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A Paranormal Romance – “Kiss Me Deadly” by Michelle Hauf

There’s a sub-group of romance novels for Historical romance, and apparently one for pregnancy romance, so why the heck wouldn’t there be paranormal romance novels?

I blame “Twilight.”

But then again, I’d like to blame a lot of things on “Twilight.”

Nikolaus Drake is a powerful Vampire – leader of a small group of Minneapolis vampires.  Ravin Crosse is a sexy witch who hates all vampires and slays them with fearless abandon.  Witches blood apparently instantly kills vampires.  When a glass bullet containing Ravin’s blood splashes on Nikolaus, it takes him months to recover from the damage.  As he heals, he dreams of revenge against the witch.  Finally healed, he goes to her home – and it happens to be on the night she’s brewing a love potion for the Devil.  (Ravin bartered her soul to the Devil for the ability to clearly Vampires clearly.)  The potion spills on him, and he falls in love with her.  Though she’s aware he’s just under a spell, she falls for it and their passion carries them through several sensual scenes.

As it was just a potion, though,  it wears off, and Nikolaus is pissed.  However, as he’s both survived witch’s blood and shagged a witch, he’s become super-duper powerful and needs Ravin.  In fact, he’s actually in love with her.  And she, despite hating vampires with every ounce of her soul, loves him back.  The Devil shows up and demands Ravin’s first-born, which leads her to realize that – gasp! she’s pregnant! – and there’s a battle, which the good guys win (though the Devil isn’t defeated.)

There are also werewolves.

That’s about it, actually.  The ending of the book clearly leaves the door open for a sequel – like, say, what happens when Ravin actually has the baby that the Devil wants.  As I probably won’t stick around to read the sequel, that was a bit of a let-down.

It’s not a bad book – it’s just a bit meh.  There’s not enough action and far too much description.  That said, if you want your romance with a side of vampire – this one’s for you.

Me, I’ll stick to “True Blood.” 🙂

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What a Widow Desires – “A Rake’s Guide to Seduction” by Caroline Linden

Imagine my surprise when, a few pages into “A Rake’s Guide to Seduction,” by Caroline Linden, I realized it was a sequel to another book I read this month – “What a Rogue Desires.”

The previous book dealt with the wealthy Reece family’s scoundrel son, David, and his attraction to/relationship with a street thief named Vivian.

This new book, “A Rake’s Guide..” is the story of David’s younger sister Celia.

Beautiful and spunky Celia is the belle of the ball during her Season in London.  She accepts a marriage proposal from a dreamy young man, and marries him.  A few unhappy years pass before the young husband dies.  Depressed, Celia returns to her family home and her doting Mother’s beliefs that a large party will make everything all better.  All of the family friends and acquaintances arrive for the week-long party, including Anthony Hamilton, a gambler/womanizer friend of Celia’s brothers.  Of course, Anthony has been harboring feelings for Celia since her first Season in London (and even asked for permission to ask her to marry him just a few hours too late!) and their relationship takes off like a rocket.

Seriously.  In the middle of some naughtiness in the library, they’re walked in on.  This is when the idea that Anthony should marry Celia comes in.  Neither wants to force the other into marriage, though they can’t deny their attraction to each other.

Then, for some reason, there’s a woman claiming to be Anthony’s wife and to have his child – and a jealous young man with debts and a gun.  The ending gets a little chaotic, and like Ms. Linden was trying to milk every possible bit of excitement out of these characters.  By the end, it’s all gone back to normal and of course there’s a wedding.

Ta-da!

I enjoyed “What a Rogue Desires” way more than “A Rake’s Guide to Seduction.”  I recognize that several of the books in this genre are obviously going to be somewhat formulaic, but this one didn’t keep me hooked.  Celia and Anthony are nowhere near as fun a couple as David and Vivian were.

Caroline Linden is super at writing these types of books, but I think this one just never finds its real focus.  Is it a book about a forbidden marriage?  If so, it’s not really that forbidden?  Is it about Anthony’s past?  If so, Celia doesn’t really care about it.  The book lacks a pulsing central conflict to keep a reader burning to read more.

SuchABookNerd Smut Index: 5.   Other than a few moments of steam, there’s not much to get hyped about.

Romance AND Murder! Sha-zam! – “How to Woo a Reluctant Lady” by Sabrina Jeffries

Huzzah for books that are part of a series, yet don’t require having read the other books in said series to understand them.  I would never have known that “How to Woo a Reluctant Lady” was the third book in a series – it’s such a treat of a read on it’s own, it needs no introduction nor follow-up.

(Not to mention – what a title, huh?!)

This book was a blast.  Part historical romance, part bodice-ripper, part regency-era “Law and Order,” it’s sure to please anyone.

Lady Minerva Sharpe doesn’t need a man.  She’s a successful writer and just fine on her own.  Her Grandmother, however, decides to hold back her inheritance unless she finds someone to marry.  Minerva no dummy, decides to get back at her Grandmother by interviewing husbands who respond to an ad she placed in a newspaper, in the hopes that her Grandmother would rather hand over the money than see her marry some guy off the street.  However, into the fray walks barrister/rogue Giles Martin, whom Minerva has been steamed at since they shared a kiss on her nineteenth birthday.  Giles is in love with her, but all she sees in him this time around is the perfect foil – a rake-ish scoundrel her Grandmother can’t possibly approve of her marrying.

It isn’t until Giles and Minerva wind up investigating the death of Minerva’s parents years ago that sparks begin to fly.    Giles works his charms, Minerva surrenders, and the two of them fall into each others longing arms – and still manage to unravel a years-old mystery at the same time.  It ends neatly and happily.

“How to Woo a Reluctant Lady” is great fun, and if you’re looking for a book to gently wade into the waters of romance novels, I’d suggest it.  It’s a silly, sexy, adventure.

SuchABookNerd Smut Index: 7.  There are, in particular, one scene at an Inn and one scene in a pond that are steamy as can be.

The Heiress and the Convict – “Passion’s Promise” by Danielle Steel

As if this month-long project could even consider being complete without at least one appearance by Ms. Steel.  Come on, she’s an institution – and it’s not hard to see why.  Years ago, I read “The Promise” at my Mom’s urging and remember thinking it was a completely bizarre book that was weirdly engrossing.

“Passion’s Promise” fits that description, too. Not a traditional trashy romance novel, it’s more complicated than that.  Take “Gossip Girl,” and blend it with any number of good girl meets bad boy plots, and you’re getting close.

Beautiful Heiress Kezia St. Martin doesn’t just lead a double life – she leads a triple life.  There’s Kezia St. Martin, party-going dazzler famous world-wide and no stranger to the tabloids, accompanied by a probably-gay sorta-boyfriend.  In a twist, she also goes by the byline “Martin Hallam” and writes a wildly successful column about the goings-on in her social circles.  The third life is the one she likes the most – as legit writer K.S. Miller, who pens intelligent articles about poverty and such and dates an artist in SoHo.

You see, Kezia is more than just a pretty face.  She yearns for more.  When she meets Lucas Johns, a former convict who’s now a leading voice for prison reform, she finds herself falling in love with him, torn between all the worlds she’s become so good at juggling.  Is Lucas too dangerous for her, or is their life together going to work?

It’s all salacious and cliche-ridden.  Drunk society women stumble through the streets and throw themselves off buildings in furs.  The rich are shallow and the poor/middle-class are worthwhile people.  The rough-and-tumble dudes are the heroes, and the woman at the center of it all is so remarkable everyone around her falls at her feet.

Despite all that, it’s a really good read.  Danielle Steel has acquired her household name for a reason.  If this is the kind of book you’re looking for, you can’t do better than “Passion’s Promise.”  Ms. Steel writes with bold strokes and makes no apologies for anything – silly twists, moments of ridiculous dialogue, and a slightly “wtf” ending.

Danielle Steel is made of win. The End.

I Missed the Moonlight – “Dancing in the Moonlight” by RaeAnne Thayne

There isn’t actually any dancing in the moonlight in “Dancing in the Moonlight.”

There are a few kisses in the wee hours of the morning, but I can’t recall any actual dancing at all – so where the title comes from, I have no idea.

The book begins with a good enough concept;  Lieutenant Magdalena (Maggie) Cruz has returned to her hometown after a tour of duty in Afghanistan that ended when she lost a leg in an explosion.  Healing physically and emotionally, the last thing she expects is to find herself attracted to hunky hometown doctor Jake Dalton – especially since Maggie has been mad at the Dalton family for years since she blames them for her fathers death.  For his part, Jake’s been in love with Maggie forever, and is willing to accept her – scars and all – but will she let him into her heart?

(Not to spoil anything, but it ends like you think it ends.)

Unfortunately, even with a potentially interesting plot, RaeAnne Thayne’s “Dancing in the Moonlight” is far from my favorite book I’ve read this month.  Though I appreciate the idea of a leading lady who is struggling with a real physical ailment that beats down her self-esteem, the whole thing left me pretty disinterested.  The most interesting characters in the whole book turn out to be Maggie’s feisty mother and the Uncle/Ranch Manager she’s squabbling with for mysterious reasons.

“Dancing in the Moonlight” appears to be the second book in a trilogy about the Dalton brothers.  However, I wouldn’t have known this while reading the book.  Though Jake’s brothers are mentioned, they’re not dwelled upon, and “Dancing in the Moonlight” is it’s own story.   I consider this a plus, as it’s always a bummer to pick up a book and realize you’ve missed a whole bunch of important information.

There’s nothing in this book I haven’t read before, and nothing to really keep you engrossed.  Oh well, next!

SuchABookNerd Smut Index: 3.  Much like some of the other Western-themed books of this genre I’ve read, it’s tame.  Smoldering glances, stolen kisses, and one climactic love scene are about all you get.

Not that magical, actually – “Spellbound” by Nora Roberts

Obviously, Nora Roberts had to appear sometime in February.  The woman, like Danielle Steel, is an institution – and a household name to boot.

So, I expected more from “Spellbound.” What I read was a jumbled mess.

Calin Farrell (not Colin Farrel, that’s how I read it at first too) is a famous photographer who’s burned out, yet in search of something.  Encouraged to take a break, he decides to go to Ireland and winds up meeting a woman he’s been dreaming about his entire life.   Like, every night of his life.  Her name is Bryna, she’s a witch, and they’ve been destined for each other through centuries. Or something.  Now that Calin has returned to her, he must accept all this magic as truth in time to help Bryna stand up against an evil dude who also wants possession of her.

The plot’s a disaster, to be sure.  I’m still not entirely sure why Bryna does the things she does, and why/how Calin chooses the decision he makes in the climactic moments.  I’m still also not entirely convinced the bad guy is as bad as he’s supposed to be.  In addition, the characters are completely one-dimensional.  She’s pretty. He takes pictures. Character development, done.

I’m presuming I happened to pick one of Ms. Roberts’ lesser works, as no one sells as many copies as she does without some gifts somewhere.

I grabbed another of the author’s books, and that review will appear shortly.

Long story short –  “Spellbound” hardly captivated me.  Bummer.

SuchABookNerd Smut Index: 3.5? “Spellbound” is more about the greater, more transforming pleasures (and power) of love than the carnal ones.  At least, I think that was the point.

Short & Smutty – “Make Mine Midnight” by Annmarie McKenna

<– There’s not a whole lot more I can say about “Make Mine Midnight” then “Please see the cover to the left.”

At a New Years Eve party, erotica writer Claire is approached by two drop-dead gorgeous hunks who want to take her home.  Their names are Mason and Hunter, and they’ve been in love with Claire since they were nerds in high school with her.

From there, it’s all about smut – as the threesome head home and naughtiness reigns all over the place.

(Then there’s also some discussion about the three of them living the rest of their lives together as a trio – and how the guys worry that Claire will be shunned by people who learn of their lifestyle.  Because, you see, the guys just want her to be happy.)

However, it’s not about the plot.  It’s about the smut. And there’s lots of it, especially for what a quick read it is.

So, if you’re looking for a dirty little ditty, this might be right up your alley.

SuchABookNerd Smut Index: 9.5.  It’s pretty off the chain. No joke.

Rock & Roll & Russian Mobsters – “Turbulent Sea” by Christine Feehan

Joley Drake is a massive rock star.  She’s also some sort of weird magical person who feels people’s auras like they’re songs. (I guess?) Her bodyguard, Illya, may or may not have ties to the Russian mafia.  That, however, doesn’t stop Joley from falling into a passionate relationship with him.  Since someone is trying to kill Joley while her band is on tour, having her bodyguard paying extra close attention doesn’t hurt.

“Turbulent Sea” is a little confusing.  In it’s defense, it’s part of a larger series about the Drake sisters.  I’m sure if I’d read those other books the magical powers these women possess and the past adventures that are referred to throughout the book would make sense.  As a stand-alone book, there’s an awful lot of names and incidents referred to, which I fully admit to skimming.

After all this build-up about magic and auras, the book ends a little disappointingly.  There’s no apocalyptic battle between good and evil or anything.  Just a few handy resolutions, a short car chase, and a character you think is a good guy really isn’t.  Ta-Da.  Neatly resolved. Done and Done.

Author Christine Feehan clearly loves the characters she’s created, and invests great amounts of literary energy into making the reader feel the same.

I didn’t leave this book needing to know all the secrets of The Drake Sisters, but I’m not sorry I read it.  That counts for something, right?

SuchABookNerd Smut Index: 8.5.  Whether or not the plot is jumbled, the dirty scenes are pretty hard-core.

An Infuriating Train Wreck – “The Flame and the Flower” by Kathleen W. Woodiwiss

This book makes me so angry.

Can we talk for a moment about how annoyed I get when a book/movie/whatever has a plot that involves a woman falling in love with her rapist?  I don’t buy it.  Yet, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ “The Flame and the Flower,” recognized as the first historical romance novel, takes that plot and builds a story around it.

Poor Irish girl Heather lives with her abusive aunt and push-over Uncle.  She’s staggeringly beautiful, yet since she’s lived her whole life in hand-me-downs while working her butt off, she has no idea.  When a rich relation comes to take her away to London for what appears to be a job teaching at a girls school, Heather is elated – until the rich relation tries to have his way with her and she fights him until he falls on his knife.  Fleeing to the street, Heather is caught by a group of men who take her back to a ship and deliver her to Brandon, their captain, who rapes her.  (This is “explained” by the fact that – due to the way she was dressed – he thought she was a common prostitute.  Which, I guess, makes it okay.) Over the course of the next night and day, he rapes her some more before she grabs an unloaded gun and threatens his crew until she’s set free.

Returning home to her abusive aunt, it’s quickly discovered that she’s pregnant, and the aunt hatches a plan to get Brandon to marry her.  Brandon, weirdly, goes along with it (which is explained by his being “noble”) and soon Heather and Brandon are wed.  From there, he proceeds to tell her how much he didn’t want to marry her and how unpleasant her life will be now.  Had she only agreed to become his mistress, he would have been nicer to her.

Yeah, you’re as sold on this dude as I am. I can tell.

But then he buys her a whole new exquisite wardrobe and sails her off to a beautiful house in America (away from her beloved homeland of England without her having any choice in the matter, which is apparently also not that big a deal) and it starts to get okay.

This is also where it starts turning into a “Gone With the Wind” rip-off.  Dark-haired, Irish-tempered Heather turns into a fine lady of the south while assisted by her African-American servant (who’s name is Hatti – you know that GWTW’s Mammy was played by Hattie McDaniel, right?) and doing emotional battle with her also dark-haired, devilishly handsome rogue husband. It pains me to compare this book to my beloved “Gone With the Wind,” but the comparison becomes too obvious to overlook.  Brandon and Heather pale miserably in comparison to the literary legends that are Rhett and Scarlett.

Then some southern girls get murdered, and Heather gets blackmailed for the dude who fell on his knife, and there’s a deformed tailor running around and she gets attacked in the woods and oh, isn’t this all terribly exciting and epic?  No, in fact.  “The Flower and the Flame” is a train wreck of a novel.  I couldn’t resist reading the most ridiculous passages to my husband.  Also, maybe it’s just the Kindle e-book edition, but halfway through the book ‘Mr. Hunt” became “Mr. Hint” and never recovered.

If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s like “Gone with the Wind meets Valley of the Dolls meets Flowers in the Attic and they all had a special child who thinks rape is okay.”

Here’s just a taste of how awful it all is, as Brandon (the husband/rapist) and Heather talk about Mr. Court (the rich relation who tried to rape Heather at the beginning.)  Brandon begins;

“..He got what he deserved for trying to rape you.”

She looked at him slyly.  “You were the one who raped me.  What were your just desserts?”

He grinned leisurely.  “I received my just desserts when I had to marry a cocky wench like you.”

You guys.  I’m not kidding.

Thank Goodness that, thanks to the aid of modern romance writers, the historical romance genre has come a long way since then.

I’m probably going to be mad at this book for years.

SuchABookNerd Smut Index: 6.  Sex is more talked around than talked about.

Smut Ahoy, Matey! – “Pleasuring the Pirate” by Emily Bryan

As far as titles go, it doesn’t get much better than “Pleasuring the Pirate,” does it?

The very moment I found out this book was a real, true thing, I knew it needed to be included in this month of romance novels.

So it’s with great happiness that I can tell you, the book doesn’t disappoint.  Emily Bryan knows what’s up and never lets a dull line pass her pages.

The story shares a lot of similarities with a few titles already reviewed here.  We’ve got a nice girl who needs to tame a wild man so he fits into society, but in turn he ignites her innermost fires.  There are traces of “Some Like it Wild” and “Wild,” but “Pleasuring the Pirate” is it’s own tale with it’s own vividly drawn characters.

Jacquelyn Wren came to the castle of Dragon Caern to be it’s governess, but wound up becoming practically the master of the house after Lord Drake’s death.  When a Pirate named Gabriel Drake appears, and turns out to be the long-lost son of Lord Drake, it falls to Jacquelyn to get him up to speed on manners so he can marry a wealthy lady and save the castle for all it’s inhabitants.

There’s a problem, though.  You guessed it – Jacquelyn and Gabriel have had the hots for each other since their first encounter (when she, dressed as a boy, was defending the castle from this new lord who everyone assumed had come to take the castle) and their passion can’t be tamed.  Jacquelyn is a good girl, and a virgin, but she’s soon swayed by Gabriel and things heat up.

I won’t spoil the ending, but the book is actually very charming and fast-paced.  It’s a little weak on plot, but then again – with steam like this, who needs it?  Jacquelyn and Gabriel are solid characters, and the book gets a thumbs up from me.

SuchaBookNerd Smut Index: This one gets a 9 – as there are a couple of truly dirty moments in the book, and Jacquelyn (though innocent) doesn’t take long to get into the swing of things. 😉