Saturday, February 28, 2009

Private Arrangements, by Sherry Thomas


Donna told me that if I read this book, I would not be disappointed. She was correct. Sherry Thomas is a new author to me, and I'm glad I picked up Donna's tip from the Quickie she posted.

Private Arrangements is the story of Gigi Rowland, a wealthy industrialist's daughter,  and Camden Saybrook, destitute heir to a dukedom and the cousin of Gigi's recently dead husband to be. When they meet, it is love at first sight for Gigi, but Camden is in love with someone else. Gigi decides that what Camden wants doesn't matter and she does something to clear the way for him to marry her.  When Camden finds out the truth, hours before his wedding to Gigi, he decides to go forward with it anyway.  He then wreaks revenge on her so completely that they spend the next decade on different continents with totally separate lives, despite Gigi's desperate attempts to make things right between them.

The story, on the surface, is about two people who are so selfish and immature, that they sabotage what could be a happy marriage for the sake of pride and revenge. However, it's really about two people who are so in love, yet so hurt by the other's actions, that they can't find their way past the now (and then as well) insignificant thing that drove them apart in the first place.

When Gigi demands a divorce after 10 years of this non-marriage, Camden returns to England with one final request that sets in motion the path their futures will take, and Sherry Thomas does not make this path easy nor quick, to our delight.

We also meet Gigi's mother, Victoria Rowland and the Duke of Perrin, a neighbor and acquaintance she's known for 30 years. This secondary story line is a good counterpoint to the main one. It explains the complex relationship between Gigi and her mother, and Camden and his mother-in-law. And it's nice to see some older protagonists have their own romance in a romance novel.

Interestingly enough, I started out not particularly liking any of the characters, but the book is so well-written that I had no compunction about finishing it.  By the middle of the story, I was firmly in Gigi's corner, hoping that Camden had grown up enough to see that what he thought was the basis of his original argument was not important after all, and too much time had been wasted already.

Sherry Thomas set this book in the late 1800's over a period of 11 years, and uses flashbacks to tell the story. I like this period of time in a novel. There are enough modern conveniences, like reliable trans-Atlantic crossings, convenient train transportation and big cities across the pond (New York City in this case), to make the story move quickly, and make it infintely more interesting. I'm looking forward to reading Ms. Thomas' next novel, Delicious, which I'm told by a reliable source, is also very, very good.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Trouble with Valentines Day, by Rachel Gibson


Still on my contemporary romance kick and still prowling the shelves at B & N, I found myself in the “G” section – which could only mean one thing. I was about to buy another book written by Rachel Gibson. Will that be cash or credit?

Meet Private Investigator Kate Hamilton. Disillusioned after a normal client turns psycho and her latest boyfriend, in a long line of noncommittal losers, dumps her, Kate returns to Gospel, Idaho to spend time with her recently widowed grandfather.  Kate is determined to help her grandfather cope with his loss while using the quiet of the small town to forget that last horrific case and her lack of anything even remotely resembling a love life.

On the way out to Gospel, Kate finds herself alone in a bar on the blackest of days for those without dates or mates. With little self-esteem and a head full of hot-buttered rum, she surprises herself by propositioning the good-looking stranger sitting next to her. But ex-NHL hockey star Rob Sutter promptly turns her down without even bothering to be polite. His successful skating career ended in a scene that gives the term “Fatal Attraction” a new meaning and Rob has every right to be wary of strangers in a bar.

Kate and her wounded pride limp into Gospel where she throws herself into the daily routine of helping her grandfather run the small supermarket he owns. But her fitful start at peaceful healing is abruptly derailed by an introduction to the good-looking owner of the local sporting goods store.  Rob Sutter is just as surprised to see Kate, but doesn't even hint he remembers the bar until they're alone. And that's when the fun begins.

Is Gospel really big enough for the both of them?

The Trouble with Valentine’s Day is a great read – quick, funny and chock full of that sexual tension we love. The plot is well conceived, the characters are believable, and the ending is perfect. It’s like getting a dozen roses, a big box of chocolates, and a day at the spa.

And it’s not even February 14th.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Heather and Velvet by Teresa Medeiros


Most historical romances are pretty straight forward. There is a hero. There is a heroine. They either hate each other at first glance and it takes the entire book to get them together, or it's love at first sight and problems just get in the way of the happily ever after.  This book, by Teresa Medeiros, has a little of both.

Prudence Walker is the demure orphaned daughter of a scientist who blew himself up during a gunpowder experiment. She is sent to live with her father's sister, Tricia, who collects husbands and titles like a stamp collector collects stamps. Prudence has a chance encounter in the woods near her Northumberland home with the Dreadful Scot Bandit Kirkpatrick, a notorious Scottish highwayman. When she helps him out of a painful bind, the sparks fly.

Sebastian Kerr, bastard son of a Highland laird, turns to a life of crime when his ancestral home is "stolen" after the death of his abusive father. He has turned to robbing the rich in order to regain his rightful inheritance. When Prudence helps him after an injury,  he fears for her life. She has seen his face, and his maternal grandfather, the ringleader of Sebastian's band of not so merry men with a secret of his own, orders her death.  Sebastian sends her away, despite his strong attraction, only to find her months later in the house of his betrothed (you guessed it), Prudence's Aunt Tricia. Sebastian has become Tricia's latest addition to her collection.

Thus begins this beguiling story of love and intrigue in late 18th century northern England and Scotland.  There are so many plot twists and turns that you'll find yourself anxiously waiting to turn the page, and at the same time, covering your eyes and peeking through your fingers at the next.  The wonderful thing about this story is the entire cast of  secondary characters. From Sebastian's loyal men to Tricia's comically funny friends and on to  Lord Killian MacKay, the man Sebastian has sworn revenge against but who has a surprise of his own for the Highland bandit, the book just overflows with colorful, lovable characters.

The love story is sweet and sensuous. You can almost physically feel the pull between Prudence and Sebastian. Teresa Medeiros has a writing style all her own.  She writes with a sharp sense of wit and an affinity for finding ways to put her characters in untenable situations that they invariably find their way out of.  Her books are always a roller coaster ride of the very best sort. And the fact that kilts and plaids and a very sexy Scottish burr find their way onto every page certainly does not hurt matters in the least.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

To Beguile A Beast, by Elizabeth Hoyt

51kofuemkjl_sl500_aa240_Reader beware, once you start this book you will have multiple problems putting it down! I packed it to work with me, and had to wait until lunch to crack it open and continue. This is such a spell-binding tale, you won't want it to end!

To Beguile a Beast is book three in The Legend of the Four Soldiers series. The beast is Sir Alistair Munroe, an acclaimed naturalist who found himself with the soldiers of Spinner's Falls when they were ambushed by Native American warriors. Sir Alistair was among those who watched their comrades be tortured, and endured torture themselves. He is disfigured; missing an eye, a few fingers, and has several scars on one side of his face. Children and women scream at the sight of him, so to avoid such uncomfortable occurrences, he hides in his castle, away from the world and anyone who might pity him. His life is spent in solitude, writing about nature and illustrating what he sees, until the day the lovely Helen Fitzwilliam and her two children knock on his door on a rainy night.

Helen, the former mistress to the Duke of Lister, is on the run. The Duke is possessive, and she longs to be free and out from under his thumb and the control he has over her life. The Duke does not like for his possessions to run off without his permission, so Helen, with the help of Lady Vale, presents herself to Sir Alistair to be his housekeeper with the hope that the Duke would never find her at such a remote location in Scotland. She and Lady Vale have created a back story, where Helen is a widow and looking for employment as a housekeeper. Lady Vale doesn't relate to Helen that Sir Alistair is a recluse and has a castle that hasn't seen a broom in well over twenty years. Helen is determined to make the castle habitable, and sets out to win over Sir Alistair and his uncivilized manner towards everyone, even after he banishes her from his home.

Sir Alistair is taken aback, to be sure, but a growing fondness for Jamie and Abigail, Helen's children, and his attraction to Helen herself, starts him on the path to becoming human again. Helen is also drawn to Sir Alistair; ignoring his scars and flaws, she sees the man underneath and realizes that he can see the woman hidden inside. Their mutual desire for each other plays out beautifully as they give in to their longing. Their relationship is strained when the children are taken by the Duke, and Helen is forced to reveal her true story. They both head to London to rescue the children and Sir Alistair is determined to find out a little more about the traitor of Spinner's Falls. In a comical scene, where Sir Alistair outsmarts the Duke by forcing him to disclaim his children in front of His Majesty King George, the children are rescued and returned to their mother safe and sound.

There are so many things I could say about this book. As always, Elizabeth Hoyt's characters are intriguing; they are flawed to perfection and written in such a spell-binding way that you cannot help but be drawn in and fall in love with all of them. This book will be available in April of 2009, so be sure to pick it up!