Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wings of Fire (An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery, Book 2)

Wings of Fire by Charles Todd (1998)

Pages: 294

ISBN: 9780312965686

Description: In Cornwall, England, three members of the same family have suddenly died. Among the dead is Olivia, the reclusive writer whose war poetry gave Ian Rutledge a handhold on sanity while he fought in the trenches of France. Although no evidence indicates foul play, a concerned and influential relative suspects that the deaths are actually murders, and she convinces Scotland Yard to send someone for a thorough investigation. Rutledge’s rival, Bowles, sees the Cornwall incident as an opportunity to get the shell-shocked World War I veteran away from London, where a recent Ripper-style killing spree promises celebrity for the detective who can crack the case.

Accompanying the Inspector to Cornwall is Rutledge’s constant “companion” Hamish, the young Scot whom he unwillingly had to execute on the battlefield and whose tormenting voice sounds in Rutledge’s head, forcing him to face unpleasant truths.

Review: Inspector Ian Rutledge returns to London still fighting his own demons. Scotland Yard is on an all out manhunt for a Ripper copycat. In order to get the glory for himself, Bowles sends Rutledge out on the case in Cornwall to keep Rutledge out of the way in London. When Rutledge arrives to Cornwall, the case seems pretty straight forward. A double suicide and an accident. What really shocks him is that one of the suicides happens to be the author of the poems that got him through the war. As he makes more inquiry's, Rutledge discovers there is more to this case than meets the eye. Will the town recover from the revelations made and will Rutledge ruin the one person that helped get him through the horrible war?

This was a more emotional book that I had anticipated. I was able to connect to the characters as a large part of the book dwells on people returning and changing from war. Although I myself have not been to war, I am a military spouse and have sent my husband to war. There are changes that people go through and I felt that Todd really captured those feelings. Another big part of the book was how appearances (especially in the family) are deceiving and how families deal with their secrets. I couldn't put the book down as it completely captivated me. The characters are beautifully written and very much believable. I cannot wait to get the next book in the series. A must read.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rashomon Gate (A Mystery of Ancient Japan Featuring Sugawara Akitada)

Rashomon Gate by I.J. Parker (2002)

Pages: 383

ISBN: 9780143035602

Description: Sugawara Akitada is the son of impoverished nobility toiling at a low-level job in the Ministry of Justice. When an old friend, Professor Hirata, asks him to investigate a colleague's blackmail, Akitada takes leave of his stultifying job for a temporary post at the Imperial University. There he finds gossip and rivalry abounding. A young girl is murdered. An old man mysteriously vanishes, and the Emperor declares it a miracle. Plunging into a labyrinth of conspiracy among the court's most esteemed nobles, Akitada must step carefully while gathering clues to the puzzle before him.

Review: When his former professor and guardian asks for his help, Sugawara Akitada feels obligated to assist him in his investigation. To do this, Akitada must return to his former university and it reminds him of things he would rather forget. Not long after he begins teaching at the university, Akitada stumbles upon not one but three murders he hopes to solve. He is not alone. His servant, Tora is there to help with his investigation. Not only does Akitada have the task of solving three murders and protecting a young prince, he also has to deal with the most troublesome thing of all... a matter of the heart.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. Out of sure luck I picked this up at the library due to my fascination with the Japanese culture. Not only was this an enjoyable read on the history and culture of eleventh-century Japan, but it was a fantastic mystery. Once I started reading, I could not put the book down. Parker created a wide variety of vivid characters. The plot was also fast paced and not drawn out. Overall, this was a fantastic mystery that both historical fiction and mystery fans will enjoy.

As a side note, I discovered that I.J. Parker is a local author here in Virginia Beach.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Test of Wills (An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery, Book 1)

A Test of Wills by Charles Todd (1996)

Pages: 329

ISBN: 9780061242847

Description: Its 1919 and the War to End All Wars has been won. But for Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge, recently returned form the battlefields of France, there is no peace. Suffering from shell shock, tormented by the mocking ever-present voice of the young Scot he had executed for refusing to fight, Rutledge plunges into his work to save his sanity. But his first assignment is a case certain to spell disaster, personally and professionally.

In Warwickshire, a popular colonel has been murdered, and the main suspect is a decorated war hero and close friend of the Prince of Wales. The case is a political minefield, and no matter what the outcome, Rutledge may not escape with his career intact. But, win or lose, the cost could be even higher, the one witness who could break the case is himself a shell shock victim, teetering on the edge of reality. And in this war-ravaged man, Rutledge sees his own possible future, should he lose grip on his mind...

Review: Inspector Ian Rutledge returned from the war a broken man with a broken heart. All he wants to do is try to do his job and silence the ever-present voice in his head. One of his rivals in Scotland Yard is hoping he will fail and sends him off to Warwickshire to solve the murder of a popular colonel. The suspect is none other than an honored war hero who is friend to royalty. Rutledge tries to remember his skill at investigation but years of war have sapped him of that skill. With secrets revealed and political pressure, will it be too much for Rutledge or will he return to London with his wits intact?

A great opening for a very promising series. I instantly liked the character of Rutledge and found Hamish to be a witty commentator. The characters were well written and full of life. The mystery was fantastic and was pleasantly surprised that I could not figure it out right away. So many mysteries today are too obvious. I can't wait to read more from Todd and learn more about Ian Rutledge. A fantastic historical mystery that is a must read.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Wicked by Gregory Maguire (1995)

Pages: 406

ISBN: 9780060391447

Description: When Dorothy triumphed over the so-called Wicked Witch of the West in Frank Baum's tales, we heard only Dorothy's side of the story. The Wicked Witch we think we know is the predictable, green-faced villainess straight out of MGM's imagination. But there's more to the story than that. Where did the Wicked Witch come from? How exactly was she wicked? Why shouldn't she want her sister's charmed shoes? And, most important, what is the true nature of evil?

Years before Dorothy and her dog crash-land, another little girl makes her presence known in Oz. This girl, Elphaba, is born with emerald green skin-no easy burden in a land as mean and poor as Oz, where superstition and magic are not strong enough to explain or to overcome the natural disasters of flood and famine. But Elphaba is smart, and by the time she enters the university in Shiz, she becomes a member of a charmed circle of Oz's most promising young citizens: her roommate Glinda, a dippy socialite with a knack for sorcery; Boq, the lovelorn Munchkin; Fiyero, a tribal prince from the primitive West of Oz; and Nessarose, Elphaba's beautiful, religiously witchy sister, who lacks nothing save two arms and the spirit of compassion.

Elphaba's Oz is no utopia. The Wizard's secret police are everywhere. Animals-those creatures with voices, souls, and minds-are threatened with exile. Young Elphaba, green and wild and misunderstood, is determined to protect the Animals-even if it means combating the mysterious Wizard, even if it means risking her single chance at romance. Ever wiser in guilt and sorrow, she can find herself grateful when the world declares her a witch. And she can even make herself glad for that young girl from Kansas.

Review: We all know the story of the Land of Oz... or do we? This is an alternate version of the classic tale by Frank L. Baum. We follow the life of Elphaba, later known as the Wicked Witch of the West. From her birth all the way to the classic melting death scene, we follow Elphaba on the journey of her life and try to determine if she really was "wicked".

This is most definitely not the "Oz" I remember. Maguire sets the story on its side with this new version of events. I was interested to see where he was going to go with the Witch's side of the story. The one word that comes to mind when I try to describe the story is disturbed. It was dark and not at all what I had envisioned. We encounter the dismal land of Oz on the brink of dictatorship and left with those following an obscure religion. Then we are introduced to Elphaba who is born to a loose mother who isn't sure who the father is for two of her three children. Elphaba was left to her own devices and also paraded as a sign that her "father" was cursed for not saving the souls of his town. The only bright moment of her life is her brief affair with Fiyero who shows her she is indeed capable of love. All the way to the end I couldn't help but feel for Elphaba and her bad life. I am morbidly curious as to how the series will progress so I will check out the second book, Son of a Witch. All in all, an interesting fantasy novel not for the light of heart.

Score: 3 out of 5

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Slightly Shady

Slightly Shady by Amanda Quick (2001)

Pages: 343

ISBN: 9780553583366

Description: From the moment he burst into her antiquities shop in Rome, Lavinia Lake knew the stranger as nothing but trouble. He said he was in pursuit of a killer. He swore he was only trying to save her. Yet no mater wheat he claimed, Lavinia was convinced that Mr. Tobias March was bent instead of destroying her. And when the self-descried spy hustled her and her niece out of the shop and back to England, Lavinia could only hope that one day she would find a way to repay Mr. March in full.

But Lavinia never imagined the shocking circumstances under which they would meet again.. or that soon he would become her partner in a quest that would grow more deadly-and more compelling-with each passing day.

In the business of making private inquiries, Tobias March had been hired to track down a powerful villain who even now as intent on assuming control of a vast criminal organization. Yet in his search he had found nothing but one dead end-and one dead body-after another. And then, just as his investigation was heating up once more he found his mission and his life complicated by the most ungovernable, unpredictable, exasperating woman he had ever met.

Faced with a tangled web of deceit and danger, Tobias had no choice but to form a partnership with Lavinia, a lady whose past could only be described as slightly shady. Yet when he persuaded her to become his associate, neither Tobias nor Lavinia realized that their heated disputes would spark a sizzling desire-or that the deeper they keep digging for the truth, the deeper they were digging their own graves...

Review: Lavinia Lake's business is being destroy by Tobias March. He claims she is in danger, but she thinks he is up to something. After much urging (breaking all of her merchandise) she agrees to pack a bag and leave town. Once back in England, Lavinia needs to think of a new career to support her and her niece. Her new career, a private inquiry agent, forces her to renew her acquaintance with Tobias March. They are both on the trail of a murderer which leads them into danger and more.

A fun read right from the start. I really enjoyed reading all of the banter between Lavinia and Tobias. The characters were written well and had spirit. This was a great introduction to the two characters who are part of a trilogy (so far). I look forward to reading the continuing tales of Lake & March.

Score: 4 out of 5

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wicked Intentions

Wicked Intentions by Lydia Joyce (2008)

Pages: 296

ISBN: 9780451225672

Description: In the aristocratic society of Victorian London, Esmeralda is well-known as a woman with a gift. Her skill at sculpting truth from rumor has been taken as proof of the power of her visions. but when she turns her interest to the family of a skeptical viscount, the stakes quick rise higher than even she anticipated.

Thomas Hyde, Viscount Varcourt, has been followed by whispers of murder ever since the death of his older brother. He greets Esmeralda with suspicion and scorn, but their first confrontation swiftly leads to an erotic battle that neither can afford to lose. As their growing passion binds them to each other, they discover that their darkest serest are entwined, forcing them to face their pasts-and their very present enemies.

Review: Thomas Hyde does not like that Esmeralda, the latest spiritualist/charlatan in society, is using his mother for her personal gain. He needs to discover what she is planning and who she is working for. Emmaline/Esmeralda is doing what she must to seek the revenge against the one who wronged her the most. When Thomas confronts Emmaline/Esmeralda sparks fly and he will learn the answers to his questions and lose his heart.

This was a dark, shocking book. The premise was interesting, but the story itself is much more dark and disturbing. There really wasn't much romance, but just disturbing sexual situations. There really didn't seem to be much chemistry between the characters either. The plot was too thin and felt just like filler in between sex scenes. I was not impressed with this story and do not recommend this book.

Score: 2.5 out of 5

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Bride for His Convenience

A Bride for His Convenience by Edith Layton (2008)

Pages: 371

ISBN: 9780061253676

Description: Unless he fins a wealthy wife-and soon-Lord Ian Sutcombe will lose everything. Left deeply in debt by his foolish father and greedy stepmother, his only hope is to marry for money.

Stung by a suitor's cruel betrayal, Hannah Leeds, daughter of a prosperous merchant, wasn't sure she'd ever love again. So when her father arranges her betrothal to the handsome lord, she agrees.

It was no more than a marriage of convenience. they would honor and obey, but never love... until a simmering passion exploded into a sizzling affair. Now, with Hannah socializing with members of the ton and another man out to win her heart, Ian will do everything in his power to show Hannah she is his ecstasy his desire fulfilled... and oh so much more than a bride for his convenience.

Review: Ian Sutcombe needs a wife... a rich wife. He is in such dire straits that he is willing to oeverlook his pride to marry below his station as long as his future wife comes with a large sum of money. Hannah Leeds is lonely and thinks she is in love. After she is cruelly disappointed, her father arranges a mariage for her. Ian must choose between three heiresses to secure his position in society. After two horrible meetings, he had begun to lose hope. When Ian and Hannah meet it doesn't take long for them to come to an agreement. Before the wedding Ian busys himself with rebuilding the family homes. Hannah is fascianted by her soon to be husband and begins to long for him as she slowly comes out of the fog she is in. After marriage, the two become closer and Hannah soon realizes she loves her husband. Her happiness is short lived as someone from her past suddenly reappers into her life and might ruin her chance for true love.

This was a sweet story, but it lacked a real emotion. It seemed to take forever to even get to the wedding and the rest of the story. Too much time was spent on the time before they married, than on the marriage itself. Once the characters are together, they didn't seem to have much chemistry. It was hard to imagine that they actually did love each other as little time was spent on the time they were together. All in all a slow read that has very little emotion.

Score: 2.5 out of 5

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ragnarok (Volumes 1-10)

Ragnarok by Myung Jin Lee (2002-2004)

Description: The winds of change are blowing in Midgard. After a 1000-year slumber the Wolf Goddess, Fenris, has been reincarnated in the body of a beautiful warlock. As she searches the land for the reincarnation of the god Balder, she is hunted by the arrogant young Valkyrie, Sara Irine. Her quest will take her to the far corners of Midgard where she will meet and be joined the magical princess Iris, the air headed thief Lidia, and Chaos, a powerful warrior with no memory of his past.

Review: A somewhat interesting view of the Norse myths used in this series. We join the main characters of this series as they are all in the midst of a great battle. The story was somewhat difficult to follow as the majority of the scenes were battle scenes. It didn't seem like enough story was being told and I was left craving more story. It wasn't until the last few volumes that we started to get some back story which starting to make it interesting. Unfortunately, the series was never finished, so we were all left hanging as to what happens in the land of Midgard.

Score: 2.5 out of 5

Saturday, January 24, 2009

With This Ring

With This Ring by Amanda Quick (1998)

Pages: 343

ISBN: 9780553574098

Description: Beatrice Poole may be a vicar's daughter, but that doesn't mean she's a stranger to the darker passions. Indeed, she knows enough about Gothic heroes to have carved out a highly successful career penning "horrid novels." But now the talented authoress finds herself in the midst of an ominous adventure that rivals anything she's ever written.

Her beloved Uncle Reggie is dead, his house has been ransacked, and Beatrice suspects that the was murdered-all because of his keen interest in a fabled treasure that may not even exist. Rumors about that the Forbidden Rings of Aphrodite, said to give their possessor the most unnatural powers, have surfaced in London. Yet Beatrice needs more than rumors to uncover the truth. That's why she's braved the wilds of Devon to seek out a leading authority on antiquities and ancient legend: the famously eccentric, unquestionably reclusive possibly dangerous Earl of Monkcrest, a man believed to dabble in the supernatural. But bearding the Mad Monk of Monkcrest in his den and dangling the possibility of uncovering a fabulous artifact before him may be the biggest mistake of Beatrice's life. For suddenly she finds herself joined in an easy alliance with a man who is every bit as fascinating as one of the heroes in her novels.

Five minutes in her company-that's all it takes for Leo Drake to realize that never has he met a woman more stubborn, more infuriating... or more likely to rescue him from boredom than that alluring Beatrice Poole. So when the daring widow insists upon haring off after a mythic treasure that has no doubt lured any number of men to their doom, Leo refuses to let her go alone. Yet keeping Beatrice out of mischief-and in his arms-won't necessarily keep her safe. For somewhere in the netherworld of London, a villain lurks, waiting for the lovers to unearth the Forbidden Rings-knowing that when they do, that day will be their last.

Review: Beatrice Poole needs an authority on the Forbidden Rings, which leads her right to Leo Drake, Earl of Monkcrest. From the start, Leo knows he has never met any woman quite like Beatrice and he is most intrigued. Together they return to London to investigate the mystery of Beatrice's Uncle Reggie demise and the whereabouts of the Forbidden Rings. What they find is danger and quite possibly a love that will last forever.

I had a difficult time getting into this story. It just seemed to be to similar to other stories by Quick. Even though it was somewhat slow at parts, I did enjoy the adventures of Leo and Beatrice. All in all, a decent story if somewhat slow.

Score: 3 out of 5

Friday, January 23, 2009

The River Knows

The River Knows by Amanda Quick (2007)

Pages: 355

ISBN: 9780515144369

Description: The first kiss occurred in a dimly lit hallway on the upper floor of Elwin Hasting's grand house Louisa never saw it coming...

Of Course, Anthony Stalbridge couldn't possibly have had romantic intentions. The kiss was an act of desperation, meant to distract the armed guard who was about to catch the pair in a place they most definitely did not belong. After all, in her dull maroon gown and gold rimmed spectacles, Louisa Bryce was no man's idea of an alluring female. Clearly, the only thing a catch like Anthony Stalbridge had in common with a wallflower like Louisa was passionate interest in the private affairs of Mr. Hastings-a prominent member of Society whom they both suspect of hiding terrible secrets. Now, thrown into each other's arms by their ruse, Anthony and Louisa are united in their efforts to find the truth.

Each has a personal reason for the quest. Months earlier, Anthony's fiancee threw herself in the Thames-or at least, that is the version whispered in London's social circles. Anthony believes someone else may have had a hand in her death and a murderous one at that. Louisa, whose own identity is shrouded in layers of mystery, is convinced that Hastings has a connection to a notorious brothel. When Anthony successfully cracks Hasting's hidden safe and discovers highly incriminating evidence it appears that both their instincts were correct.

But Hastings is hiding for more than jewels and ledger books. Bringing him to justice will be more perilous than Louisa and Anthony anticipate-and their partnership will be more heated than either expects. For the two share a thrilling attraction to danger, and it is not only Anthony's curiosity that Louisa arouses.

Review: Louisa Bryce has a secret that no one can know. When she meets up with Anthony Stalbridge, she is in the midst of an investigation to one of London's most popular gentleman. The two meet in a most interesting way. They are caught in a place where they are not to be and to help each other, they kiss. From that moment on they become partners in an investigation that will change their lives forever.

A somewhat dark, but nonetheless enjoyable story. The characters were great and really fleshed out. I enjoyed the mystery that threw Louisa and Anthony together. The side characters were interesting as well. A most enjoyable story that fans a those new to Quick will enjoy.

Score: 4 out of 5

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Fatal Waltz (A Lady Emily Ashton Mystery)

A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander (2008)

Pages: 294

ISBN: 9780061174223

Description: At her friend Ivy's behest, Emil reluctantly agrees to attend a party at the sprawling English country estate of Lord Fortescue, a man she finds as odious as he is powerful. But if Emily is expecting Lord Fortescue to be the greatest of her problems, she is wrong. Her host has also invited Kristiana von Lange, and Austrian countess who was once linked romantically with Emily's fiance, the debonair Colin Hargreaves. What Emily believes will be a tedious evening turns deadly when Fortescue is found murdered, and his protege, Robert Brandon -Ivy's husband- is arrested for the crime.

Determined to right this terrible wrong and clear Robert's name Emily begins to dig for answers, a quest that will lead her from London's glittering ballrooms to Vienna's sordid backstreets. Not until she engages a notorious anarchist in a game of wits does the shocking truth begin to merge: the price of exonerating Robert can be paid only by placing Colin in deadly peril. To save her fiance, Emily must do the unthinkable: bargain with her nemesis, the Countess von Lange.

Review: Lady Emily Ashton is at the country home of a man she loathes all for her friend Ivy. Emily bears the taunting of Lord Fortescue and the arrival of someone unexpected... her fiance's former lover, the very sophisticated Kristiana von Lange. As if that was not enough to deal with, Lord Fortescue has the bad manners of being found shot dead. Unfortunately, the prime suspect of the crime is none other than Robert Brandon, her friend Ivy's husband. Determined to discover the truth and save Robert at all costs, Emily embarks on a dangerous journey where secrets are revealed and decisions have to be made.

Alexander has now hooked me into this series completely. It is most interesting to see a society lady as an investigator. Lady Ashton seems to always find herself in the middle of the most interesting and dangerous mysteries. This book, we see a more emotional side to Emily, which really makes her come alive off the page. Another great historical mystery by Alexander. A must read. I can't wait until the next installment comes out in September 2009, Pearl Tears.

Score: 4 out of 5

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Poisoned Season (A Lady Emily Ashton Mystery)

A Poisoned Season by Tasha Alexander (2007)

Pages: 306

ISBN: 9780061174216

Description: London's social season is in full swing, and the Victorian aristocracy can't stop whispering about a certain gentleman who claims to be the direct descendant of Lois XVI and Marie Antoinette. But he's not the only topic of wagging tongues. Drawing rooms, boudoirs, and ballrooms are abuzz with the latest news of an audacious cat burglar who has been making off with precious items that once belonged to the ill-fated queen.

Light gossip turns serious when the owner of one of the pilfered treasures is found murdered, and the mysterious thief develops a twisted obsession with Emily. But the strong-minded and fiercely independent Emily will not be shaken. It will take all of her considerable wit and perseverance to unmask her stalker and ferret out the murderer, even as a brewing scandal threatens both her reputation and her romance with her late husband's best friend, the dashing Colin Hargreaeves.

Review: We join Lady Emily Ashton in the midst another one of London's social seasons. This season the ton is obsessed with the possible heir to the French throne. He is the envy of every hostess and mother trying to get her daughter married off. The season is not very promising for Emily as she is the butt of many rumors. When one of the few people that she socializes ends up dead after she suggested police involvement with a theft, Emily is determined to find out exactly what is going on, even if her own life is at stake.

Alexander really fleshed out the characters much more in this second installment of the Lady Emily Ashton series. I found it to be much more readable and a delight. Lady Ashton is an interesting character that finds herself in the most interesting of mysteries. While the notions and speech of a few characters seem somewhat out of place, this is a great historical novel set in the restrictive Victorian era. I was very pleased with this installment and cannot wait to read the next.

Score: 4 out of 5

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Rendezvous by Amanda Quick (1991)

Pages: 360

ISBN: 9780553293258

Description: From the elegantly appointed drawing rooms of London's most exclusive clubs to an imposing country estate in the heart of Dorset, comes a provocative tale of a free-thinking beauty, a dignified lord, and a mad impetuous love that defied all logic...

Review: Harry Fleming, the Earl of Graystone is keeping his eye on Augusta Ballinger as his future bride. Although somewhat impetuous, she is steadfast and loyal, unlike his first wife. Getting Augusta to agree to his plan of marriage is not going quite as easily as Harry hoped. Also, he is having a most difficult time keeping up with all of Augusta's intrigues and keeping her safe. Harry finally gets Augusta safely wed, but now it appears she may hold the missing information to a clue to discovering the identity of a man who alluded him during the war.

This was not one of Quick's best books. The characters were interesting, but somewhat repetitive. There were a few things (Harry's need of a virtuous wife and Augusta being the last of the reckless Northumberland Ballingers) characters repeated a bit too much where it started to become tedious. The story was not bad, just not as good as some of Quick's others. All in all, a forgettable book that you could pass over.

Score: 3 out of 5

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Scandal by Amanda Quick (1991)

Pages: 329

ISBN: 9780553289329

Description: From a stately country house in Hampshire to the dazzling drawing rooms of 1800s London society, comes an exquisite tale of an elfin beauty, a vengeful lord and a wild, sweet love that is sheer poetry...

It was a major scandal when young Emily Faringdon ran away with a handsome renegade and her father brought her home. Now, the flame-haired, petite Emily is resigned to a life of spinsterhood-until she begins corresponding with a mysterious poet, a man who she eels is her soul mate, her fantasy come true. but the sensual writer is not at all what he seems. In reality, his is Simon Augustus Traherne, the Earl of Blade, a strong-willed man with a personal vendetta against Emily's family.

Many years before, Simon's father gambled away his entire estate to the Faringdon. Now, Simon plans to marry Emily-and reclaim his rightful inheritance.

By the time Emily discovers Simon's real motive for marrying her, it is too late. for, unable to resist his seductive charms, she has already surrendered her heart. But, will she be able to make the cold-hearted Simon return her love.

Review: Emily finally gets to meet the man of her dreams who she just happened to be corresponding with. Naturally, he is handsome and well-mannered. Not long after he comes into her life, Emily discovers Simon's real intention. He has come for vengeance on her family and to reclaim his family home, which was won by Emily's father in a card game 20 years ago. His plan is to seduce her and force her father to give him his home back. Although hurt, Emily decides to make a deal with Simon... a deal that will change their lives forever.

From the start I absolutely disliked Simon. Not only is he cold, but he treats Emily horridly. Emily was just as annoying with her talk of a metaphysical relationship and her lack of intelligence. I kept reading hoping there would be a change for the better, but it never did. The characters were ubelieveable and not well written. This is one of Quick's works that you could pass over.

Score: 2.5 out of 5

The Serpent Prince (The Prince Trilogy, Book 3)

The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt (2007)

Pages: 362

ISBN: 9780446400534

Description: Country bred Lucy Craddock-Hayes is content with her quiet life. Until the day she trips over an unconscious man—a naked unconscious man—and loses her innocence forever.

Viscount Simon Iddesleigh was nearly beaten to death by his enemies. Now he’s hell-bent on vengeance. But as Lucy nurses him back to health, her honesty startles his jaded sensibilities—even as it ignites a desire that threatens to consume them both.

Charmed by Simon’s sly wit, urbane manners, and even his red-heeled shoes, Lucy falls hard and fast for him. Yet as his honor keeps him from ravishing her, his revenge sends his attackers to her door. As Simon wages war on his foes, Lucy wages her own war for his soul using the only weapon she has—her love…

Review: On her way home Lucy literally stumbles over a body... Simon's body. Although not dead, Simon was very badly injured. Lucy brought Simon to her home and cared for him. While at this modest home, Simon began to fall for Lucy. After a failed attempt on his life, Simon realizes that if he stays Lucy will be in danger. It appears that he really cannot live without Lucy so he returns to her and brings her back to London with him to be his wife. Lucy discovers Simon's secret war... a war that threatens to tear them apart.

This was a very emotional story. Hoyt created characters with deep feelings that you couldn't help feel for. Once you start reading this book you will not want to put it down. A must read for historical romance fans.

Score: 4 out of 5

Monday, January 12, 2009


Ravished by Amanda Quick (1992)

Pages: 385

ISBN: 9780553293166

Description: There was no doubt about it. What Miss Harriet Pomeroy needed was a man. Someone powerful and clever who could help her out the unscrupulous thieves who were using her beloved caves to hide their loot But when Harriet summoned Gideon Westbrook, Viscount St. Justin, to her aid, she could not know that she was summoning the devil himself.

Dubbed the Beast of Blackthorne Hall for his scarred face and lecherous past. Gideon was strong and fierce and notoriously menacing. Yet Harriet could not find it in her heart to fear him. For in his tawny gaze she sensed a savage pain she longed to soothe... and a searing passion she earned to answer. Now, caught up in the beast's clutches, Harriet must find a way to win his heart- and evade the deadly trap of a scheming villain who would see them parted for all time.

Review: Harriet has a problem... someone has found her caves and is using them as a warehouse. Her simple solution is to contact Viscount St. Justin to take care of the problem as they caves are actually his property. What she didn't count on is the Beast of Blackthorne Hall coming to the neighborhood. Once Harriet discovers the history behind Gideon, she is not quite sure she made the right decision to bring him back. In the process of discovering the thieves hiding their bounty in the caves, Gideon and Harriet end up having to stay the night in the caves and become engaged the next day. Gideon does the honorable thing and engages himself to Harriet. Will Gideon actually go through with the wedding (his last engagement was terminated by him) or will Harriet be ruined forever?

An interesting story right from the start. The characters were well written and you really felt for them. As usual, Quick gave us a most interesting story with humorous antics thrown in the mix. I really did like this pair and was on the edge of my seat turning the pages to see what would happen. This is one of Quick's better works. A must read for Amanda Quick or historical romance fans.

Score: 4 out of 5

The Raven Prince (The Prince Trilogy, Book 1)

The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt (2006)

Pages: 356

ISBN: 9780446618472

Description: Widowed Anna Wren is having a wretched day. After an arrogant male on horseback nearly squashes her, she arrives home to learn that she is in dire financial straits. What is a gently bred lady to do?

The Earl of Swartingham is in a quandary. Having frightened off two secretaries, Edward de Raaf needs someone who can withstand his bad temper and boorish behavior. Dammit! How hard can it be to find a decent secretary?

When Anna becomes the earl’s secretary, both their problems are solved. Then she discovers he plans to visit the most notorious brothel in London for his “manly” needs. Well! Anna sees red—and decides to assuage her “womanly” desires . . . with the earl as her unknowing lover.

Review: From the start, sparks fly between Anna and Edward. Desperate for money, Anna takes a job as Edwards secretary (a position usually held by a man). She seems to be the only one who can handle Edward's nasty temper. Edward has just returned to his ancestral home and is in the process of finding a bride so he can restart his family line. There is just one problem with his master plan... he is falling for his audacious secretary Anna. After many misadventures and miscommunication, will Anne and Edward overcome the odds to stay together?

A very engaging story right from the start. The banter between Anna and Edward was fun to read. Hoyt's characters felt real and one can't help feeling for them. There were many different emotional currents running throughout this book and they never stopped until the end. As with her other books, some of the language is a bit too modern, but overall a great historical novel.

Score: 4 out of 5

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Anita Blake Vampire Hunter: The First Death

Anita Blake Vampire Hunter: The First Death by Laurell K. Hamilton (2008)

Pages: 128

ISBN: 9780785129417

Description: For the first time ever and exclusive to comics, Hamilton pens a tale set before the first Anita Blake novel, Guilty Pleasures, to reveal how Anita's career began. In a story co-written by husband Johnathon Green, illustrated by Wellinton Alves, and with covers by fan favorite Brett Booth, fans can finally read about the first meeting between Anita and the sensuous vampire Jean-Claude, the serial-killer case that began her involvement with the police, and how she became allies with the sinister hitman of all things supernatural, Edward! Whether you are a longtime fan of Anita Blake, or have only just discovered her, join us for the prequel fans have been waiting for, as we pull back the veils on the mysteries of Anita's origins!

Review: We join Anita at the start of her involvement with the police as a consultant. The first case is not easy for her and emotions run high. There is a serial killer on the loose and all the evidence points to a vampire. The evidence leads the police and Anita to Guilty Pleasures, a vampire strip club. We witness the first meeting between Jean-Claude and Anita. Jean-Claude is intrigued by Anita, but she is less than thrilled. The investigation leads to more danger that marks Anita for life.

The story was good, but it felt sort of rushed. I think I would have enjoyed it more if there was more to the story. It was interesting to see the origins and first meetings of the main characters of this series. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had already read the series by Hamilton. I did like the artwork. The characters are brought to vivid life on the pages. I especially like the cover art that includes the characters from the Marvel Zombies series. The second part of the book is a huge guide to Guilty Pleasures. I found the guide to be more interesting than the story itself. On the whole, this prequel is geared more for the fans of the series and not really a must read for the casual reader.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

To Seduce A Sinner (Legend of the Four Soldiers, Book 2)

To Seduce A Sinner by Elizabeth Hoyt (2008)

Pages: 359

ISBN: 9780446406925

Description: For years, Melisande Fleming has loved Lord Vale from afar... watching him seduce a succession of lovers, and once, catching a glimpse of heartbreaking depths beneath his roguish veneer. When he’s jilted on his wedding day, she boldly offers to be his.

Vale gladly weds Melisande, if only to produce an heir. But he’s pleasantly surprised: A shy and proper Lady by day, she’s a wanton at night, giving him her body—though not her heart.

Determined to learn her secrets, this sinner starts to woo his seductive new wife—while hiding the nightmares from his soldiering days in the Colonies that still haunt him. Yet when a deadly betrayal from the past threatens to tear them apart, Lord Vale must bare his soul to the woman he married...or risk losing her forever.

Review: Lord Vale has lost another prospective bride... his second in six months. One of the guests at the wedding has boldly come forward and actually proposed marriage to him. He needed a bride and she was a lady, so they were wed. Melisande happened to be in love with Jasper but due to her past, wanted to guard her heart and keep that hidden from him. Through their playful banter they learned more about each other. Jasper discovered that his prim and proper wife was a wanton at night. They each had their secrets and strove to keep them hidden or risk losing each other.

I was hooked from the start. The characters were well written and I enjoyed the playful banter between Lord and Lady Vale. Hoyt was able to keep the story going and also show some playful and emotional scenes between Jasper and Melisande. I did feel that some of the dialogue was too modern, but overall found this to be a great story.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

And Only to Deceive (A Lady Emily Ashton Mystery)

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander (2006)

Pages: 310

ISBN: 9780061148446

Description: Emily's desire to learn more about her late husband takes her to the quiet corridors of the British Museum, where, amid priceless ancient statues, she uncovers a dark, dangerous secret involving stolen artifacts from the Greco-Roman galleries. To complicate matters, she's juggling two very prominent and wealthy suitors, one of whose intentions may go beyond the marrying kind. Her search to solve the crime leads to surprising discoveries about the man she married and causes her to question the role in Victorian society to which she, as a woman, is relegated.

Review: Lady Ashton is in morning after losing her husband to illness on a hunt in Africa. She hardly knew her husband as they were only married for a matter of months before he left on his final expedition to Africa. As time goes on, Emily learns more and more about her husband and his love of all things Greek. She herself becomes quite the scholar and delves deep into the subject. As she does this, she learns more and more about her husband and eventually falls in love with him. Meanwhile, she has two of his friends, Colin Hardgreaves and Andrew Palmer are both after her affections. The more she learns about Philip (her husband), she discovers a mystery involving stolen antiquities and the British Museum. She lands herself in danger that can only result in scandal.

I was intrigued with the writing style of Alexander from the beginning. She makes it easy to keep turning the pages to read more. The characters were well written although somewhat unbelievable for the era (a bit too modern at times). For the most part the story was interesting and captured my attention; however, it lagged somewhat in the beginning. I also could have done without the mystery of Philip's demise (is he dead or not). All in all, a nice mystery with some spunky ladies and a slight hint of romance in the air. I will continue on with her second book, A Poisoned Season.

Score: 3 out of 5

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Seduction at Christmas (Holburn Series)

A Seduction at Christmas by Cathy Maxwell (2008)

Pages: 358

ISBN: 9780061350986

Description: Desperation and an empty stomach forced Fiona Lachlan to agree to a plan that ended up luring the wickedly notorious Duke of Holburn into trouble. Everything went terribly wrong, and now she has found herself posing as his ward! And while she swore nothing could make her desire a scoundrel, even if he was a duke, she is now drawing ever closer to the one man she cannot have...

The Duke of Holburn had spent years heeding this warning, and in doing so, managed to avoid the virginal young ladies who had been put in his path. But now his wild ways have gotten him into real danger. There are killers at the door and a temptingly beautiful woman in his arms. He is about to find himself seduced... and he isn't quite sure he wants to resist this time.

Review: After a wild night of debauchery, Nick (Duke of Holburn) has lost a most precious heirloom and is visited by the Oracle of Delphi where he receives the prophecy, "Beware of Innocence". Years later, Nick is still in search of his father's ring and by chance or destiny meets Fiona at an inn where he was to meet the man that stole his ring. Sparks fly between the two but that is short lived as a group of men is after them. In order to keep Fiona safe, Nick takes her home as his ward and tries to solve the mystery of who is after him.

From the start, this book just keeps the action going. There are murders, thefts, vacations, and of course romance. The characters were great. Although, towards the end the Duke was somewhat unbelievable. He said things that were somewhat out of character, but lovely things any woman would die to hear. I couldn't put this down and I just had to know what happened. Even though it is a lengthy book, it went by so fast and was over before I knew it. Even though this is a holiday book, you can enjoy it any time of the year. A must read.

Score: 4 out of 5

A Wallflower Christmas

A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas (2008)

Pages: 210

ISBN: 9780312533786

Description: It's Christmastime in London and Rafe Bowman has arrived from America for his arranged meeting with Natalie Blandford, the very proper and beautiful daughter of Lady and Lord Blandford. His chiseled good looks and imposing physique are sure to impress the lady-in-waiting, and if it weren't for his shocking American ways and wild reputation, her hand would already be guaranteed. Before the courtship can begin, Fare realizes he must learn the rules of London society. But when four former Wallflowers try their hand at matchmaking, no one knows what will happen. And winning a bride turns out to be more complicated than Rafe Bowman anticipated, especially for a man accustomed to getting anything he wants. However, Christmas works in the most unexpected ways, changing a cynic to a romantic and inspiring passion in the most timid of hearts.

Review: Rafe Bowman has to marry an nice aristocratic English woman or be cut off forever by his demanding father. A wife has been found and it is the Christmas season. All of the Wallflowers get together at Stony Cross for a most memorable Christmas. In order for Rafe to appear worthy of Natalie, the Wallflowers invite her companion, Hannah to find out what she is like. As soon as Rafe sets his eyes on Hannah, sparks fly.

It was nice to revisit the Wallflowers one more time. Even though it is a light and quick read, there is much to enjoy about this book. I enjoyed the banter between Rafe and Hannah. They were both characters I grew to love. Even if you have never read any of the other books, you will enjoy this holiday read.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Peony in Love

Peony in Love by Lisa See (2008)

Pages: 273

ISBN: 978-0812975222

Description: In seventeenth-century China, in an elaborate villa on the shores of Hangzhou's West Lake, Peony lives a sheltered life. One night, during a theatrical performance in her family's garden Peony catches sign of an elegant, handsome man and is immediately overcome with emotion. So begins Peony's unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow, the living world and the afterworld. Eventually expelled from all she's known, Peony is thrust into a realm where hungry ghosts wander the earth, written words have the power to hurt and ill, and dreams are as vivid as waking life. Lisa See's novel, based on actual historical events, evokes vividly another time and place-where three generations of women become enmeshed in a dramatic story, uncover past secrets and tragedies, and learn that love can transcend death. Peony in Love will make you ache in heart and mind for young Peony and all the women of the world who want to be heard.

Review: From the start we are given an elegant view into the lives of women during seventeenth-century China. Peony is from a noble family and is kept hidden from the world around her. She is educated and very emotional, which worries her mother. Her mother wants her to become a good wife, but all Peony can think of is that she is being handed over to a strange family through marriage. For her sixteenth birthday, Peony's father puts on a production of the opera, The Peony Pavilion, which changes her life forever. We then follow Peony on the journey through her young death, and extensive afterlife and she how she and others change in the afterlife.

The world that Lisa See created was beautiful. Through her writing, we are transported to another time and place. See most definitely did her research and it shows. However, I still found the novel predictable and lagging at times. I also found some of the choices that Peony made to be strange, but I admit that may be a cultural difference. Overall, this is a good novel that was well written.

Score 3 out of 5