Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: Hell on Wheels by Julie Ann Walker

Title: Hell on Wheels
Author: Julie Ann Walker
Series: Black Knights, Book 1
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: 7 August 2012

He’s the bad boy she’s always wanted...

Nate “Ghost” Weller has loved Ali Morgan nearly half his life. But he’s done something so heinous he’s convinced she’ll never forgive him if she discovers the truth, so he keeps his feelings and his secrets to himself. Then she blows into town with a mother lode of bad guys on her tail and Nate can’t deny she’s in serious trouble. Unfortunately, he’s the only one who can help her.

She’s the good girl he’s kept at arm’s length...

Ali knows Nate as the most solemn, aloof man on the planet. Sadly, he’s also the sexiest. For years she’s avoided him, unable to stomach his dark scowls and brooding silences… especially when she secretly yearns for his touch. Now she must rely on him to save her from the malevolent shadows ghosting her every move. When the bullets explode, so does their passion. But can love really conquer all? Or are some things just too terrible to forgive?

Sexy black-ops operatives on motorcycles – I was sold! And the premise lives up to the promise, absolutely.

Unfortunately my problems have overshadowed the enjoyment I was hoping to get out of this book. The largest one was Nate’s dialect. His mashing of several words together into a single word not on was irritating to read, it was an effort in translation every time it happened – which was at least once a page. I know people talk with dialects, I hear them in my head clearly, but I don’t need every single word typed with the lost ending if the goal is a southern accent. If typed out Scottish brogues irritate you, this is a warning that I found it much more distracting and irritating than that.

The second issue was a few logical fallacies that didn’t work for me. There is a lot of emphasis, throughout the book, put on how super-secret these guys are, and their work for the government is way off the books. They literally live in their compound, which is their cover as a custom motorcycle shop with all the accompanying surveillance and security. But let Ali walk up to the gate and ask to be let in, and she’s shown right in. Not just in the compound but in the building where they start wanding down her luggage – searching for bugs – she sees the computers that any NSA agent would die to have, and there in the corner is a fully equipped Blackhawk helicopter. Yeah, all that doesn’t raise any suspicions what-so-ever that they’re not what they seem.

And that leads me to my final problem. While Ali never truly strays into TSTL – to-stupid-to-live – territory, she comes very close. With all that evidence she still isn’t really sure until someone tells her that they’re black-ops.

One of the things I loved though was how it handled the ‘brother’s best friend’ trope. This is one of my favorite storylines – the friend in love with his best friend’s little sister, warned off, etcetera. This is really where Ali shined for me. She really gave it her all to get Nate to realize that they’re perfect together. While I’m not quite sure how their relationship is going to work in the future with her being a school teacher, and he still being in the Black Knights group, I do believe that they’ll find a way to do it.

Hell on Wheels is the sexy new start of a series, which has a whole host of characters to choose from for subsequent books. It did spend a decent amount of time on setting up future books, and I admit to curiousity on how some of these storylines tie up. If you’re looking for a quick, easy romantic suspense, Hell on Wheels might just hit the spot.

Grade: C-

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Review: Sweet Talk by Julie Garwood

Title: Sweet Talk
Author: Julie Garwood
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: 7 August 2012

Attorney and IRS agent Olivia Mackenzie is the kind of tough, wise-cracking, powerful woman fans expect from a Garwood protagonist—but this time she has outdone herself. Olivia is not just any woman, she is every woman; flawed in the familiar ways so many of us are.

On the trail of an elaborate Ponzi scheme, one that threatens to ruin the lives of naïve and unsuspecting victims, Olivia suddenly finds her own life is in danger after she asks questions of the wrong people. She is accustomed to fighting for the underdog, but being vulnerable herself is a very different story. Smart enough to know when enough is enough, Olivia calls for reinforcements.

When she meets FBI Agent Grayson Kincaid there is an immediate and obvious attraction, palpable on both sides. Together they make an excellent team to fight corruption but Olivia is also fighting the immediate and intense attraction she feels for Agent Kincaid, and that may be a battle she is bound to lose.

This is the first Julie Garwood book I’ve read, even though I have friends that are incredibly loyal fans – especially of her historical romance novels. And Sweet Talk starts out right in the middle of the action. Olivia MacKenzie, innocently, goes for a job interview and ends up assaulted, nearly shot, and in the middle of an FBI investigation. Olivia can’t believe it, she has enough on her mind with trying to get proof of her father’s Ponzi scheme that she doesn’t need the hassle of all this on top of possibly getting cut from her position as an IRS attorney.

If there’s one good thing that comes from this whole fiasco, it’s meeting Grayson Kincaid – and incredibly sexy FBI agent that becomes more determined than ever to protect Olivia from the myriad threats against her. Grayson is nearly a picture perfect hero. He’s kind, rich, sensitive, focused, took on responsibility for his nephew and smart as hell. He even tries to remove himself from the case when he gets involved with Olivia. In fact, he’s a little too perfect, and it doesn’t allow him to have the depth that would really let me get to know him.

Olivia on the other hand is a bundle of personality, and along with her best friends – the four Pips – I really connected with her. Surviving cancer, and a grueling ordeal at a very young age explains a lot about grown-up Olivia’s decisions, thoughts and her determination to see things set right. Sometimes she would seem to rush into some situations without regard to the safety of it, and it nearly resulted in serious consequences. I understood her need for independence, but there comes a point when she just became stubborn – at the expense of her own and others safety.

One of the things I appreciated most about Sweet Talk was the way that Olivia and Grayson’s friendship developed throughout the book. The downside of that was that I never really felt the chemistry of a relationship, or a true desire to have one with each other. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a well-built relationship, just missing an indefinable something that I can’t quite place.

The suspense storyline was pretty straight-foward, with no unseen twists, and the “villains” telegraphed themselves from nearly the first instance. They also tend to be more than a bit cardboard, without any real depth and seeming to do things because they could, and they were bad. I questioned quite a lot of their actions. Underlying that though is the part that kept me turning the pages to get to the resolution – Olivia’s friend, Jane, is back in the hospital. Has the cancer returned? Will she survive? I was very much invested in Olivia and her friends.

All in all, Sweet Talk is a quick, good read. Ms. Garwood's writing beautifully emerges you in the story, and I look forward to trying more by her.

Grade: C

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review: The Darkest Day by Britt Bury

Title: The Darkest Day
Author: Britt Bury
Series: Immortal Heat, Book 1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: 3 July 2012


Izel Campbell was raised to believe she is an immortal Fionn with the magical skills of persuasion. But when she travels to Scotland to visit her ancestral home, Izel discovers that she is actually the world's last living human. Forced to run for her life, Izel crosses paths with Kelvin Kerr, the Campbells' greatest foe-and the most magnificent warrior she has ever seen.


A thousand-year-old battle chief of the Kerr clan, Kelvin lives only to avenge his father, who died at the hands of the bloody Campbells. Honor demands he kill the Campbell heir, but when he learns that the lovely Izel is both Campbell and human, Kelvin is torn between duty and desire. . .


I grabbed this book because of the references I saw some friends make, likening it to Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series. Unfortunately, I think that comparison may have dimmed my enjoyment of The Darkest Day a bit.

My favorite thing about this book is the premise the world is built on. Humans have actually died out, fairly recently - last quarter century or so - and immortals are the only beings left living on the Earth. I think that's a fascinating concept, interesting, new and fresh. Immortals still have some human blood, so characteristics aren't uncommon yet, but the fact that there aren't humans around immediately drew me in.

Beyond that, though, everything felt like fairly standard fare. It didn't make me think too much, or feel too much, or become completely invested in the fates of the characters. Izel and Kelvin were pretty much like any other paranormal hero and heroine I've read. Izel is a female that's surrounded by stronger males, her choices removed from her and forced to travel with the moody temperamental immortal male. Kelvin acts as a pretty typical shifter - though he can't actually shift - possessive, territorial, demanding. He's also incredibly angry, and often cruel, because he is so desperately attracted to Izel.

Occasionally Izel strayed into too-stupid-to-live territory, which was frustrating. Having spent the majority of her life without feelings, and then being overrun by them made it slightly more understandable, but running off into the wilderness knowing that other beings are going to scent and hunt you makes no sense to me. Also, though she grew up in this world as an immortal she knew nothing about any of the other species populating the world with her. Kelvin had to explain everything, and keep her safe from herself.

All of that didn't prevent the sexual tension between the two from fairly steaming off the pages though! I thought there were a few times that I was going to melt from the heat between them. This is probably the strongest part of the book. I absolutely believed in the sexual need and desire between them, even when I never understood why they fell in love, except for them being fated mates and all. I actually like fated mate stories, if I see them falling in love with each other as part of the story.

All in all, The Darkest Day was a good read with hot tension filling it up. I think if I hadn't been looking forward to something intricately plotted and paced this would have satisfied a great deal more. The writing was fairly strong - though the faux-Scottish brogue did get on my nerves more than once - and I will definitely be willing to check out more by Britt Bury in the future.

Grade: C

Review: Moonglow by Kristen Callihan

Title: Moonglow
Author: Kristen Callihan
Series: Darkest London, Book 2
Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance
Release Date: 31 July 2012

Once the seeds of desire are sown...

Finally free of her suffocating marriage, widow Daisy Ellis Craigmore is ready to embrace the pleasures of life that have long been denied her. Yet her new-found freedom is short lived. A string of unexplained murders has brought danger to Daisy's door, forcing her to turn to the most unlikely of saviors . . .

Their growing passion knows no bounds...

Ian Ranulf, the Marquis of Northrup, has spent lifetimes hiding his primal nature from London society. But now a vicious killer threatens to expose his secrets. Ian must step out of the shadows and protect the beautiful, fearless Daisy, who awakens in him desires he thought long dead. As their quest to unmask the villain draws them closer together, Daisy has no choice but to reveal her own startling secret, and Ian must face the undeniable truth: Losing his heart to Daisy may be the only way to save his soul.

I fell in love with Daisy and Ian from the very beginning. Having had no real feelings for them while reading Firelight, this surprised me somewhat, but they are fabulous. Daisy is smart, has a strong will, and is absolutely captivating. After years of abuse at the hands of her husband she has some scars - inner and outer - to work past and seeing her overcome them with Ian was perfect. Speaking of Ian, he's utterly perfect. He has demons that haunt him, and fights himself nearly every step of his life - against his memories, his clan, and his lycanthropy. The one thing he doesn't fight is his respect and desire for Daisy. I was with them every step of the way, watching them fall in love, and sighing in delight as they fit themselves together.

Though I guessed who the killer werewolf was fairly early in the story, it didn't stop it from being an emotionally charged suspenseful storyline. Every moment that Daisy and Ian spent on the trail, trying to save more innocent lives, was absolutely gripping to me. And the resolution nearly had me in tears.

I felt like the world building was strong and simple in Firelight, there wasn't a lot of extraneous detail bogging down the story and I loved it for that. Moonglow continues in that same vein. Beautifully evocative descriptions painted the picture of this Darkest London as we are handing bits and pieces to make the world a bit larger, clearer and more vivid. As we're introduced to more and more supernatural beings I never felt like it was getting too crowded or confusing, rather I just wanted more and more. Several of my friends were enamoured of the GIMs (and I won't spoil what they are), but while I'm intrigued, I'm still figuring out what I feel in general, though I absolutely loved something so different from anything I'd read before being introduced into this dark and lovely world.

While I don't think one needs to read Firelight prior to reading Moonglow I'm not sure why anyone wouldn't. Both are excellent books, with fantastic characters, and a detailed, growing world. There's a slight cliff-hanger at the end of Moonglow with regards to another set of characters that might have fans on the edge of their seats anticipating the next book.

I was greatly anticipating this book from the moment I finished Firelight, which I loved and couldn't put down. Kristen Callihan did not disappoint and in fact I think she continues to get better and better! I loved this book from the moment I picked it up, the characters are my favorites in the series, and I grew more enamoured of the world through each page. Now I really can't wait for Winterblaze which is due out February 2013.

Grade: A-
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