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Archive for the ‘B-’ Category

Copyright: 2004

Pages: 299 (paperback edition)

Setting/Type: Americana/Straight Romance

Publisher: Mills & Boon Historical Romance

Author Website: didn’t find anything, what a shame

Grade: B-

North Carolina, 1884: Caleb Pitt, solitary lighthouse keeper, once believed love was eternal as the sea, for Alanna Patterson promised him for ever. But, despite her vow, she left him to drown in disgrace. now, years later, she’s reappeared in his life, beautiful as ever … and just as seductive.

The passion Alanna shared with Caleb has always burned in her memory, and now, faced with marrying another, she has returned to discover if Caleb still holds any smouldering feelings for her. Is it time to put tragedy behind them and find lasting love?

When I discovered that the libraries here in Glasgow are literally stuffed with all kinds of Mills & Boon goodies I mobilized my email buddies and asked for good historical recommendations. The Lightkeeper’s Woman was the first one in this mini-project.

Forget the blurb, it’s simply stupid, especially the second part.  …and now, faced with marrying another, she has returned to discover if Caleb still holds any smouldering feelings for her. GAG GAG, BLEARGH. Blurbs like that are a sure reason for me not to touch such books, thankfully there are people out there who are more resistant than yours truly.
First of all, big HUGE brownie points for the setting and the hero’s occupation. A lightkeeper *sigh*, I know in reality a lightkeeper’s job is far from romantic as part of the story reveals all too clearly, but oh my, all my girly hormones are melting in delight :-)

If it was for the hero and the plot idea I would have given the story a straight A, but Alanna, a heroine that sometimes flirts too much with not being likable, made me mark this book as B-. The reasons why I didn’t feel too close with her are totally subjective, and in some points – I admit – rather silly. I guess for many other readers this story could still be a real jackpot book.

First of all, I have bad connotations with the name Alanna. Who ever invented it is not my favorite pal. Secondly, Alanna used to be a spoiled woman who could spend whole days pouting because of some fashion issues. I have come upon a number of heroines who cleaned up nicely after such an idle past , Alanna only convinced me partly. Mainly, I think because her behaviour turned into (sometimes) such saint and angelic dimensions that I could only blink in incredulity.

Admittedly in the two years she separated from the hero, lost her father to suicide and all her worldly possessions to creditors she changed a lot, but a healthy dose of egoism and consideration for herself would have made her more believable.

Still, Mary Burton is a delightful new discovery and I will definitely read more from her work. Hopefully she has some other books with an interesting setting like this one!

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Copyright: 2003

Pages: 416 (paperback edition)

Setting/Type: Contemporary/Romantic Suspense

Grade: B-

When five-thousand-year-old human bones are found at a construction site in the small town of Woodsboro, the news draws archaeologist Callie Dunbrook out of her sabbatical and into a whirlwind of adventure, danger, and romance. While overseeing the dig, she must try to make sense of a cloud of death and misfortune that hangs over the project – fuelling rumours that the site is cursed. She must cope with the presence of her irritating – but irresistible – ex-husband, Jake. Furthermore, when a stranger claims to know a secret about her privileged Boston childhood, she is forced to question her own past as well…

This was one of my less favorite Nora Roberts, however, I couldn’t bring myself to give it a C grade because – as with everyone of her books – the characterization and relationship part was done brilliantly.

When archaeologist Callie is called in as a specialist for a mysterious discovery of human bones she’s not only forced to co-operate with her suddenly appearing ex-husband Jake, but also with some shocking news about her past. One evening a woman appears at the door of her hotel room and tells her she’s her long lost daughter who was kidnapped at the age of three months. When Callie consequently investigates her past, she uncovers a whole black market adoption ring and that her fate was one among many others.

What I didn’t like about this book was the mystery part which was one of the weakest I have ever encountered in a NR novel. I am not a die hard romantic suspense fan but when I do read a book in this genre and ESPECIALLY one from Ms Roberts, I do expect a solid focus on characters and suspense plot. I can’t say that the suspense plot was neglected, au contraire, I was definitely not able to tell who the villain was or guess about what would happen next. However, I was immensely disappointed when the “main” villain (there are more than one) was revealed and how anticlimactic it felt. When I first heard the person’s name I couldn’t even remember who this character was supposed to be how he/she was related with the plot.

What saved the book for me was the relationship part between Callie and Jack, Callie’s adoptive and biological family and how they all coped with the circumstances. Birthright deals exceptionally well with the adoption/kidnapping issue, from the portrayal of both of Callie’s mothers to Callie’s own behaviour and reluctance in accepting another family in her life.

I also developed a weak spot for Jake. Although the ex-husband hero is definitely not favorite type of character, I instantly liked his rakish, charming and intelligent nature and how he decided that it was high time to win Callie back for good. Callie and Jake do form a perfect couple and their happy end gave a good measure of reader’s nirvana to me, compensating for the anticlimactic suspense part.

I am working on Roberts’s backlist, I kind of neglected her romantic suspense books … and that’s a shame!

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Copyright: 2007

Pages: 432 (paperback edition)

Setting/Type: Contemporary/Straight Romance

Series:Kendrick/Coulter #6

Grade: B-

Veterinarian Isaiah Coulter agrees to hire Laura Townsend as a kennel keeper at his clinic despite her speech impediment, the result of brain damage she sustained after a diving accident five years earlier. With her sparkling personality and love of animals, Laura is the perfect addition to Isaiah’s clinic. But when errors are committed on Laura’s shift, naturally she’s blamed, and she begins to suspect that someone is framing her in the hope of getting her fired. Isaiah remains her stalwart defender as attraction sparks between them, developing into a romance that is both sweet and sensual. While the identity of the individual framing Laura will come as no surprise to the savvy reader, the uniqueness of the relationship between the successful veterinarian and the woman whose handicaps are overshadowed by her ability to love more than compensates.

Leave it up to Catherine Anderson to always find new plot ideas to create damsels in distress, damsels with handicaps or on the run from an evil villain. I recently had a wee chat with Alex about this novel and said that Anderson’s books are probably the closest you can get to a PG-13 inspirational romance.

About a year ago I decided to give up on this author because I was fed up with her type of heroines. On the other hand, she is a really good storyteller with a smooth writing style and a definite flair for making her novels distinctive. On my everlasting search for new reading material I came upon this one, again a rec (with certain stipulations) from my buddy Alex.

In her own way Laura is a very strong heroine. She is a genuinely nice person (sometimes too nice) who constantly struggles to get along with her handicap. I was happy for her when she got the job at the veterinary clinic and experienced with her the joys and problems of her daily routine. Isaiah, the hero, is a poor sob that has been punished with a rather dubious name (IMO). Besides that he constantly works too much, eats to little and is instantly drawn to Laura. It takes them rather long to find together and to share a first kiss. In true Anderson style, they both have to fall in love first which is – in the light of a big surplus of instant sex  – a healthy change. What made Isaiah really dear to me was his constant believe in Laura when she was framed by an obsessive co-worker. With a healthy dose of doubt but also with an open mind he starts believing Laura after she explained the situation to him and helps solving it. I think because of Laura’s impediment this show of trust was crucial for a true and satisfying happy end. 

The main reasons that made me give this book a B- are not truly related with the main plot. As this is #6 in the never-ending Coulter/Kendrick saga Anderson made parade the whole family, including kids, spouses and some other relatives during a Thanks Giving dinner. The portrayed family assembly was so sickly sweet and sugary that I felt like a diabetic gone amok in a chocolate factory.

My final conclusion is that I will definitely return to Anderson, alas with keeping in mind that she only can be savored in small doses, otherwise there’s true danger of drowning in too much kitsch.

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Copyright: 2007

Pages: 320 (hardback edition)

Setting/Type: Contemporary/Romantic Suspense

Grade: B-

A mysterious plane crash . . . a dangerous trek through the Idaho wilderness . . . a smoldering attraction . . . and a deadly game of cat and mouse. In her latest tour de force of romantic suspense, New York Times bestselling author Linda Howard blends these elements into a gripping story that will keep readers breathless – and leave them begging for more. For in Linda Howard’s world, trust can be a weapon, a kiss can be a threat, and intimacy can be deadly.

Bailey Wingate’s scheming adult stepchildren are surprised when their father’s will leaves Bailey in control of their fortune, and war ensues. A year later, while flying from Seattle to Denver in a small plane, Bailey nearly dies herself when the engine sputters – and then fails.

Cam Justice, her sexy Texan pilot, manages to crash-land the aircraft. Stranded in the wilderness, and struggling to douse her feelings for the ruggedly handsome man by her side, Bailey begins to wonder whether this was a mere accident. Sure enough, upon her return to civilization Bailey’s suspicions mount: Who tampered with their plane? Who’s trying to reunite Bailey and her husband in the afterlife? Trusting her life – and heart – to Cam, Bailey must outwit a killer who will stop at nothing to finish the job.

Sexy, suspenseful, and lightning fast, Up Close and Dangerous showcases a beloved author at her dazzling best.

Errrm, I didn’t quite know what to think of Howard’s latest publication. It is definitely better than Cover Of the Night which IMO had a simply ridiculous and unbelievable plot. What I truly enjoyed with this book was the characterization of Bailey and Cam and the chemistry between them. Bailey remembered me of one of my favorite heroines, Paris Saville Sweeney from Now You See Her. Cam has the bold and dangerously sexy flair of Ben Lewis from Heart of Fire, another one of my favorite Howard novels.

 So why did I decide to give this one “only” a B-? Well, mainly because I had the impression that as lovely and entertaining Cam and Bailey were portrayed, they couldn’t reach the original and felt rather like a copy, albeit a good one, straight out from two of my most treasured books. Secondly, as many possibilities as this plot had, it was clear from the beginning who the culprit was. Let’s just say, that Bailey’s two step children are too cartoon-ish and over the top to really take them serious. They are just laughable and therefore devalue the plot quite strongly.

Alltogether it’s an above average read for anyone who want to re-visit Howard’s talent for characterization, but not really something to recommend to a friend who wants to try out this author for the first time.

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Series: Rose Series #2 

Copyright: 2006

Pages: 736 (hardback edition)

Setting/Type: Edwardian (England), Turn of Century (America)/Straight Romance

Grade: B-

Set in London and Africa in the early days of the twentieth century, “The Winter Rose” introduces some remarkable new characters. India Selwyn-Jones is one of the rare new breed: a lady doctor. Her family, her eligible, ambitious fiance, the male medical establishment all object, but, she insists on defying convention and finds a post in London’s East End. There, she meets a gangland boss called Sid Malone. Criminal, he may be, but, he also has a hidden charm, and a devastatingly attractive personality, and when India is called to treat him after a dockside brawl, their friendship becomes more intense. But, Sid Malone is not his real name: he has a past and enemies by the score, including India’s determined and ruthless fiance whose intention is to marry into the family money as well as becoming a leading political figure. The stormy, noisy, brawling docklands are a natural home to the political fight as the fledgling Labour Party gets underway, and the struggle for the women’s vote becomes more strident. But the East End is also a place for those who have a past to hide, a new beginning to find. And so the complicated strands of betrayal and pretence, of ambition and family, are woven again into a new drama, in a new country.

This is only my second Donnelly book, but I dare say that historical richness, a love for realistic details and strong characterization is a real trademark of this author’s writing. India is, like Fiona in the first book, a heroine that involes the reader completely in the story. Strong and with an unquenchable thirst for life, she vividly portrays the life of a modern, young and independent woman of the Turn of Century time. Through circumstances, she falls in love with the well-known and feared gangster Sid Malone. Despite everything about him screams bad and ruthless, she can’t avoid discovering his soft heart and yearning for love. Sid is in reality Charlie Finnegan, Fiona’s  brother that supposedly drowned after having discovered his mother murdered by Jack the Ripper. After his mother’s death he suffered from amnesia and when he remembered again and searched for his siblings they had disappeared. Hiding as Sid Malone and establishing a reputation as dreaded gangster brought him a measure of financial security, yet his heart withered in the bleak ten years he impersonated Sid Malone.

For the past two days I have mulled over how to continue this review without entering spoiler territory. After much consideration I came to the conclusion that it simply is not possible to do so.  Therefore beware of the following paragraphs.

I think, hadn’t I known the first part of this series, I wouldn’t have judged this book so harshly. But as it is the sequel to The Tea Rose and continues the story of Fiona and Joe and introduces the reader to Charlie’s aka Sid Malone’s and India Jones’s life, I ultimately see those two books intertwined .

My displeasure with The Winter Rose can be summarized as follows. First, I feel deeply insulted and angry that Fiona and Joe, the couple from The Tea Rose, have to cope with a useless and freaky turning point in the plot. Because of certain circumstances, Joe becomes incurably paralyzed. He and Fiona do continue their relationship in a prosperous way, however, I can happily do without that kind of information. I know it’s fiction, historical reality, blablabla … frankly, I don’t care. I do want accuracy, but I don’t want the couple I invest emotions in and grow to love, to have to deal with sh..t like that. Secondly, I simply can’t stand plots where the hero and heroine are separated for a number of years. In this case it lasts six years until Charlie and India find together. This is pure waste, and I try to vehemently avoid such plots. What made me even angrier, was the fact that I never really felt that Charlie has found redemption. India and he really belong together, they are ideal for each other, but the ending reads so hurried and overhasty, that I simply wasn’t convinced of their happiness. Well, maybe the third book in this series will bring a satisfying conclusion for all Finnegan siblings.

I definitely will continue reading Jennifer Donnelly, but I guess it will take some time until I have stomached Joe’s fate and India’s and Charlie’s lacking “happy” end.

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