Wednesday, April 16, 2014

TBR Challenge: Jennifer Bernard - Sex and the Single Fireman

There's a hardnosed new training officer in town, and that's bad news for the Bachelor Firemen of San Gabriel . . .
But great news for firefighter Sabina Jones . . . maybe.
The toughest captain on the East Coast, single father Rick Roman has come thousands of miles to San Gabriel to put an end to the "Bachelor Firemen" media hype. But when a stunning woman he nearly hooked up with in Reno turns out to be a firefighter from his new station, Roman realizes it's going to be tough keeping the tabloids at bay.
But there's even more Sabina isn't telling him. Before dedicating herself to battling blazes, Sabina led a very different life, one that made her famous. The last thing she wants is to have her secret exposed. The papers, bloggers, and TV gossips will have a field day with that -- expecially when they sense the obvious sexual heat between Sabina and Chief Roman, who's torn between firing her . . . and falling in love with her!

Comment: It's time for another post for the TBR challenge. This month the theme is contemporary and I've picked a book I had here since last year because at the time the blurb seemed interesting. I wasn't aware this was actually the third in a series, but now that I've read it, I don't feel like going back. I might read the following ones one day, I was interested enough in the characters to do so.

This is the story of Sabina Jones, she liked her job as a firefighter and she loves he idea she's working to help others. Sabina has had a very different life before the anonymity of being just another firefighter and she wants to keep things that way.
Chief Roman comes from New York to help the fire house to deal with the excess media attention they're having lately all due to the amount of times the station has been on the news and not always for work purposes, the thing is, the firemen of Station 1 are well known to be bachelors and when one of them got married, they all got even more popular.
Sabina and Roman meet one day without knowing the identity of the other. They almost made love but Sabina lost her nerve, so it was very funny to see both their faces when Roman was introduced as her new boss the next day. From here on, their relationship changed, developed and their feelings too.

I was sold on this one the moment I saw the two protagonists didn't know the other would be a co worker and how that would stress their professional relationship. I was curious to see how that would happen. After a bump start with a misunderstanding, they got to know each other during a blind dinner let's call it, and the chemistry was obvious. But Sabina thought twice before sleeping with him despite her attraction (smart girl) and she never knew he would be her boss. That scene was funny, when they both saw each other after Sabina left without saying something and by having left only a note under the door. At first they struggled to keep things professional but it got more difficult the more time they spent together and even more so when even in their spare time they run into each other all the time, like in Roman's son baseball practice where Sabina had a "borrowed" sister too, and in the restaurant near their work. All the apparently random meetings only enhanced their attraction and a personal involvement was to be expected.

I liked the protagonists. Sabina was running fro the memories of a past where she couldn't be herself, where others expected something from her and now that she's living the life she wanted, the past is returning. This part of the story provided enough bases to justify Sabina's character and was an interesting opposition to her current life and way of thinking. I thin some situations were exaggerated and in a way I guess it was meant to offer a funnier side of things but I thought that it wasn't that special. I'm glad that it didn't went into stupidity level. The best thing in all the background was that it showed how committed and professional Sabina was about being a firefighter. I liked that she was proud of this side of herself.
Roman lost his wife in the 9/11 and moved to California so his son could join a baseball team and also to help with a famous fire house presenting a more formal identity after all the media apparatus of lately. Things aren't as easy because of several reasons and Roman actually gets to a point where he fears he's made a mistake. But his son's happiness and his growing feelings for Sabina tell him he should give life another chance which he does, even more so than we think at first. The end of the novel is quite the surprise for Roman's character.

My general feelings about this novel are pretty satisfying. The story was solid enough, had good bases and a good enough structure. It's meant to be funny, I did laugh at some scenes and was glad this wasn't meant to be a joke. I think it was serious enough on the right moments and still managed to offer a good image of how to deal with feelings too. The scene where Sabina tells Roman she's in love with him was very cute.

The secondary characters were interesting. The upcoming heroes seem interesting, I hope the settings can still function around the fire house, I think it's one of the things that could add a bit more seriousness to the plot, a bit more scenes within the fire house to present a more complex professional situation. My opinion, of course.

The story isn't perfect, but I enjoyed it and was happy enough with the way things were dealt with. As far as contemporaries go, this wasn't so bad. The characters had reactions believable enough and the chemistry between Sabina and Roman wasn't badly done. I also liked they didn't had sex right after seeing each other again at the fire house. Their relationship developed slowly, giving them time to know each other better until it was obvious they were already feeling something more than lust by the time intimacy happened. The situations outside themselves were done well enough to add some veracity to the demands of life.
All in all, an enjoyable story, good and strong elements, some lack of that extra thing that could put this in perfection level, but certainly a good story nevertheless. Recommended to contemporary fans.
Grade: 8/10

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

JR Ward - The King

Long live the King…
After turning his back on the throne for centuries, Wrath, son of Wrath, finally assumed his father’s mantle--with the help of his beloved mate. But the crown sets heavily on his head. As the war with the Lessening Society rages on, and the threat from the Band of Bastards truly hits home, he is forced to make choices that put everything--and everyone--at risk.
Beth Randall thought she knew what she was getting into when she mated the last pure blooded vampire on the planet: An easy ride was not it. But when she decides she wants a child, she’s unprepared for Wrath’s response--or the distance it creates between them.
The question is, will true love win out... or tortured legacy take over?

Comment: Here it is, the annual release of a Black Dagger Brotherhood story. This year it's back to Beth and Wrath although the plot isn't only about them or things around them. This book keeps up with so many sub plots and possible protagonists that it's very populated for sure.

The main story line focuses on Wrath and his kingdom. Wrath has been feeling powerless and unable to cope with his blindness and most impirtant, his lack of will to carry on as king, as a ruler without much control over what he is doing and he feels often that his efforts aren't leading nowhere.
I think part of the problem was precisely this, the fact his "job" as king isn't instantly synonymous to success and acceptance. There are several scenes from his father and how he acted upon a time concerning some things during his reign and how we can make a parallel comparison to the current Wrath's efforts. I thin these scenes aren't here just to make the reader know Wrath senior but also to show that Wrath isn't dealing with unheard things, a king has responsibilities and issues to work out all the time, since kings exist and the best lesson Wrath can take from what he is ding is what it means to the ones around him that his efforts, his work has a meaning, has value. Wrath says at some point he hates the job. So, I think the author's intention to make Wrath accept this sort of failure was the right step to move forward. Wrath changes things and I have to say I liked him here, I liked his position and his mind when he decided to make choices, when he decided to change things and that it wouldn't mean a disrespect to his own father's reign before. It meant that, as soon as he was truthful to himself and to the ones around him, that was the way to prove how worthy he was as king and as a male. I think this aspect of the story was well explored and interesting.
Then there's also the issue of babies...Wrath and Beth dealt with the problem and I think the way things worked out on that field was cute.
Beth was quite the character here. I thin we can see how her help and strength are things to appreciate and how she can be the best support Wrath could ever get. I didn't feel this was heir story re-written, this was them more mature, more knowledgeable about the problems, the difficulties, but also the good things and the respect. I liked this.

We also see development in several sub plots, which will certainly keep being worked on in the upcoming books.
There's Trez, we learn more about Shadows and their world.
There's still the thing between Xcor and Layla, a relationship that leaves me very curious.
There's Assail and Marisol and what could mean for them to be together.There are more little clues about these sub stories and other things in the working. I think so many things could feel too much but I think the author has a vision and I hope t will turn out alright. Still, a part of me misses a bit the emphasis on the romance, on the relationships...I wish those days could still happen.

There are things that annoyed me a bit. As individuals, as human beings, as readers, there are things that are acceptable and welcome to out tastes and others that not so much. I have to say I wasn't fond at all of the drug references here. Assail does drugs and it annoys me a lot. I really hate it. I can understand how it enhances his persona and his character construction but I hate it and wish it's something to solve soon.
There were some scenes filled with anger that made me a perfect world, anger and arguments and fights are solved right away. I hope that, at least, the not so happy scenes can be just the set up to better times.

This book isn't perfect, but like with so many things in out lives, when we care for something and we are used to it, we feel wonderful near that thing or even talking or knowing it's there, so I feel thrilled about a book in this series, the first to hook me up in paranormal and that showed me a world of possibilities in reading I didn't know before BDB. For that, even though I think this could be better or more powerful, I still can't say it's bad. It's as entertaining, as addictive and as special to me as ever. I think that, sometimes, just being in a world you dream about can be enough even if your other side recognizes the room for improvement. Still, I can't wait for more and I keep as eager and as enthusiastic for this as  a child for candy. Next year here we will be and I hope I finish it as entertained and with such enjoyment as with this one.
Grade: 8/10

Eresse - By Chance Met

From the moment he laid eyes on the handsome Lord of Ilmaren, Naeth Orosse fell head over heels in infatuation with him. And after that first meeting in the middle of a tavern brawl in the dual-gendered realm of Ylandre, Reijir Arthanna did not forget the orphaned youth who came to his aid unasked. When fate brings them together anew, Reijir becomes Naeth’s guardian, which proves both blessing and bane when their mutual attraction is guilelessly nursed by one and distrustfully downplayed by the other.
Between attempting to ignore Naeth’s artless overtures and suppressing feelings he had long disavowed, Reijir has his hands full. But more than a title and duty were forced on this enigmatic cousin of Ylandre’s king. A less than benevolent past has left its imprint on Reijir who is as known for his cynical outlook on life as he is for his exotic features and proficiency between the sheets. Convincing him to risk his heart in love is a battle more experienced Deira than Naeth have waged and invariably lost.

Comment: In keeping up with this series, this month it was time to read the third installment of the Chronicles of Ylandre, a series of five books by Eresse.

This is Reijir and Naeth's story. 
Naeth is a young man who lost everything back home and looked for help in the capital with one of his father's old friends. He works in a tavern but his life is far from perfect. One day he helps some highborns and when he is attacked later that night, Reijir rescues him from harm. That night starts their relationship, as Reijir welcomes Naeth as his ward and takes care of him. Years go by and Naeth falls more deeply in love with Reijir the more time he spends with him. Things reach a breaking point when Naeth listens to what he shouldn't and tries to run away, but will Reijir just let him go?

I liked this installment. Many things are going on, although it's obvious the wight of the relationship is distributed not very equally...Naeth is clearly portrayed as younger and more naive man and Reijir is the older, more mature one. I felt that, until the end, Naeth was a much easier character to understand, he showed his feelings better and in a more obvious way. Reijir had reasons to be quieter and more reserved, but in a way that fact didn't help in building up a more empathic connection to him and he always felt a bit cold at times. His reasons are more than acceptable, tough. But that doesn't mean he changes much, I found his character to be pretty much the same throughout the story.

Like I said, I still liked this one, and it was interesting to see how previous characters played a part in this one as well. There are many usual elements in this novel, the same way there are in any other romance story. There's jealousy, fear, feelings of inadequacy, love, lust, friendship...although the overall feel of the story doesn't differ much from the other stories, I thought this one felt more polished, more thoughtful in a way.

This series are based on a society where only exist men. Therefore, any relationship pertains only men, so it can be a bit annoying at times when they talk or act together and one of them is almost what we would call a "twink" because of the similarities to women's behavior or characteristics. Personally I would prefer if this were not to happen, as I like my m/m romances with men acting like men (for the most part), but this being a fantasy, it's not that weird. I just think it wouldn't be bad if one of them didn't had to look "weaker" in a relationship, or if this is such a keystone to the imagined society, then why does this has to be a rule in all books? Just random, personal thoughts.

Despite my personal ideas, I still enjoyed the book and was touched when they faced emotional and moral dilemmas and had their problems...I wanted everyone to be happy and to find their place. Despite a thing here and there I don't like as much, I still feel marveled at the author's imagination and society descriptions, which are a lot, and how interesting everything works.
Grade: 7/10

Joanne Harris - Peaches for Monsieur le Curé

Even before it was adapted into the Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, Joanne Harris’s Chocolat entranced readers with its mix of hedonism, whimsy, and, of course, chocolate. Now, at last, Chocolat’s heroine returns to the beautiful French village of Lansquenet in another, equally beguiling tale.
When Vianne Rocher receives a letter from beyond the grave, she knows she must go back to Lansquenet. But the past can be dangerous, and Vianne and her daughters find their old hometown changed in unexpected ways. Most surprising of all, her old nemesis, Francis Reynaud, desperately needs her help. Can Vianne work her magic once again?

Comment: This book wasn't on my radar but a friend is a fan of the author and let me borrow it. I decided to read it right away because it's my personal rule to read borrowed books before others, I don't like to leave the person waiting.

This is the third story set in the world of Vianne Rocher, the heroine we've met in Chocolate, a very famous book also adapted to a movie. In this third story, Vianne and her two daughters return for the summer to Lansquenet-sur-Tannes, where Vianne saw her life change. Now, 8 years after those times, things are different, especially on the cultural level, because of the Muslim community nearby. Vianne decides to pay her respects to an old friend and in the meantime she feels it's her duty to help those who need, even if it's someone like the priest that tried to make her run years before...

I have to say I'm very surprised by how good this book is. The first one I've read many years ago but it was magical at the time. The second one was a bit of a let down and I thought this would be more like a dutiful read, just to keep up with the story. What I got was a great time, a superb story, wonderful details and intakes about the Muslim community and a intriguing mystery with surprising results. I was positively surprised with this one!

I consider myself a fan of the author despite two or three of her books not being more than average for me. This one restored my faith on her writing which I thought to be almost clinically precise and very intelligent. The story is told by Vianne's and Francis' POVs so we can have a very enlarged field vision of the happenings. I thought it was a very good way to not only keep the author updated about what was happening but also to feel what changed in these two characters from the first book.
Vianne is more mature but there's still a bit of a gypsy side in her that never left. Francis seemed the biggest surprise, he was such an arrogant, prideful person in book #1 and now he's changed, he's more humane, more thoughtful and we see a side of him really different, I liked it.

The biggest part of the book is dedicated to the mystery, which revolves around a strange Muslim woman, always using a niqab, a veil that covers most her face. Apparently everyone is reluctant to trust this woman, many think her wise in her ways of behaving, others fear her and the apparent control on her brother, the attractive Karim. As Vianne and the reader learn about the community, the people living there and the traditions they meet as part of their religion and beliefs, we start to see many strange things, some disturbing, others heartfelt, and when we finally learn the truth behind the mysterious woman, I don't think anyone can stay indifferent to the cruelty of knowing how unfair life can be and how ignorance of what others must be enduring during their lives can't be described as bliss.
I have the opinion the biggest strength in the story is the comparison between religions, and although many can say the author is preaching herself to acceptance of one above the other (either way), I thin the lesson to learn here is, life could be so much easier if everyone really respected others instead f always trying to be better or more important than the others. I think this idea was quite well worked within this book.

In the end, I really liked the story, both the precise ideas and plot elements, and also the more introspective moments, like when Vianne reflected on her choices and what is happening around her. ll together made quite the well structured and solid story.
I recommend this to everyone, it's superb in my opinion. 
Grade: 9/10

Monday, April 14, 2014

Patricia Briggs - Night Broken

An unexpected phone call heralds a new challenge for Mercy. Her mate Adam's ex-wife is in trouble, on the run from her new boyfriend. Adam won't turn away a person in need, but with Christy holed up in Adam's house, Mercy can't shake the feeling that something isn't right.
Soon, Mercy learns that Christy has the farthest thing from good intentions. She wants Adam back and will anything to get him, including turning Adam's pack against Mercy.
On top of this, there's an even more dangerous threat circling. Christy's ex is more than a bad man - in fact, he may not be human at all. As the bodies pile up, Mercy must put her personal troubles aside to face a creature with the power to tear her world apart.

Comment: Another installment in the wonderful Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. this is the most recent story and once again we saw a cast full of interesting characters and their adventures, all connected to Mercy, the mechanic mated to the alpha of the local pack.

In this new book, Mercy sees herself and the pack in the middle of the problems following Adam's human ex-wife, Christy. She is running from an abusive man and asks for help to the pack and Adam. Apparently only Mercy and Jesse are apprehensive because they know how Christy can play the victim and manipulate the others to her advantage. Indeed, Christy does what she can do make Mercy look weak, unwanted and unsuitable. But Mercy isn't vindicative and helps those who need, including annoying Christy. But did Christy tell the whole truth about who she's running from?

As usual, it was such a pleasure to read a book set in Mercy's world. I like worlds where see how a pack works, how their members interact and how their bonds are set. Of course, this pack in particular isn't always nice to Mercy and it's getting boring the number of books this situation has been dragging, like many other readers have said, it's more than time for the pack to accept and help Mercy.

But despite agreeing that Mercy's position in the pack should be recognized already, in this book we see Mercy suffering attacks and having to fight, over an over until she ends up being hurt with severity once more. I can understand the notion of how a UF heroine must deal with many challenges and difficulties, it's part of who they are and the story they belong to. But Mercy not only has to prove herself over and over, she ends up really hurt more than we can count and not always is her value and her help and her efforts, and her struggle and her strength appreciated! I had hopes this book would show a better liked Mercy but it didn't happened. She keeps fighting to earn her respect but it's taking too long to reach, I think.

As far as the plot goes, I was very interested in the pack dynamics now that Christy returned and although we see some pack members seeing Mercy as a strong person to be o their side, many still can't accept her fully. Christy's presence only intensified that situation but I have to say it was good when a scene here and there showed Mercy as the strongest and more adequate to Adam, even more so if one thinks about the love between them, I hoped to see more Adam and Mercy...hopefully the next one has more of them.
In this book the enemy is unexpected, a surprise which means ms Briggs' imagination never ends. It provided quite the surprises at the end and I do hope it's subjects we see develop further along in the series.

Like I said, I hoped to see more Adam and Mercy. Their bond and relationship is one of the strongest elements in the series and I love to see them interact. Now that they have established their love for each other I live for demonstrations of that and even the small scenes with them together are fantastic. Many things happen because or in reaction to their relationship, which means they aren't an island, they have to be together and act united to deal with many things, from the toughest decisions to the most simple things, but they are getting stronger the more time wee see them. I really want to see their relationship elevated, perhaps with more personal issues to discuss, meaning more problems, just new things to face..dare I hopefully say, a baby? My
In the novel we also see other characters intervene, namely the vampires and we learn new things...I wonder where the author aims to go with this or if it's only for the sake of the page number...something tells me it's not that simple. Let's wait and see.

In the end, I was happy enough with the book even tough I expected Mercy to have a easier time in this new adventure. When will she ease up in her fights? I liked the end, I liked some of the decisions taken and I was happy to see Adam and Mercy are IT for each cute and comforting.
Grade: 8/10

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Robyn Carr - Redwood Bend

Former actor Dylan Childress left the L.A. scene behind years ago for a quiet life running an aviation company in Montana. But with business slowing down, Dylan is starting to wonder whether he should take one of the offers Hollywood keeps sending his way. He figures a motorcycle trip to Virgin River with his buddies might help him decide what path to take. But his own troubles are left at the side of the road when he spots a woman stranded on the way into town.
Katie Malone and her twin boys' trip to Virgin River is stopped short by a tire as flat as her failed romance. To make matters worse, it's raining, the boys are hungry and Katie is having trouble putting on the spare. So when some bikers pull up beside them, offering to help, all Katie feels is relief. Then she sees sexy, leather-clad Dylan Childress, and in one brief moment the world turns on its axis.
Katie's a sensible single mother and Dylan's a die-hard commitment-phobe. Neither one is looking for long-term romance. But sometimes it takes only a moment to know you've found something that could change your life forever.

Comment: Another book in the long Virgin River series. This small town story features two new arrivals in Virgin River and how they deal with their feelings and the changes in their lives.

This is the story of Dylan Childress, he was a former actor who left the scene after one of his friends died. His grandmother "rescued" him from that life and he grew up in a farm being the person he wanted to be. Later on, he opened a flying business but now the economy is ruining his work and he is about to go back to the world of acting to help with the money to his company. It's in a motorcycle trip to Virgin River that he meets Katie and after helping her change a tire he stays around because she seems to be the one for him.
Katie comes to Virgin River to be with her brother, to keep her family united again. Dylan is a very attractive man and she is into him, but will he stay, will he bear the responsibility of being with her? 

Well, this is my 16th story about Virgin River (I haven't read the short stories) and I must say, after all these books, this is probably the one I liked the less.
Two things bothered me a bit in the story, one of the issues more than the other, but overall, I wasn't impressed with this one. It was still a sweet story, with the usual strength of the small town's characters and personalities, the same writing style and expectations, but I still struggled to enjoy this completely.
Usually, I start a book in this series with high hopes not only for entertainment, but also for enjoyment, something captivating to grab me from beginning to end. Unfortunately, I was so focused on what I wanted to put aside, that what was left wasn't enough to save it. I mean, this isn't a bad book, only a worse one compared to the others.

The plot was interesting enough. It focuses on Katie Malone and her two sons coming to be with her brother Conner - from the previous book - until she finds some work. It was cute to see her deal with the boys and how she entered the community by Jack's bar, by being sister to Connor, by befriending some of th women, namely Leslie.

However, I can't say I was very fond of Katie herself. She just didn't win me over as the heroine. I couldn't really put aside the fact she wanted a man, I mean, she wasn't a slut of desperate, but she mentioned she missed a man in this novel, in the previous one and it got on my nerves. Then she entered a relationship with Dylan, she knew and accepted when he said he wouldn't be serious or in it long term and then she got all angry about it because it happened! I mean, of course she would feel hurt, who wouldn't, but her behavior bordered on more than annoying, it was "bitchful" I'd say. Please! The guy didn't do promises, showed regret and she still blamed him for his honesty! I was losing my patience with her at this point and despite some mitigating circumstances, she never regained any love for me. and I ended up not liking her that much.

Another issue for me was the talk about the economy, the struggle for a job and balance, in Dylan's case. It's the reality, I know and I thin ms Carr did right by not running from the subject, but it's still a depressing subject and in my escape romancelandia I don't want to see it all the time, at least when it's not an obvious fiction novel about it. This wasn't as annoying as Katie's character, but it was still big enough to be memorable in the bad column.

The romance between Dylan and Katie felt unbalanced because it never looked like they were at the same page in terms of feelings and personalities. I didn't dislike Dylan because of his past and how he changed to become better but despite Katie's courage and bravery I still can't stand her very much.

All in all, the bad things keep flashing when I thin about the book, so this had to get a worse grade than the others.
I have hopes, high expectations for the next one. I pray it won't disappoint!
Grade: 6/10

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nalini Singh - Achangel's Storm

With wings of midnight and an affinity for shadows, Jason courts darkness. But now, with the Archangel Neha’s consort lying murdered in the jewel-studded palace that was his prison and her rage threatening cataclysmic devastation, Jason steps into the light, knowing he must unearth the murderer before it is too late.
Earning Neha’s trust comes at a price—Jason must tie himself to her bloodline through the Princess Mahiya, a woman with secrets so dangerous, she trusts no one. Least of all an enemy spymaster.
With only their relentless hunt for a violent, intelligent killer to unite them, Jason and Mahiya embark on a quest that leads to a centuries-old nightmare… and to the dark storm of an unexpected passion that threatens to drench them both in blood.

Comment: I've decided to read this book despite the fact I'm not a big fan of this series. But I already had it and I admit I was a bit curious to see how Jason would deal with falling in love and in which way would the author play the development of the plot.

This is Jason's story, he's one of the Seven, the personal guard of the archangel Raphael. Jason is known as being reclusive (aren't they all?) but he is asked to oversee a problem in Neha's territory. Neha is another archangel and she asked for Jason only if he accepted a vow to someone of hers, to keep things balanced. In comes Mahiya, someone everyone knows as a princess but who has an agenda of her own and she believes Jason can help her. But who is behind all the issues in Neha's court and most important, why?

I really can't say this is a bad book. But to be honest I can't seem to go past the whole tone of the series, even in these books that, although not featuring Elena and Raphael, maintain the development from their books. I think this series feels more serious and more mechanized than the author's other one. It doesn't seem to exist space to deep personal emotions, or the study of them comparing to other characters. The characters change and learn but I don't feel much empathy towards them. Sure I feel for them, but I have the feeling the way the story is told or by the tone the author decided to work with this world isn't the best one to make the reader feel much emotions coming from the characters. I feel everything is mechanic, there aren't any spontaneity anywhere...I guess it's part of the series foundation perhaps, but it's not a personal preference, thus it's hard for me to fully enjoy this.

Another issue is how everyone seems to be built the same way. They all have different backgrounds and experiences but almost all the masculine characters seem to be cold, aggressive, unfeeling and too serious. I thin only Illium isn't like this. All the others seem to share the same behavior. Something on purpose? Very well, but then how is the reader to be expected to actually feel they are changing for real? It bothers me a bit that everyone had dark, bad pasts and is now cold and indifferent to everything but their tasks in the job. Really? Everyone is the same? No one is spontaneous and has a happier personality? I get it, it's a harsh world, pretty much dedicated to power games and appearances, but come on... if this is pure UF why bother saying the romance matters?

As for the romance between Jason and Mahyia, it was sweet in a way, which kind of saved the book, but I thin more emotion wouldn't be bad...if they are centuries old they should be able to deal with their traumas by now...I mean, time has gone by! 
Mahyia was a surprise, I liked her a lot and I think she was the strongest character here. I liked her development, why she wanted to change, why she risked much and why she acted the way she did. Her character is easy to understand.
Jason has a bad past, really awful, but he's really old and smart...well, it's hard to get past traumas for sure...he seemed weird by falling for Mahyia simply because his reactions were always so careful...not very passionate unfortunately, even in the end when the HEA arrived.

The plot was smart, interesting but not concluded...I wonder why, hopeful possibilities or plot devices? Anyway, it's not really what glued me here so...

I liked the overall feel of the story because Mahyia was intelligent and interesting to know about and her character was strongly developed here. But the world still doesn't win me over much...such a pity, it could be so much stronger if a wider range of emotions could actually play a part.
Grade: 7/10

Monday, April 7, 2014

Jennifer Ashley - The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie

Daniel Mackenzie lives up to the reputation of the scandalous Mackenzie family—he has wealth, looks, and talent, and women love him. When he meets Violet Bastien—one of the most famous spiritual mediums in England—he immediately knows two things: that Miss Bastien is a fraud, and that he’s wildly attracted to her.
Violet knows she can’t really contact the other side, but she’s excellent at reading people. She discerns quickly that Daniel is intelligent and dangerous to her reputation, but she also finds him generous, handsome, and outrageously wicked. But spectres from Violet’s past threaten to destroy her, and she flees England, adopting yet another identity.
Daniel is determined to find the elusive Violet and pursue the passion he feels for her. And though Violet knows that her scandalous past will keep her from proper marriage, her attraction to Daniel is irresistible. It’s not until Daniel is the only one she can turn to that he proves he believes in something more than cold facts. He believes in love.

Comment: This is the most recent installment in the Highland Pleasure series by Jennifer Ashley. It's the story of Daniel Mackenzie, son of Cameron, hero of book #3. Daniel is a grown up now and pretty much focused on his career as an engineer and scientist. 

The story starts with Daniel winning a card game and the loser proposes to pay off the debt with a meeting at a house he rents to a psychic. Daniel doesn't believe in that but after seeing the young woman doing the "show" he feels attracted to her and even more so when he figures how she manages to add the special effects. After talking to her after and seeing how everything works, he's delighted to know she has a talent for machines as well. However, fate and fear make the young woman, Violet, run away with her mother and the maid.
Daniel goes after them and rescues Violet, thus beginning a romance full of adventure, innovation and love.

I was quite satisfied with this novel. It had a couple I was glad to see together, two people I had interest in knowing more about and a supporting cast that I love, with beloved characters to help building up the plot development.

Violet is a unique heroine, she knows hers and her mother's tricks with the psychic tales are just a way to survive but she still feels bad about it, although she also tells herself some people need that reassurance, therefore it can work out too. I liked her character, she was practical but still dreamed about love and something better but she was trapped in a situation that couldn't change much. After meeting Daniel she is even more aware of what she's missing, but fate puts him on her path twice and it becomes obvious she can't let go on her own...she has also to deal with something awful from her past, but she finds in Daniel someone understanding and supportive of her feelings. Their romance was believable and romantic and I rooted for them.

Daniel is a beloved character of the Mackenzie family and someone we've seen grow up throughout the books somehow. I was happy for him and for his happiness. Violet complemented him very well, not only in personality but in common interests. Daniel proved to be a worthy grown up which he recognizes happened with the help of a loving family. His character was well exploited here, both his ties to his family but also his eye for the future, for development. It was well done, I think.

The other Mackenzie characters show up and it was amazing to see them again, to see them interact and be an important part of the plot, because a united family can't just be dismissed and I thin the author does a good job in including almost everyone in each book.

The psychic theme is done relatively well. There's the moral indecision of whether it's only a bad thing when one uses it to deceive people but here it was shown the other side, how some people might see in it the need to believe, to have faith. Nothing is ever black and white only.

I was pretty much happy with the whole book but personally I confess the idea of Violet being older than Daniel didn't appeal much to me...I mean, it didn't ruin the story but for me, I'd have preferred it not to be. Also, Violet's mother was too much an air head and although it's understandable why her character is like that, I still think it's very harsh for her to be so aloof in what her daughter's feelings are concerned.

All in all, a good read, good enough to follow the series tone and expectations. I'm already eager for the following one, later this year.
Grade: 7/10