Catholicism, Jack is married with three grown sons.

Jack’s blog postings—The Cajun Cheesehead Chronicles—appear regularly at Austen Authors.

Review: Hot Zone by Catherine Mann

Reviewed by Susan S.

Book Two: Elite Force Series

Summary: Amelia Bailey is a county prosecutor from Alabama. She’s in the Bahamas helping her brother (Aiden) with the legalities of an international adoption. With her assistance, Aiden and Lisabeth are now the proud new parents of a baby boy. And she’ll be the doting aunt. All’s right in the world until disaster strikes. Aiden and his wife decide to have lunch; leaving baby Joshua in his aunt’s care when the unthinkable happens. An earthquake strikes the island, leveling Amelia’s hotel. She and Joshua are now trapped beneath the rubble.

Luckily, Air Force Pararescueman Hugh Franco comes to their aide. And while Hugh may have given them a second chance at life, they’re not out of danger yet. For sometimes, the aftermath is more terrifying than the disaster!

Review: I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Ms. Mann did a wonderful job of describing how emotionally and physically taxing a pararescueman’s mission can be. Her scenes felt entirely too real. Especially the one where Amelia and Joshua are trapped. I felt claustrophobic just envisioning it! Did I mention her scenes feel real?!

The author also does a splendid job of showing the dynamics of the task force team members, and you’ll respect their bravery and courage. And yes, even their human failings.

I hadn’t realized the author was so crafty. Here I am envisioning my idea of this mysterious antagonist, and all the while Mann is leading down the wrong road. Yep. I was duped!

Recommendations: Recommended for readers who enjoy Harlequin Intrigues, military romantic suspense novels, romantic suspense, strong heroes, sexy soldiers, and survival stories.

My Favorite Scenes:

Scene # 1: When Bailey asks if she can hug Hugh. (Yes, there’s more to that-that I’m not saying.)

Scene # 2: I loved the dialogue between the hero and heroine when they were trapped under the rubble.

Comedic Touch: The new team member of Hugh’s task force team is nicknamed Fang. But FANG is actually an acronym. What the letters signify is what makes it funny. Sorry readers; telling you would spoil the fun.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Hot Zone

Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc., Copyright December 2011, Romantic Suspense, Mass Market Paperback, Print Pages 318. ISBN# 978-1-4022-4498-8.

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Review: The Legend of Michael by Lisa Renee Jones

Reviewed by Lynn Reynolds

This is the first book of the “Zodius” series.

Cassandra Powell comes to work for her father and to evaluate some of the soldiers at the military facility.  Not two minutes after literally bumping into one of the soldiers he’s hitting on her.  His name is Michael Taylor.  She then goes to meet her assistant Kelly who tells her something interesting about the GTEC soldiers that she will be working with.  I love how Kelly tells Cassandra how to have protected sex – ok Mom!

Cassandra’s father seems to be one of the evil forces in this story.  He’s done some experiments on the soldiers that Cassandra must now see what the effects are.  He seems to think that he can play God and not be held accountable.  But there is someone who is much more evil than he is.

Michael goes on a mission with two brothers, Adam and Caleb.  Adam shows us how the experiment can take a turn for the worse.  What’s even worse is that there is a woman, his wife, who’s as evil as he is.  Lisa paints Adam as a very dark sadistic man.  He gets pleasure from other people’s pain.  Lisa doesn’t make it too graphic but just enough so the reader will understand the type of evil man he is.

Lisa takes the reader on a very suspenseful ride.  From one chapter to the next we don’t know what’s going to happen to Cassandra and Michael.  But we have to keep reading so that we can find out.  You have to love a hero that in the midst of a war going on, he has time to make love to his lifebond.

Cassandra’s father isn’t happy on how his soldiers have turned out, now he wants to create a super soldier.  This is one more reason to keep reading.  Was this latest experiment a success?   And how does Michael’s mother fit into all this?  Lisa gives us a glimpse into a world where if you fool with Mother Nature, you will suffer the consequences.

I love how Lisa has given Cassandra a strong personality.  She either fights by Michael’s side or she’ll just go out on her own.  They also love each other – no matter what.  This is the type of love we all long for.

The story ends with us wondering whether good was able to defeat evil.  Who will prevail?  You will have to keep reading the series to find out the answer to this question.  I definitely recommend reading this series.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: The Legend of Michael: Sin and Satisfaction (Zodius)

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Review: The Forbidden Wife by Sharon Kendrick

Before you start: Have you read Jane Eyre? Did you like it? Well The Forbidden Wife followed Jane Eyre to a Tee, which is great if you love Jane Eyre (which I do) but awful if you’re looking for new surprises (I was and there wasn’t any).

Heroine: 18 year old Ashley Jones is an orphan who grew up in the foster care system. She’s got lots of debt and so desires jobs that include room and board. She’s pretty perceptive and has a lot of insights on people’s behavior because of her upbringing. Working as Jack’s live-in assistant at Blackwood Manor is her ticket for something better, even if it’s located out in the middle of nowhere on the moors.

Hero: 30 something Jack Marchant is working on a novel about his experiences in the military where something bad happened (but is never explained). He suffers a lot from bad dreams which might be indicative of PTSD (but again never specifically stated). He wants Ashley, his little oddball, something fierce, but the trick is making her realize she wants him and can have him.

Wife in the Attic: Or in this case the cruel wife in a coma. She tricked Jack into marriage with a fake pregnancy, which he honored even after finding out because he didn’t want her to swindle him out of money for a marriage that was only 3 months old and also because his pride demanded he make it work anyway.

Review: I wanted Forbidden Wife to do more. If it explored more emotional depth out of Ashley and Jack it could have been a solid update on Jane Eyre. I found this review of the story hilarious because it really tells it like it is.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Buy: The Forbidden Wife (Harlequin Presents)

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Review: Dark Sins and Desert Sands (Mythica Series, Book 5) by Stephanie Draven

Reviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Stephanie Draven’s Dark Sins and Desert Sands is book 5 of the “Mythica Series”.

Main characters: Rayhan Stavrakis, he’s a military man with some very special abilities. One side effect from his abilities is that he gets bloody noses (think Firestarter). Dr. Layla Bahset is an American Psychologist. Or is she? She wants to help the lost souls of Las Vegas. Ray and Layla have a previous connection. She doesn’t remember and he wants to find her because of that connection. Layla also has no memory except for the last two years. His memories aren’t that pleasant.

Minor characters: Dr. Nat Jaffe, Psychiatrist. He has been out a few times with Layla. Seth Carey – scorpion king and resident evil. He is the head of a very shifty American company that works with the government. Isabel is Layla’s right hand in the office but she is more than what she seems. Missy is a young woman who starts helping out Ray but seems to blossom.

One issue I had with this book was how fast scenes seemed to switch. Sometimes my mind would get a little confused. In one case, Nat was having dinner with Layla and right in the middle, we would switch scenes to Ray. I think doing this instant switching, stops the flow of the story. For some, it may just confuse them.

In one scene, Seth comes to Layla’s office and meets Isabel. For some reason, she seems to appeal to him but Seth is there to see Layla. They also have a past but Layla fakes her way through the meeting giving him an indication that she knows who he is. She knows that something isn’t right and disappears. Ray and Layla connect but the only way for Layla to remember anything is if Ray kisses her. Ray needs to get information from her and he isn’t above using sex to get it. As soon as we get to the good part, Stephanie switches the scene on us. My mind was definitely not ready for the scene to switch.

We then find out why Seth wants Ray. Seth is a collector of sorts – makes you think of “Star Trek”. But not every collector gets everything they want. I will say that this adds to the suspense – will Ray be a part of Seth’s “collection” or not?

I felt, while reading this story, that Isabel and Seth had more of a connection than Ray and Layla. As I was reading the interactions between Isabel and Seth, I was hoping that Isabel would give Seth a great big kick in his butt. They just seemed a better fit as a couple than Layla and Ray.

The more time that Ray and Layla spend together, the more that Layla remembers about her past. But when Ray finally admits to Layla that he loves her, I just didn’t feel that I ever read that type of connection between the two of them (even with the sex scenes). To me they seemed more like “friends with benefits”.

When Seth finally captures Ray, you can just about see the two of them interact with each other – as if you can see the scene play out right before your eyes. Layla makes Seth a promise that she will go to him if he will let Ray go.

This story was just like a train ride. It starts off slow and picks up speed toward the end of the story. This is finally when we see the love that Ray and Layla have for each other. But at this point, I would rather read more of Seth and Isabel’s story.

You will have to decide if you want to read any more of the series. 

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Dark Sins and Desert Sands

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