Saturday, February 21, 2009

Review of Vexing the Viscount by Emily Bryan

Every once in awhile I discover a new writer and I am filled with glee.  A fresh, new voice! An engaging story! Wonderful, fully-formed characters who are interesting, and more importantly, who I grow to care about as I read the novel! This was my reaction to reading Distracting the Duchess by Emily Bryan. (I also had this reaction when reading Candice Hern's In the Thrill of the Night and Elizabeth Hoyt's The Raven Prince).  I found Emily Bryan to be a unique voice in the land of historical romances. This genre has a tendency to be very formulaic, but when it's done well, it is a treat for the reader.  I had high expectations for Vexing the Viscount, and Bryan delivered. Vexing the Viscount is fantastique! (I apologize for breaking into francaise, but Blanche La Tour has inspired me, vraiment!) This book is the total package...witty humor, lusty sex, intriguing plot, great pacing, and marvelous characters.  I loved the unexpected flashback to Caius Meritus in ancient Rome.  It was a great device to pull you into the mystery that Daisy and Lucian are trying to solve. Caius' tragic love story is very touching and really brings history alive. C'est magnifique!  I must admit that when the premise for the story was revealed (virgin pretending to be a courtesan), I thought "Now how the heck is Bryan going to pull this one off?" Honestly, it was done incredibly well.  I highly recommend Vexing the Viscount.  And now I am off to find a croissant au chocolat! Au revoir! Grade: A
Bien a toi, Penelope

Friday, February 20, 2009

Review of Zen and the Art of Vampires by Katie MacAlister

Zen and the Art of Vampires by Katie MacAlister
I have found, in my vast wisdom as romance reader extraordinaire, that Katie MacAlister is somewhat inconsistent with her books.  Some of her stories are brilliant (Noble Intentions), some are not (Men in Kilts). Her light paranormals (the Aisling Grey Guardian series, Silver Dragon series, etc) are usually fun reads.  However, she is one of those authors who adores (1) first person narrative,  (2) irritating heroines, and (3) paranormal scenarios where the heroine has not a clue about what's going on and has a steep on the job learning curve.  I have a bit of a problem with irritating first person heroines who are clueless.  That being said, I have often enjoyed her stories, particularly the Silver Dragon series.  I grabbed a copy of Zen and the Art of Vampires at the airport recently, and proceeded to read the entire book on my flight (have I mentioned I'm a fast reader?).  I really enjoyed A Girl's Guide to Vampires and thought I would find this book entertaining.  I was disappointed for a variety of reasons.  In addition to being a clueless heroine, Pia Thomason sleeps with one vampire at the beginning of the story, and then sleeps with another (her true mate, and the coolest guy in the book) later on.  I don't mind "off-stage" prior relationships but dealing with 2 in one book made me somewhat uncomfortable in addition to making the heroine look wishy washy.  Also, the cool vampire (Kristoff) and Pia do not resolve their troubled relationship at the end of this book, clearing the way for a sequel, but potentially leaving the reader feeling a bit irked. (Yes, I felt irked, although I am totally digging Kristoff).  The cutest part of this book is the hodge podge group of ghosts that Pia must take care of, which gives MacAlister's quirky sense of humor a chance to shine.  Kristoff is a very intriguing character, and for this reason alone I will probably read the next book in the series.  Zen and the Art of Vampires is not MacAlister's best effort, but I'm hoping that Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang (which comes out in May 2009) will be worth the wait. Grade: B-
Pondering the future, Penelope 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Review of A Witch's Beauty by Joey W. Hill

A Witch's Beauty by Joey W. Hill
Holy Macarena! I just finished reading A Witch's Beauty, and I am having heart palpitations. I honestly didn't think that this book could best A Mermaid's Kiss, but it did! Hill is a powerful, sensual, intense writer. Mina and David are an amazing and monstrousness, strength and weakness, good and's all here. Mina is one of the most fascinating characters I have ever met. Her physical manifestation of the struggle between good and evil (half of her body is physical perfection, the other half grotesque) is a poignant symbol of her inner struggle to control her Dark One blood.   I usually have trouble with irritating heroines. It's a fine line for an author to create a character who is willful and prickly, while still maintaining some likability.  Mina is an incredibly well developed character and her emotional journey in this story is utterly satisfying. Although David is a wonderful character in his own right, this is Mina's story all the way. Hill's expertise as a story-teller is never more apparent than in the chapters leading up to the climatic battle scene with the Dark Ones. Boy, does she know how to build up the sickening anticipation of what was going to befall poor David (and Mina) in the Dark One's World.  I am ashamed to admit that I snuck at look at the final pages of the book to reassure myself before tackling those chapters...the awful apprehension was almost to much to bear! (I can't remember feeling that much anxiety since reading Stephen King's The Shining). Anyway, of course Hill takes her characters to Hell and back.  If I had to pick one word to describe this book and Hill's writing it would be...powerful. Wow. I am officially a Joey Hill addict (that's the sound of Amazon's CEO cackling with glee).  Grade: A+
Pleased as punch, Penelope

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Valentine Contest Winner

Congratulations to "Anonymous" who chose LaVryle Spencer's Morning Glory as the most romantic book. She won the drawing for a $15 gift certificate from Amazon.  Thanks to everyone who posted...our choices ranged from Danielle Steele to Jane Austen.  I hope that you all had a romantic Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Blast from the Past: Review of Simply Love by Mary Balogh

Simply Love by Mary Balogh (2007)
A friend of mine once commented on the fact that Mary Balogh does not have a sense of humor. True, there is no humor in her historicals, unlike Amanda Quick or Julie Garwood.  Balogh's stories are serious, sometimes emotionally wrenching, and perhaps even somber in tone. But I defy anyone to find a writer whose endings are as emotionally satisfying, and whose characters are as romantic as Balogh's.  Simply Love is one of the most touching and satisfying stories I have ever read.  I cry repeatedly while reading this book.  Balogh introduced Anne Jewell and Sydnam Butler (Sydnam, I love you!) in previous books as secondary characters, and thank the good Lord, she resurrected them in this wonderful tale.  Both have been badly beaten down by the events of their lives.  Their stilted dialogue and awkward courtship blossom into something glorious and life-affirming for both of them.  The symmetry of this story, two broken souls who are able to provide each other with the will and strength to embrace life once again, is simply perfect.  My only complaint about Simply Love is that I felt bereft when I finished it.  I wanted more!  It's everything romance should be. Grade: A+
Feeling inspired, Penelope

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Review of Never Been Witched by Annette Blair

Never Been Witched by Annette Blair
Let me just say, oh how refreshing it is to be reading an author whose books are getting BETTER as the series progresses, instead of steadily losing the magic (you know who you are!). Blair's voice has matured into a highly entertaining, engaging and "spell-binding" style of writing.  I simply could not put this book down.  I LOVE when that happens.  The pacing of her books is absolutely perfect.  They're fast, intense and suck the reader in with a vengeance. Never Been Witched is the story of Destiny (the final of the identical triplet witches) and Morgan, a disbeliever with hidden secrets. Honest to God, no one writes a love scene like Blair.  They are downright juicy (in a really good way!)- fun, flirty, sexy, completely original. And finding an original sex scene in romance is no small feat. Blair also weaves the emotional angle and the sexual attraction together in a totally convincing way, another challenge for every romance author.  The sweet paranormal touches (butterflies following the ghostly sister, for example), humorous language and snappy dialogue are superb.  Blair is setting a high bar for herself and future works, and I have no doubt she will rise to the challenge.  This book rocked the house! Grade: A+
Feeling somewhat witchy, Penelope

Valentine's Day Contest Closed!

Thanks to everyone who entered the Valentine's Day Contest.  Our romantic choices ranged from Jane Austen to Danielle it!  The winner will be announced later this week.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Valentine's Day Contest

To celebrate the most holy of all romance holidays (Valentine's Day!), Penelope is running a contest this week.  What is the most romantic book you have ever read? Leave a comment with the name and author of this love-inspiring book, and you might win a free paperback novel (value of $15.00 or less) of your choice from Amazon. Be sure to leave your name/email address so I can contact you if you win.  (If you're not comfortable leaving your email in a public post, then email me directly.) Penelope thinks that Mary Balogh is the most romantic author there is, and that Simply Love may be the most romantic book of all time. Happy Valentine's Day...I look forward to hearing about your favorite books!
With a loving heart, Penelope

Monday, February 2, 2009

Review for Dark Curse by Christine Feehan

Dark Curse by Christine Feehan
Christine Feehan has developed a winning recipe for her dark paranormal romance series. Take one sexy alpha-male Carpathian vampire, add a gorgeous female with an iron will, throw in an intriguing history of the Carpathian people (including a language that appears to roll off the tongue), and finish with heart-stopping vampire battles and incredibly steamy sex scenes. Feehan's baked herself a winning series that continues to fascinate her fans and keeps them clamoring for more.  Dark Curse is the 16th entry of the Dark Series, and I was spell bound by this installment. Lara Calladine is from the Dragonseeker line, and Nicolas De La Cruz is one of the domineering, arrogant and irresistible Carpathians.  This book has a couple of things that veer off her regular path which make it extraordinary, in my oh so humble opinion.  First of all, I love the council meeting with the warrior's such a treat to see all of these characters we have grown to love together in one scene.  I also adored the council meeting with their female counterparts, especially Shea struggling to uncover the medical mystery surrounding the deaths of their infants.  I'm digging how Feehan is portraying the females as powerful members of this race with their own special talents and abilities.  I cannot wait for Dark Slayer, which will be out in hardcover in September 2009. Check out Feehan's website for more info and to watch her amusing videos.  I hope that Feehan will not make her fans wait too long for the story of Skyler and Dimitri...there's nothing I like better than two tortured souls finding salvation with each other, and this pairing should produce an incredible book in this series. Grade: A
Loving her own life, Penelope