Archive for the ‘Straight Romance’ 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: 2006

Pages: 432 (paperback edition)

Setting/Type: Contemporary/Straight Romance

Publisher: Mira

Author Website: www.StefAnnHolm.com (Love, love, love this site. Beautiful and distinctive design and lots of information.)

Grade: B+

Single-mother Lucy Carpenter hopes she has made the right decision moving her two sons to Red Duck, Idaho. The upscale ski community should provide ample opportunity for her to work as a personal chef, although rival chef Raul is sabotaging her attempts. He seems to have cornered the cuisine market, so Lucy must carve out her own and turns to the town’s Lothario for help. Everyone loves ex-professional baseball player and present-day Little League coach Drew Tolman. All the women are attracted to him, and Lucy is no exception, despite her postdivorce hesitation. But nothing stops her from using Drew to stir up business, while he just wants to stir her. Holm returns to her home state of Idaho with fresh, likable characters who will have readers rooting for the happy ending and relishing every step along the way.

Oh my, what a wonderful read this book was, a real treat. Lucy Gets Her Life Back is a traditional contemporary as they are not often published these days (or I am missing all of them *humpf*). No suspense plot, no wacky characters that kiss goodbye any resemblance of reality and no instant gratuitous sex between the main characters that is totally unbelievable.

Lucy Carpenter is a strong woman who desperately tries to keep her beloved sons’s world together, despite her cheating husband’s two year absence, money problems and her 16 years old son’s occasional journey to marijuana-land. She hopes to accomplish that in Red Duck, Idaho which prides itself on being a small but well visited and beloved holiday hideaway for Hollywood and wannabe starlets.

Drew Tolman is a former professional baseball player turned little league coach now. After years or drinking himself nearly to death he now has been dry for nearly a decade, the only “problem” remaining is his 17 years old daughter. Until her 14th birthday he refused to acknowledge her, then some years ago, after cleaning up, reality hit with a healthy dose of remorse and self-contempt. Now that he has finally found to himself, his daughter doesn’t want to have anything to do with him anymore.

Lucy is an easy to love heroine. Despite being deeply hurt, she remains strong and doesn’t loose faith in life. She struggles and money is tight but she doesn’t get bitter or wallows in self-pity. Drew, however, is more difficult to warm up to. The more the author tells about his story the more I felt challenged by his personality. Usually I avoid “alcoholic” stories like crazy, it’s not a plot that appeals to me, but in this case I can really mark down a big exception. Drew’s past with his daughter leaves to be desired and the story between those two touched me deeply, especially because the reader gets to know his daughter through her journal and later on through her appearance in Red Duck. The interaction between those two was very touching and I was close to seriously needing a tissue.

Lucy’s and Drew’s lovestory develops slowly and is certainly not the main focus of the story. I would rather say that the book is equally divided between both main characters getting their life back in order, and, as a consequence of their growth and development, find together in the end.

And besides SEP I dub Stef Ann Holm as new queen of secondary romances. It was as much touching and entertaining as the main story and a wonderful addition to Lucy’s and Drew’s story.

Lucy Gets Her Life Back is a very slow story and without any remotely action related scenes. What made me give this story a B+ instead of a straight A was actually the lack about Lucy’s professional growth. I read about her struggles and fights to become established as a personal chef and how in the end she found a niche for herself in Red Duck, but I was kind of missing the filling in between. And, on Holm’s website I discovered that the author enjoys to cook herself, and  I would have LOVED to read more about the cooking, the experimenting and consequently the sensuality of cooking when connected with a love story.

Anyway, this book was totally splendid and I am looking forward to more treats from this author.

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Copyright: 2003

Pages: 320 (paperback edition)

Setting/Type: Americana/Straight Romance

Publisher: St. Martin’s

Series:Grayson Brothers #2

Grade: C

When Kyle Grayson accused his competitor Tom Drake of treachery, he never imagined the man would die in his arms. Wracked with guilt, Kyle marries Tom’s daughter Amelia and vows to resurrect her father’s lumberyard. Though hard and cynical when it comes to love, he is all too aware of his desire for his beautiful wife-sensing her secret longing for his touch, her fear of his passion…and the unspoken secrets weighing down on their marriage.

I wouldn’t have finished this book, hadn’t I been sitting in a train without anything else to read. Nothing’s worse than not having anything to read on a long train ride, that’s why I stumbled through this story about Kyle and Amelia.

I put The Longing on my wishlist thanks to a review over at AAR and its (nowadays) unusual setting. I have a weakness for Americanas, so I am always eager to find out about new authors in this genre and hidden treasures.

To be fair, I do understand what makes this book so special to some readers. Wendy Lindstrom possesses a fine craftsmanship and ability to create characters and describe their lives. For me, it probably was an “it’s not you, it’s me” book.

From the beginning, Amelia, the heroine is put into a situation that makes her utterly dislikable to me, even though I DO (kind of) understand her acting and reasoning. Amelia is a school teacher and restricted to the severest rules of deportment. When Kyle calls on her to tell her about her father’s death, they are discovered and Amelia consequently tricks Kyle into marrying her by telling their “unwanted” visitors about his supposed proposal. Amelia has been ruined in the past and the only future she envisions for herself is a restricted life as school teacher. She desperately wants to marry and be a wife, and, in a way, Kyle’s visit seems to be her last chance.

Since his father’s death Kyle has been responsible for his brothers and mother, and to keep a roof over his beloved ones with a struggling family business. He has denied himself to go to university and now again kind of sacrifices himself in order to protect Amelia. Because he feels guilty and responsible for her father’s death he sooner or later would have offered for Amelia voluntarily, this way, however, the marriage is just another burden to his life.

This is just the description of the very beginning of the story. While it continues, many more facets of guilt come into play and just made me gnashing my teeth.

I know Amelia is in a horrible situation, especially considering a woman’s position in society in the late 1900s. Yet nevertheless, her acting made me dislike her immensely. Kyle was all in all a much more agreeable character, but after a while he got martyrdom qualities and I just couldn’t put up with him anymore.

There’s definitely too much guilt in this story and concerning my reading future I don’t feel very tempted to try Lindstrom’s writing out again.

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Copyright: 2005

Pages: 320 (paperback edition)

Setting/Type: Regency/Straight Romance

Series: Featherton Sisters #3

Grade: DNF

Having had her heart broken by a “reformed rake,” Meredith Merriweather is determined to help with other young ladies avoid falling for the wrong man. Meredith intends to tempt the most notorious rake in all of London, the devilishly handsome Alexander Lamont, and then document the results in a cautionary guidebook called “A Lady’s Guide To Rakes”. But soon Alexander decides that Meredith is the woman for him. And as he uses all his rakish charms to win her heart, Meredith finds herself tempted to give in to a man no woman should trust, let along love.

Kathryn Caskie is another author I tried out because my library offered a copy of one of her books and her name found it’s way onto my wishlist under cryptical circumstances. I discontinued this story around page 150, after having discovered my wandering mind was contemplating to start on another book from my TBR pile.

All in all A Lady’s Guide to Rakes is a nice read with an orginal and humorous heroine, a funky plot and a well-musceled hero. Problem was, it didn’t capture me. The reading felt too flat, too bland, so that I started skipping rather big parts of the story. The one detail that really disturbed me was part of the hero’s personality.

Alexander needs to marry in order to placate his father who is finally fed up with his philandering. Circumstances let his father decide that Merredith is the one to bring him back onto the right path … and Alexander, too, decides that Merredith is probably the best choice for his reforming act. To me, Alexander was too wimpy and weak. He does his father’s bidding, curbs his behaviour so as not to loose his support and inheritance. I would have prefered him to stand up more for himself, being less of a dandy and playful boy and more of a full grown man instead.

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Copyright: 2005

Pages: 246 (tradesize edition)

Setting/Type: Contemporary/Straight Romance

Grade: DNF

Six Weeks to Sensuality – Amy Bryce has always been the quintessential lady. Sweet, loyal, steady Amy. She might as well have the word “sucker” tattooed on her forehead. Because, only a sucker would watch her ex-boyfriend propose to her worst enemy and let him get away with it. Well, this sucker’s finally had enough. Amy is over being a good girl. She’s ready to taste life on the edge, and what better way to get started than volunteering for hunky Dr. Marc Javier’s latest sensuality project? Code Pink – When it comes to making and breaking codes, Jennifer Clark is the undisputed master. Too bad she can’t seem to fathom men. And the most unfathomable all is Special Agent Bryan Matthews. One look at the guy and neon lights spelling out “Hot Sex” appear before her eyes. One problem: Bryan has made it clear that Jennifer’s not on his radar. Fantasies Are Forever – Former college brainiac Caroline Mitchell has reinvented herself as the chic owner of an aromatherapy business. But whenever her gorgeous co-worker Joe Hatcher is around, Caroline gets flustered and feels like she’s morphed back into geek mode. Joe has even begun to invade her dreams. And what dreams they are. The only way to get him out of her mind permanently is to get him into her bed at once.

Susanna Carr also writes erotic romance under the pen name Jenesi Ash, for me that was the main reason why I borrowed this book from the library (after it flashed to me from the shelf and cried TAKE ME, TAKE ME).

I started with the first story of this three person anthology and discontinued after having discovered that this book contains a plot ingredient I can’t stand at all and therefore try to avoid.

I am not sure if I got the details right but as far as I understood the heroine is a librarian and the hero, a doctor, works for an “Institute”, currently doing research on a sensuality project.

Ever since reading Lynsay Sands’s The Loving Daylights which features a silly, brainy heroine that invents some super foolish, nutty sex spy toys, I sidestep books with plots that in anyway include an institution or company that earn their money with researching/producing/making silly sex toys/matters. For the stories are interconnected with each other I decided to rather read another book of this author instead of spending reading time on a plot I don’t like.

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Copyright: 2007

Pages: 453 (tradesize edition)

Setting/Type: Regency, Historical Other Setting (India)/Straight Romance

Series: Spice Trilogy #1

Grade: D

Ian Prescott, the Marquess of Griffith, is a cool-nerved British diplomatic renowned for his integrity, and famed among the British debutantes for his striking good looks. Much to their dismay, the handsome marquis has no use or love. He conceals a dark secret surrounding his disastrous first marriage and the death of his wife and has vowed never to marry again. On a diplomatic trip to India, Ian is asked to watch over the daughter of an old family friend, Miss Georgiana knight. He is instantly intrigued by Georgiana’s striking beauty that conceals a sharp mind and a shocking independence. A ruling belle of local society in India, Georgiana is out of her element in London and yet she’s determined to conquer the ton on her own, refusing Ian’s protection every step of the way. Ian is infuriated by Georgie’s wilful defiance, as much as he is captivated by her natural charms…

Once upon a time, about two years ago, I discovered Gaelen Foley’s Knight Miscellany series and ravished the books within a week. For a short time thereafter she has even been an automatic-buy author, but after the disaster of His Wicked Kiss I deleted her from that list. Her Only Desire is #1 in a new trilogy which is simultaneously a knock-off of the Knight Miscellany series.

Miss Georgina is one true-blooded TSTL heroine straight out of the textbook “How to create annoying , stupid personalities”. In her eagerness to be modern and independent (which per se are very commendable traits) she fucks up a number of situations and exhibits a behaviour that shames the whole female gender into submission. I personally wanted to crawl into the book and read her the riot act. She’s a spoiled person with a conceited attitude and a mind that can’t rub two brain cells together when it’s necessary.

She does get better … after her brothers – thanks to her – were nearly hanged for assault against a royal person and she consequently has to flee to England.

What is there to say about Ian? In the beginning I thought of him as a tight-assed, emotionally repressed representative of the British aristocratic society. After a cheating wife he decided to give up on hope for love and light in his live and built an even stronger wall around his heart. He does develop a more human personality and looses some of his stiffness, mainly thanks to Georgina .

Georgina’s warm personality saves eventually the book from an even worse grade. She has a TSTL complex but she also cleans up and grows some brain cells … and despite her ailment she does carry her heart at the right place.

All in all I am hugely disappointed in this story and I am not sure I will read the next one in the series. I don’t think I can stand that torture again . %$&§”$”%.

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Copyright: 2006

Pages: 448 (paperback edition)

Setting/Type: Contemporary/Straight Romance

Grade: C+

When Millie saves bestselling novelist Orla Hart’s life and loses her boyfriend in the process, one wonders if the rest of the book can be as entertaining and eventful as this dramatic opening but for Millie Brady the fun has only just begun

Millie decides that a man-free summer is just what she needs but Orla, who wants Millie to be the heroine of her next novel, is determined to find her the man of her dreams. As far as Millie is concerned, the only man worth thinking about is Hugh Emerson but for Hugh, whose wife tragically died in a horse-riding accident, “dating is not on the agenda”. Millie’s determination not to fall in love with the young widower forms the centrepiece of the novel but Jill Mansell also delves into the shenanigans of Millie’s best friend Hester and her eventful love life; Orla and her cheating husband; Millie’s man-eating mother; and the leather-clad, sex-mad Lucas Kemp who runs a kiss-a-gram service.

There’s at least one person out there who understands my dilemma LOL, namely that I borrowed this book from my library because of it’s cover. Jill Mansell’s covers are very similar and when you walk through the aisles and always see those gorgeous editions you submit sooner or later… (I caved after 15 min.)

This is a rather long novel with a strong development of secondary characters and romances. After the first chapter I already knew that this author’s voice clicks for me. Jill Mansel has an incredible talent to draw real characters with flaws and quirks, humour and heart and with a sound talent to to endear themselves to you.

What I liked about the heroine Millie is that she’s so normal, so true. Instead of being a virgin or a woman scorned, she loves sex and men and takes life in big strikes with a healthy carpe diem mentality. Hugh, the hero, is totally different from Millie and a true original compared to some typical clichés. After the loss of his wife he has changed drastically and decided to never let himself become vulnerable again. His portrayal from emotionally cold, back into the world of the living is simply heart-warming.

Another reason why I am fond of this book is Mansell’s unique talent for humourous and funny situations. Their number is countless but they are never stupid or over the top but real and fresh.

So why, you might ask, did I give this book an average C+? I am honestly not sure and it’s damn hard to put my finger on the reason. The best I can come up with is that the book is simply too long. It may be a mixture between too little plot extended between too many pages, too many secondary characters (though everyone of them is well drawn and entertaining) and too little tension to keep my full attention until the happy end. In the end it didn’t add up to a better grade and I am truly sorry about that.

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