Author: Eve Gaddy
Genre: Contemporary Romance/ Romantic Suspense
Publisher/ pub date: Bell Bridge Books, May 1, 2013
I'm a fan of "second chance" books, as well as firefighter books, so I enjoyed Fully Engaged because it combines both. Not only was the romance hot (pardon the pun), but so was the suspense.
Rick Montana dropped out of Callie Kilpatrick's life nine years previously, when he broke off their engagement over the phone. He was unaware that she was pregnant, and that she subsequently lost the baby. When she finally got over Rick, Callie's new fiance, Johnny, was killed in a fire, which was believed to be arson. However, no real investigation ever took place.
Callie can't believe that Rick's back in her life, and that he's a firefigher now. The last she heard, he was a journalist. Not only is he on her firefighting crew, but he's also her partner.
Fully Engaged truly engages readers. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough, and learned a lot about wildfires, and the dangerous life of firefighters. However, the suspense didn't overshadow the romance.
Rick's a wonderful hero. He left Callie because his father lied. As soon as Rick learns that it was a lie, he sets out to get Callie back because he loves her. Callie can't fight her attraction to Rick, however she can't forget Johnny either.
All the characters in this novel are wonderful, the leads, as well as the secondary characters. The book pulls you in; I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. It's action-packed, sensual, and a fast read. And there are animals -- who can resist wild life and their carers? I rarely reread books, but I'll be rereading this one because I enjoyed every moment of it.
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5 stars)
(A review copy was provided.)
Title: Highlander Most Wanted
Author: Maya Banks
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Ballantine Books (March, 2013)
The legions of Maya Banks' fans will be thrilled with Highlander Most Wanted, the second book in her Montgomerys and Armstrongs series. The heroine of this book, Genevieve McInnes, is the hooded woman who helped to save Eveline Montgomery in the previous book.
(If you haven't read the previous book, Never Seduce a Scot, you can read this book as a standalone. However, reading Never Seduce a Scot will give you a better understanding of the characters, and you should read it anyway, because it's wonderful.)
There's a good reason Genevieve's hooded. Although one side of her face is perfect, the other is hideously scarred. Ian McHugh slashed her with a knife to ruin her beauty. However, the scars on her body mean less to her than the scars on her soul. Although she's still alive, she believes that the woman she once was is dead.
Genevieve's misery began when Ian McHugh saw her at court and became obsessed with her. When she was on the way to her betrothed, he slaughtered her escort and stole her. He's kept her a prisoner and tortured her over many months. Her family believes that she is dead, and she feels it's better that they never know what happened. Her rape and dishonor would kill her father.
Now that the monster Ian McHugh is dead, and his father Patrick has run away, the McHugh clan are left to face the wrath of the Montgomerys.
Although the McHugh clan have shunned and ill-treated her, Genevieve's deeply compassionate. With the Montgomery clan on the way to the McHughs to destroy them, Genevieve commits herself to speaking up, and to trying to save McHugh lives. She wants nothing for herself, other than to be allowed to leave, and if she's very lucky, to be delivered to a nunnery.
No one writes historical romance better than Maya Banks. The warrior Bowen Montgomery is instantly attracted to Genevieve, but he's suspicious, and doesn't trust her. Although she's saved McHugh lives, the McHughs hate her. They call her her Ian McHugh's whore. She doesn't deny it.
Reading the book is a real effort at times, because just when you think that things couldn't possibly get any worse for Genevieve, they do. If any other author had written this book, it would descend into melodrama. Maya Banks never allows that to happen. The book's engrossing, and you'll love both Genevieve and the hero, Bowen.
It seems impossible that Genevieve will ever find any happiness. Little by little however, Bowen begins to see the woman underneath the walls Genevieve's built around herself. He comes to respect her more and more, and eventually to love her.
I couldn't tear myself away from this book. I read it in one sitting, staying awake long into the night. If you love Highland romances, you'll adore this book. I've read every one of Maya Banks' highland books, and this is the best yet.
Rating: 5 (out of 5 stars)
(A review copy was provided.)
Title: Amber Road
Author: Boyd Anderson
Published: January, 2013
Imprint: Bantam Australia
The place and the era: Singapore in February 1942. The battle of Singapore lasted just seven days. Winston Churchill called it the worst disaster in British history, because as the largest British military base in South-East Asia, Singapore was felt to be impregnable.
I was excited about Amber Road, because other novels I've read which featured the fall of Singapore concentrated on the English characters. The heroine of Amber Road, Victoria Khoo, is Chinese. This gave the book an entirely different perspective.
Victoria's only 17, and lives a privileged life. She's Scarlett O'Hara, vain and self-absorbed, and her entire world is about to be gone with the wind. She wants and expects to marry golden boy, Sebastian Boustead, who's just "come down" from Cambridge. She gets a nasty shock, however. Sebastian's welcome home party is also an engagement party; his fiancee, Elizabeth Nightingale, arrives on the ship with him.
After growing up with Sebastian, who's her brother's best friend, Victoria looks on him as hers, and a little thing like a fiancee has no effect on her plans. After the fall of Singapore, she figures that Elizabeth's too weak to last long. Elizabeth will conveniently die, and Sebastian will be hers.
Although I enjoyed the book, I never felt that we got to know the characters: what made them tick. Victoria's focus on herself is absolute, and she's an innocent. She's a young girl of her era, so she misinterprets the actions of those around her: her family, Sebastian, Elizabeth, the various Japanese officers, as well as Joe Spencer, an Australian intelligence officer (probably) who's fallen for her.
I say "probably" about Joe Spencer, because much of the story is told from Victoria's point of view, and Victoria doesn't know much. We get some commentary from her father and brother, but mostly we're in Victoria's head. She doesn't understand the motivations and feelings of the people around her, and she rarely understands what's happening in Singapore.
The story is good, but reading the novel is frustrating. It could have been fantastic, if the author had given us more from people like Joe, Mr Khoo, Rose the brothel keeper, and Elizabeth. Instead, mostly we're stuck with Victoria, who gets into dangerous situations without realizing her danger.
In short, great characters, great era, but many missed chances. I'd love to see a sequel to the book, focusing on one of the minor characters.
Rating: 3.5 (out of 5 stars)
(A review copy was provided.)
Book Review: Running Wild: The Men from Battle Ridge (Romantic Suspense/ Western)
By Linda Howard and Linda Jones
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Western
Publisher: Ballantine Books (November 27, 2012)
We're in present day Texas. Carlin Reed flees her homicidal stalker. He kills Carlin's colleague, mistaking the woman for Carlin. Carlin eventually ending up in Battle Ridge, a small town in Wyoming.
Although she's tired of running, Carlin knows that she must be wary. Her stalker, Brad, is a cop with "hacker"-level computer skills. If he finds her, he'll kill her. She doesn't know what else to do, except run.
Kat, the owner of the Pie Hole eatery in Battle Ridge, hires Carlin, and gives her a place to stay. Zeke Decker is Kat's cousin. He owns a ranch an hour out of town, and needs a cook and housekeeper. Kat recommends Carlin, because she won't be able to keep Carlin on over the winter. However, Carlin overhears Zeke referring to her as a "stray", which makes her angry.
Of course, Carlin ends up at the ranch. We watch as she and Zeke use sharp banter to cover their intense attraction. Carlin settles in at the ranch. She agrees to stay over the winter, because she's running out of money.
Eventually of course, Brad comes for Carlin.
What I liked about the story
* I liked both Carlin and Zeke. Both are strong characters, with kindness at their core. Several scenes were wonderful: Carlin's terror when she thinks she sees Brad in the supermarket; her culinary disasters; Zeke teaching her how to shoot. I also liked the setting: you could feel the cold winter, and the wide open spaces.
* Zeke was all alpha male; Carlin was likable. It took them a little too long to meet. The book's initial setup scenes, between Zeke and his housekeeper Libby, and Brad stalking Carlin, took too long. However, I read the book in one sitting, and kept turning the pages with real interest;
* Humor -- the banter, and the dialogue in general, was terrific.
What I didn't like
* The "hacker" skills weren't credible, but this didn't spoil my enjoyment of the story;
* There was too much thinking. After every scene, Carlin or Deke, depending on the point of view character, would stop and think. This stopped the story dead, pardon the pun;
* As with many romantic suspense novels, the book had something of a split personality. There wasn't a lot of real suspense, and the romance could have used a little more intensity.
Quibbles aside however, I'm looking forward to reading much more about Battle Ridge. I'm a sucker for small town stories.
Rating 4 Stars (out of 5.)
Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy.