Thank goodness that while the blogging seems to have been scarce, the reading has picked up. I bring you not one, not two, not three but FOUR of my "Recent Reads".
Water Bound By Christine Feehan
Why this one: Well, (yep - long story ahead) I have an odd relationship with Ms. Feehan. Either I adore her stories or I can't stand them. I don't like the Carpathian books at all, at all. And I read Lair of the Lion and HUGE yuckers. But still I didn't totally abandon her and tried Wild Rain and loved it and then read the first couple of the Ghostwalker series and really enjoyed them. But for some reason she kind of dropped off my radar and I hadn't read any other of her books for a while. Then I saw a review of Water Bound at AAR and it piqued my curiosity.
Steam Level: *blowing on fingers* Hot Blurb: The last thing Lev Prakenskii remembered was being lost in the swirling currents of the ocean and getting sucked deeper into the nothingness of a freezing black eddy off the coastal town of Sea Haven. Just as quickly, just a miraculously, he was saved—pulled ashore by a beautiful stranger. But Lev has no memory of who he is—or why he seems to possess the violent instincts of a trained killer. All he knows is that he fears for his life, and for the life of his unexpected savior. Her name is Rikki, a sea~urchin diver in Sea Haven. She has always felt an affinity for the ocean, and for the seductive pull of the tides. And now she feels drawn in the same way to the enigmatic man she rescued. But soon they will be bound by something even stronger, and their tantalizing secrets will engulf them both in a whirlpool of dizzying passion and inescapable danger.
My Thoughts: I'll be honest and say what intrigued me about this book was reading that the heroine had a form of high functioning autism. I thought this worked very well in the hero in Jennifer Ashley's The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie so I was curious as to how it would work in the heroine in a contemporary. And I'm quite pleased to say for me it worked very well. There is no question that Rikki Sitmore has her share of 'quirks'. She had a terribly sad childhood, losing her parents at an early age due to fire and having the nightmare of fires follow and destroy after that. She has finally found a home in Sea Haven, the same town setting as the Drake Sister series. She has found a family of sisters now; not sisters by blood, but sisters of the heart. She also has a successful job as a sea urchin hunter. She is drawn to water in many mysterious ways. For example, when having nightmares about the fires that have destroyed her life, all faucets in her home mysteriously turn on. She can manipulate rain and she is never completely at home unless she is diving in the ocean. Her life is going along as well as it can considering her quirks until she rescues a strange man in the middle of a ocean disruption. I know some of this sounds odd - it's odd to write it, but trust me, when reading this book, it made perfect sense. The man she rescues, Lev Prakenskii, is peculiar in his own right. He has no memory for quite some time, but he does know he is a dangerous man and one who should stay far, far away from Rikki. But he quickly becomes one of my favourite kinds of heroes, the kind that is wrecked for the heroine. He realizes that he is no good for Rikki, yet he can't leave her. Because of the fires that have dogged her all her life, Rikki is afraid she's been the one setting them, but Lev knows she couldn't possibly be the one and he is determined to keep her safe and take care of her. For example, she is very sensitive to different textures of food and exists almost exclusively on peanut butter. She refuses to allow others into her 'space' whether it's her boat, her house or even to the use of her dishes. But Lev 'gets' her and is determined to both protect her and expand her narrow live. He is constantly challenging her to move outside her narrow comfort zone but always there for her in case she stumbles. This is an odd book due to the nature of the heroine, but I adored it. Rikki is a heroine I really enjoyed; one who has had to adjust to the world because of her differences, but has done so very well. She's a tad to prickly at times for me to keep this book from being a five, but she is a very strong heroine and I really liked her. And Lev makes for a mighty fine hero. He has done some very violent things in his past. He's been pretty ruthless, but then again because of his history he has had to be. But he is totally redeemed by his acceptance and respect and protectiveness of Rikki. The reader knows he will die to protect her and as already mentioned, he is totally wrecked for her. This book was a real treat!
Grade: 4.75 out of 5
Into the Crossfire by Lisa Marie Rice
Why this one: Hey, it's Lisa Marie Rice!! I always read her books
Steam Level: Hey, it's Lisa Marie Rice!! Her books are always hawt stuff
Blurb: Former Navy SEAL Sam Reston keeps to himself. His world is dangerous, uncertain, violent...and there is no room in it for the helpless and weak. Then the most beautiful woman in the world moves in next door to him . . . . Nicole Pearce's life is complicated enough--with an ailing father and a new business to worry about--and the last thing she needs is to get involved with a secretive, hard-bodied, hardheaded neighbor. Yet Sam leaves her breathless--her body tingling with erotic desire--and it takes every ounce of her fabled control to resist offering herself to him, no strings attached. What she doesn't know is that Sam Reston is on an undercover assignment . . . and she's about to step into the crossfire. Never has Sam ached for a woman so badly, and he's never fallen in love before. Now that Nicole is in grave danger, he will become her shield, and guard the tempting body he longs to touch and taste. Because a terrorist plot hatched half a world away is heading to their doorstep--and it can only be derailed by one man and one woman.
My Thoughts: This author has a formula. And while she doesn't deviate from it much, as long as I don't read too many of her books in a row, it's a formula that works very well indeed for me. Ms. Rice's formula; total alpha hero, often ex seal or other type of military, heroine in distress, alpha hero lusts after heroine, falls very quickly for heroine and takes over and saves heroine in distress. Heroine falls for hero despite his overbearing ways and allows him to help her after a token resistance. Now one might think that might get a bit tiresome and were I to read too many of her books in a row, it does. I know this because I did it with the Midnight series, reading them back to back to back and by the time I got to Midnight Angel, the sameness really took away for me. In fact I don't think I even finished this one. But if I leave space and read all kinds of other genres between them, I just adore her books and once again I'm happy to say I adored this one too *insert happy face* As per usual, when hero Sam Reston, former Navy Seal and now part owner of his own detective agency first spies Nicole Pearce, his new business neighbour, he is instantly smitten. But he's undercover on his latest case, trying to put a criminal in prison and is in no shape to make any kind of approach. But once he's back to himself, he wastes no time in bargaining her into a dinner date. Sparks fly between them but Nicole is in no state for any kind of relationship. She's had to rearrange her whole life to take care of her dying father. She is trying to get a new business, translating, off the ground and when not working at this, she is looking after her much loved father. But Sam isn't about to let her go. He's never felt like this about a woman before and is willing to do whatever it takes to be a part of her life. He really gets his chance when something strange happens and her office is broken into. He goes into full Protector Mode as he works with his two foster brothers to find out who is after Nicole and what they want with her. As with all of Ms. Rice's heroes, I loved Sam. He's determined to help 'his' woman. He knows his way around the bedroom and he's willing to be flexible with Nicole. Although yes, a bit formulatic, nevertheless he makes for great hero material. And I equally enjoyed Nicole. Despite having her life turned upside down by the illness of her father, she holds no bitterness at her circumstances. Although give many opportunities to become one of those TSTL heroines we all despise, she doesn't. While she wants to hold Sam at arms length, she knows he can help her and she is open and honest with him when she needs to be. Along with every other book by this author with the possible exception of Midnight Angel and I need to read it again with distance this time, I loved Into the Crossfire and most heartily recommend it. There are two other foster brothers and I really hope they each get their own story. I'll be a happy camper if they do
Grade: 4.75 out of 5
Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis
Why this one: The only trouble I had with the last book by this author was she didn't know baseball. Other than that, I would have enjoyed the story very much. So when I read the buzz on this book and the fact that it isn't one of her baseball books, I was onboard.
Steam Level: Very warm. Not hot like some of the others maybe, but warm is very nice too!
Blurb: Maddie Moore's whole life needs a makeover. In one fell swoop, Maddie loses her boyfriend (her decision) and her job (so not her decision). But rather than drowning her sorrows in bags of potato chips, Maddie leaves L.A. to claim the inheritance left by her free-spirited mother -- a ramshackle inn nestled in the little coastal town of Lucky Harbor, Washington. Starting over won't be easy. Yet Maddie sees the potential for a new home and a new career -- if only she can convince her two half-sisters to join her in the adventure. But convincing Tara and Chloe will be difficult because the inn needs a big makeover too. The contractor Maddie hires is a tall, dark-haired hottie whose eyes -- and mouth -- are making it hard for her to remember that she's sworn off men. Even harder will be Maddie's struggles to overcome the past, though she's about to discover that there's no better place to call home than Lucky Harbor.
My Thoughts: As long as Ms. Shalvis hasn't written a heroine I despise, or about a sport she doesn't really know, I've really enjoy her books and this one is no exception. Maddie is kind of a sad heroine. Pretty much abandoned by her mother, she has been raised in Hollywood by her set designer father. But when her mother dies and leaves an old dilapidated inn in a small coastal West coast town to her and her two half sisters, Maddie is determined to take this opportunity to get close to the sisters she barely knows. Her sisters aren't keen on the idea to put it mildly, but she wants this very badly. She's never been the strongest of the sisters, she has kind of let people, most especially an abusive ex, bully her and take advantage of her. But she wants to start over; a stronger Maddie and one who is willing to go after her dreams.
Jax Cullen is the hero. He too has changed his life around. Once a shark of a lawyer who would do anything to win cases, after one particular case went very, very wrong, he left his old life behind and moved back to his small home town to get back to his roots as a carpenter. This much simpler life allows him to help out many of his small town friends as a way to make amends for his former life. When almost run over by Maddie - literally - he sees her as something of a lost soul who can really use a friend and as he gets to know her better, as more than a friend. But Maddie has been burned in the past and doesn't really trust herself much anymore and does her best to keep Jax at a distance. Jax for his part, is somewhat afraid and also bound by his oath not to tell Maddie everything keeps important information from her.
Meanwhile, Maddie tries to build bridges with her sisters, keep Jax at arms distance and generally make her life over. Both she and Jax are great characters. Having two sisters of my own, I liked the squabbles she, Chloe and Tara constantly had. This isn't a big 'action' book; rather it's rather simple, relaxed and enjoyable 'taste of life' kind of contemporary book. It's the first of three and I'll be reading Chloe and Tara's books when they come out.
One small thing took me somewhat out of the story though. The time is around during the Christmas season, which also adds charm. But then it's Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and nothing is really made of that. No gift exchanges, no mention of Christmas family dinner. I just found it a bit jarring for some reason. But other than that small fact, I found this book quite enjoyable.
Grade: 4.25 out of 5
One Touch of Scandal by Liz Carlyle
Why this one: Ms. Carlyle used to be an autobuy author for me, then she wrote a couple of books I didn't really care for and she kind of fell off the map. But I read a pretty good review of this book and thought I'd give her another go.
Steam Level: It takes a while for the kettle that is this book to boil, but once it does, it's fine rolling boil
Blurb: Against the glamorous backdrop of Victorian high society, Liz Carlyle paints a dramatic tale of dangerous desire, the first in her sizzling new trilogy. All Grace Gauthier ever wanted was the security of a good marriage, family, and home. Instead, despised by her aristocratic mother's family because of her father's foreign birth, she's taken a "safe" position as a governess. Now, unprotected and alone in London, accused of the shocking murder of her employer, she has no one to turn to except the mysterious -- and possibly dangerous -- Lord Ruthveyn. A dark-eyed Lucifer, Ruthveyn guards his secrets carefully. His shadowed past is a source of pain and rumors -- only whispered. Grace's plight -- which echoes his own -- moves him, as does her quiet beauty. Ruthveyn is determined to save Grace by unmasking a killer. But his growing passion places his own heart at risk and threatens to expose his dark gifts to the world.
My Thoughts: First off - I just have to get this off my chest and then I can get serious. The Cover! Avon Cover People - you can suck like nobodies business when it comes to covers. This author used to write for Pocket where they gave her great covers. Then she moved to Avon and this cover is just plain NASTY and I don't mean that in a good way. I mean it in it's original meaning - horrible, awful, terrible, hideous, dreadful! If I were the author and upon first glance of the cover, I'd have been in tears. I mean - could that dress look any cheaper??? It looks like a dress that a first year sewing student might whip up. And what's with that silly stretch of her neck. I tried duplicating that and it hurt! (I need more neck exercising) And those colours orangy-yellow - again, just nasty. I mean seriously - take a look at either of the covers on the right, gorgeous colours, tasteful covers and then at One Touch of Scandal. Wouldn't you want to cry too? Good thing the version I read was on my Kobo in ereader form so I didn't have to really look at it. I was so disappointed when I heard that she switched publishers. And the difference between covers is just one reason.
Now, getting away from the monstrosity that is the cover and onto the book itself. I hadn't gotten very far into this book before I realized why I had loved Ms. Carlyle's earlier books. In fact in one of my trips to Chapters, I picked up a book I didn't already have.
The book starts with murder; the murder of Grace Gauthier's employer and secret fiance. It doesn't take her long to realize that she needs help as she seems to be top on the suspect list. She looks for an old friend and army officer that served under her Army father. But it seems her friend is out of town and instead she tells her worries to Adrian, Lord Ruthveyan. He's a rather mysterious guy, he and the other members of his club. Still, Grace who has always been a very good judge of men, does trust him and puts her faith and trust in his hands.
And Adrian is mysterious. He's one of those tortured soul kind of heroes that are so very delicious. He has an odd talent that leads him to keep his distance from just about everyone. If he touches them or looks into their eyes, he can 'sense' things about them, such as how they will die. This keeps him apart from everyone but those in his club who all have similar kinds of 'gifts'. But for some reason he is unable to 'read' Grace and this is very calming to him. In addition, he is very attracted to her though he fights it, thinking in time, he will get glimpses into what her future holds in store for her and he will once again suffer. He tries his best to resist falling for her. He spent much of his life in India and his mother in fact was an Indian Princess and his father English which makes him a half caste hero. This doesn't really play into the story though except as another way he is separate.
Grace also has had an unusual upbringing. Her mother died early and she has spent most of her life following her French Legionnaire officer father. She had come back to England after his death and was just finding a new life when it was torn apart by the death of her employer/fiance. She is also strongly attracted to Adrian, but like him, is determined to resist as she sees no future with him. But as they work together to try and clear her name, they finally are unable to resist each other.
I do believe with this book, that Liz Carlyle is back on my list. I enjoyed it. Adrian was a very good tortured and mysterious hero. Grace was a heroine I really appreciated. She was quite practical and pragmatic. Despite being terrified at being a suspect, she is realizes that Adrian is her best hope for clearing her name and she trusts him to do exactly that.
Grade: 4.25 out of 5
So there you have it - four for the price of one. And I quite enjoyed every one of them. I love it when I'm on a roll.