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LynnAAR

Lynn Spencer - All About Romance

I'm one of the publishers of All About Romance. I love reading romance, as well as mysteries, fantasy, history and historical fiction, and all kinds of other things. Staying on Goodreads for now but trying this out in case I decide to switch.

Currently reading

The Blood Detective
Dan Waddell
Vienna Waltz
Teresa Grant

TBR Challenge - August 2014

Shiver - Jo Leigh

And here is my August 2014 TBR Challenge read...

 

As summer comes to an end, I’ve been challenged to read a book with luscious love scenes. I immediately thought of Harlequin’s Blaze line, and grabbed Shiver by Jo Leigh, a 2010 release that is still available digitally. Though the story wasn’t quite as steamy as I’d expected, I still ended up with a sexy, fun read, and I’d give it a B.

My first recommendation to readers? Don’t judge this one by its cover. It’s a lot more offbeat and fun than that somewhat generic picture would suggest. After all, the hero not only owns a supposedly haunted inn; he also makes independent documentary films. The semi-reclusive comic strip writer known for her snarky humor didn’t strike me as a run of the mill character either.

Both lead characters are city folk who have no intention of leaving their usual environment, but they’ve ended up at a quaint, haunted inn in Colorado for plausible enough reasons. Sam Crider has inherited the inn where he grew up, and he’s come home temporarily to run it while trying to sell. Carrie Sawyer, on the other hand, has only come to the Crider Inn as a somewhat reluctant guest.

This is a partial review. You can find the complete text in my TBR Challenge entry on the AAR blog.

Review - An Inconvenient Kiss

An Inconvenient Kiss (The Ashford Brothers Series) - Caroline Kimberly

Do you like a little adventure with your romance? An Inconvenient Kiss definitely fits that bill. The leads take a little too long to clear the air between them, but I'd heard this book compared to the movie Romancing the Stone and I can definitely see the action-romance parallel.

 

Though most of the book takes place in India, the roots of the story start back in England. Proper young Georgiana Phillips is both beautiful and scandal-free, and therefore on track to make a good match. This all changes at a party when a suitor attempts to compromise her. Georgiana flees and takes refuge in a room occupied by Simon Ashford and his scandalous companion. After some repartee (and some mockery of her purity by the companion), Simon and Georgiana find themselves alone. More repartee brings us to the inconvenient kiss of the title - and discovery.

 

Georgiana urges Simon to flee the room, and she faces the music alone. Her refusal to name the one who compromised her and the ensuing gossip lead to her ruin in Society. Six years later, Simon has made his career in the Army and now serves in India alongside Georgiana's brother. He learns that Georgiana had left England to stay with a cousin in France, and that she and the cousin now travel with her grandfather, assisting with his scholarly pursuits. They have gone to Russia and Egypt, and are now coming to India to study and write about the people and their customs.

 

Georgiana is an interesting character. She's ruined, she has a terrible reputation, and she knows it - but she doesn't entirely own it. Sometimes when it suits her purpose, she plays the role of the worldly woman, but deep down something of her previous self remains. It's obvious that Georgiana has not completely come to terms with her new life even though she loves her studies, but as she spends time in India, she's forced to confront it in a way she hasn't before.

 

This is a partial review. You can find the complete text at All About Romance.

Review - Never Been Kissed

Never Been Kissed - Molly O'Keefe

Sometimes I buy a book to read for pleasure, but I end up enjoying it enough that I just can't put it aside without reviewing it. Never Been Kissed was one of those. It's not perfect, but I did enjoy it quite a bit.

Things get off to a rather action-packed start in this novel. Bodyguard Brody Baxter is working at a job, when he finds himself confronted by Harrison Montgomery, polished politician and son of a wealthy political family who employed him ten years before. Harrison has come to Brody with a job that requires some skill and discretion - rescuing his sister Ashley from Somali pirates and keeping things quiet. After all, Brody has kept Montgomery family secrets in the past, so Harrison figures he's the perfect one for this task, too.

And so Brody finds himself going off in search of Ashley, the black sheep of the Montgomery family. Instead of hosting fundraisers and working for the family machine, Ashley has spent her time abroad as a relief worker. Her current predicament has left her very shaken and since it would bring up questions and issues no one wants to confront in the middle of her brother's campaign, Ashley needs a place to lay low. So, Brody takes her home to Bishop, Arkansas.

Before you roll your eyes and think, "Oh no, not another small town romance," give this one a chance. O'Keefe writes wonderful dialogue and I found myself starting to really grow fond of her characters as I watched their interactions. Ashley can be a little bit of a Pollyanna sometimes and Brody has a giant chip on his shoulder, but there's a certain decency to them that shines through. The interesting secondary characters help in this regard, too. I found the sometimes tortured relationship between Brody and his brother at least as interesting as his budding relationship with Ashley.

This is a partial review. You can find the complete text at All About Romance.

Review - The Right Wife

The Right Wife - Beverly Barton

I haven't encountered too many romances set in the post-Civil War South. And I can fairly say that I haven't come across too many romances like The Right Wife either. Readers should be aware that this book has its uncomfortable moments involving race, together with some uncomfortably rapey moments and religious stereotyping. There is something about it that really stands out, though. It's that vivid but difficult to completely categorize quality I like to call WTF-ery.

With her sharecropper father now dead, 18-year-old Maggie Campbell now must find a way to provide for herself and her two younger siblings. When her aunt and uncle volunteer to take them, Maggie agrees and as the book opens, she is leaving Tennessee for Tuscambia, Alabama. At the train station, the family is drawn into a nasty incident as someone attacks their mixed-race maid (yes, poor sharecroppers traveling with a servant - let's suspend disbelief starting with page 1!) and Aaron Stone rides to the rescue.

Naturally, Maggie is left all atwitter about her brief encounter with the virile stranger. And naturally, Aaron and his friend Thayer are headed to Tuscambia themselves. So, what's the conflict? Well, we're going to have so many to pick from. First of all, Aaron has a somewhat mysterious and perhaps even shady past. Maggie, on the other hand, is going to live with an aunt who is very religious and whose son is the local minister. This isn't an inspirational, so don't be surprised when aunt and son turn out to be narrowminded, hypocritical prudes. Oh, and if the religious stereotyping isn't enough, be warned that the author does use the offensive racial language typical of the book's setting at various points in the story.

This is a partial review. You can find the complete text at All About Romance.

Review - Lover in the Shadows

Lover in the Shadows - Lindsay Longford

My teenaged self loved the Silhouette Shadows line, and I still have a few of them rattling around in my TBR pile. Some of them really are treats, but this one was a little more on the so-so side. On the positive side, the author does a good job of pulling readers into the heroine's claustrophobic world and she also maintains tension well throughout most of the story.

And what is the story? Well, it's basically creepy romantic suspense with a bit of a shapeshifter twist. The heroine, Molly Harris, recently lost her parents and already traumatized from that, Molly wakes up on her floor one morning with a bloody knife and no memory of what has happened. Not surprisingly, Detective John Harlan has some suspicions when he shows up at her door to investigate the recent killing of her maid. Of all the instances involving a hero in a suspense novel tailing the heroine at all times, this one was definitely one of the more believable. After all, Molly does look an awful lot like a suspect.

I enjoyed the story by and large. It's a bit on the dark and creepy side, and the author did keep me guessing about what was happening until close to the very end. While we do get hints of shapeshifters and some Central American lore worked into the text, the author doesn't explore that angle as much as she could have and I found that a bit disappointing. Even so, if you like suspense, shapeshifters and what at times seems like a little bit of homage to Basic Instinct, Lover in the Shadows is definitely a little different than the usual category paranormal.

Review - Letters at Christmas

Letters at Christmas (Entangled Scandalous) - Amber Lin

This novella was previously published in the anthology A Very Scandalous Holiday, and here is my review:

 

Letters at Christmas by Amber Lin has a plotline that I normally love - lost lovers reunited. In this case, Sidony Harbeck's beloved, Captain Hale Prescott, has returned from seeking his fortune and readers can feel the tension right away. Here is a man who promised to write and promised to return, and not only did he stay away far longer than anticipated but Sidony received not one letter from him. I started off wanting to see just how these two were going to find their way back to one another and there are certainly some touching moments. However, we also get some silly contrivances and a bit of "I love you...no, I'll never forgive you...Oh, but I'll have sex with you anyway..." shenanigans going on. I wanted to like this story more than I did but Lin's polished writing style needed something better than the frustrating antics which went on in this tale.

You can find my review of the entire anthology here.

Review - Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas

Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas - Sandra D. Bricker

This was a cute read. When I saw the "city girl pretends to be something she's not to win hot guy" plotline, I wasn't sure I'd like this book, but it ended up being a fun, light read. The antics of the heroine, Lucy Binoche, reminded me of the dynamic I saw on youth retreats and church mission trips when I was in my early 20s and that made me cringe and smile all at the same time.

Review - The Soldier's Promise

The Soldier's Promise (Harlequin Superromance) - Patricia Potter

Wounded hero finds new life in small town with a single mom heroine and plenty of animals. Yep, this is a cutesy small town book. It's not bad, but nothing to write home about either. Basically a predictable book that hits all the usual cliches. If you like that, this is a comfort read and if you don't, you might end up DNF-ing this one.

Review - The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling

I felt so conflicted reading this book. On the one hand, I really didn't like most of the characters and yet, J.K. Rowling writes so well that I couldn't help falling into their world. Not much actually happens in this book, but she provides a wonderful character study of the entire town of Pagford. Basically a parish councillor by the name of Barry Fairbrother dies suddenly and in the wake of his death, all of the various factions in the town splinter apart and the reader gets a view into the good, the bad, and the ugly of everyone's lives. Rowling draws her characters very well and even if the plot action didn't catch me much, the characters made vivid impressions on me. In the end, the story itself is quite sad and some of the characters - particularly Krystal and Robbie - will break your heart. However, if you're looking for some good insights into character and what makes people tick, you won't soon forget the cast of this novel. Oh and one last warning - be prepared to come away from this book with a major Rhianna earworm!

TBR Challenge - Seven Tears for Apollo

Seven Tears for Apollo - Phyllis A Whitney

This month’s TBR challenge, reading one of the classics, had me scratching my head for a little bit. Did I want to reach for one of those books that could be considered part of the romance canon(to the degree we have one), or did I want to pick a classic trope or author? In the end, I decided on Seven Tears for Apollo. When we start talking about old school romantic suspense or gothics online, certain names tend to pop up. Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels – all have their fans. However, Phyllis Whitney is one of those names that seems to be mentioned almost as an afterthought.

I’ve read a few Phyllis Whitney novels, all historicals, and I did enjoy them. However, I had yet to read one of her contemporaries and so I gave this one a whirl. Written in 1962, it captures a world that for 21st century readers feels like a curious blend of old and new.

The spineless heroine drove me completely nuts at times, but otherwise I enjoyed this meander through 1960s Greece and I’d probably give it a B-.

 

This is a partial review. You can find the complete text at All About Romance.

Review - Backwoods

Backwoods - Jill Sorenson

Do you like action adventure romance? If so, you really should be reading Jill Sorenson if you aren't already. She writes fantastic, hot action romance and does it very well. I loved Aftershock, and while Backwoods isn't the best of her books, it's still a cut above.

Though technically part of the series that started with Aftershock, this book can be read on its own. And what is Backwoods, exactly? Well, it's pretty much a lovely romance that takes place on The Camping Trip From Hell. Abby Hammond is definitely not an intrepid outdoor explorer but she decides to tag along on a wilderness camping trip with her daughter Brooke because deep in her heart of hearts, she knows her ex-husband's tendencies. And one of those tendencies is to be a total workaholic who cancels on events, leaving their daughter Brooke stranded.

Abby doesn't want Brooke to be out in the wilderness all by herself, so she goes along. Predictably, the ex-husband cancels and Abby and Brooke find themselves on a camping trip with Brooke's stepbrother Leo. Oh, and since the ex-husband and his new wife canceled, the stepbrother's father Nathan is now coming along on the trip as well. This all sounds more confusing than it is; somehow Sorenson manages to make this tangle of people feel like they fit together on the trip.

This is a partial review. You can find the complete text at All About Romance.

Review- Speak of the Devil

Speak of the Devil: A Novel - Allison Leotta

I enjoyed Discretion, so I had high hopes for this next installment in the series. Things start off quite well, as we are dropped simultaneously into a very important moment in Anna's relationship with Jack and a brothel raid which takes a horrifying turn. Be warned: this novel is more graphic than its predecessors and definitely not for the squeamish.

On the one hand, the author does a very good job of depicting the toll that gang violence takes on communities and she does not gloss over the brutality of the gangs. MS-13 is the main focus of this particular story and as an attorney practicing in the DC area, I thought her portrayals were accurate. There is a bloodcurdling side to life in some parts of DC and its suburbs which many in this area are loath to confront, but Leotta does not let readers look away.

On the other hand, Anna's personal life veers heavily into the melodramatic throughout the book and by the last third or so, I just could not make myself care. In addition, the suspense side of things, which had started off in promising if nightmare-inducing fashion, resolves itself in a rather over-the-top and ultimately unsatisfactory way.

Review - Dancing With Dragons

Dancing with Dragons  - Lorenda Christensen

Lorenda Christensen is back with the second entry in her DRACIM series, and I found Dancing With Dragons even stronger than its predecessor. Picking up right where Never Deal With Dragons left off, this installment follows Carol Jenski, a secondary character from the first book, on a snarky and romantic adventure of her own.

In the first novel, Carol fell in love with Richard, a leader at DRACIM and man believed to be a true pioneer in dragon-human relations in North America. As readers of the first book will recall, he is really working to destroy dragons and as his plot was partially discovered, he has framed Carol. Now with a price on her head, she's on the run to escape trial and possible execution while trying to prove her innocence.

While on the run, she crosses paths with reporter Daniel Wallent, who helps her out. Sure, he's also trying to get a story and so his help originally comes at a price, but Carol ends up being more than just a means to an end for him. The quest to clear her name takes both of them to Bangalore, where Carol is able to put her dragonspeaking abilities to work as a translator for the local dragon lord. Not only does she discover that the dragons she fears have more to them than meets the eye, she also uncovers some intrigues in the Bangalore dragon lord's court. And of course, Daniel starts to see her as more than just a source. Thankfully, he also starts evolving into less of a jerk and more of a hero as well.

As with its predecessor, Dancing With Dragons is told in first person - and clears one big hurdle right away. The first book in this series had a narrator with a clever, snarky voice. Carol's voice also has a humorous and snarky touch to it, but manages to be different from the first, and I was glad that Christensen convinced me as a reader that someone different was telling this story.
This is a partial review. You can find the complete text at All About Romance.

Review - Carolina Home

Carolina Home - Virginia Kantra

This was one I just read for fun, and I did enjoy it. I found the teacher heroine a little too sugary sweet sometimes, but she and the hero basically worked well together. What I really loved about this book was the sense of place. I've been to the Outer Banks many times, and the author captured the changing nature of the place very well. I'll definitely be reading more in this series!

TBR Challenge - Contemporary Reads

Return to Tomorrow - Marisa Carroll

When I saw that this month’s TBR Challenge category called on us to read a contemporary romance, I found almost an embarrassment of choices. Did I want to go mainstream or inspy? Small town or big city? Something serious or more chick lit in tone? In the end, the setting drew me into Return to Tomorrow, a 2010 re-release of a 1990 title.

The premise of this novel is definitely not run of the mill. The characters were all shaped by their experiences in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and even 20+ years on, the author shows how the war affected them. Rachel McKendrick spent years in a prison camp in Laos, and not surprisingly, has a lot of emotional issues to work through. After her rescue, she never intended to return to the region but a promise made to a priest she respected deeply brings her to a refugee camp.

There she meets Brett “Tiger” Jackson, a man with a dangerous reputation. Tiger fought in the war and has stayed behind working a variety of shadowy jobs and living among a trusted group of expats who, like him, never could quite return home after the war. Rachel’s brother back home knew and trusted him, but on the ground in Thailand, he has a reputation as a dangerous drug smuggler. There is obviously more to him than meets the eye, but readers are only slightly ahead of Rachel in learning this.

This is a partial review. You can find the complete text at All About Romance.

Review - The Mephisto Club

The Mephisto Club (Jane Rizzoli & Maura Isles, #6) - Tess Gerritsen

In my head, I know I should have been rolling my eyes more as I read this book. The idea of the Mephisto Club itself and the way in which its members poke their noses into a police investigation is really both ghoulish and a bit ridiculous. Yet this story held my interest pretty firmly and I could not stop reading. The good vs. almost overwhelming evil theme running through this novel can be read on a pretty cynical and down to earth level or on a supernatural-tinged one. Either way, this book gives one a vivid reading experience. In fact, it's definitely the kind of book that could give you the heebie-jeebies if you're, say, sitting at home alone reading one night and starting to overthink things.