Untouched, Maisey Yates

The Silver Creek series are the first books I’ve read by Maisey Yates. I’ll be coming back for more.

Untouched is the 2nd book in the Silver Creek series, (although there was a short story first). In this book Lark, little sister to Cole and Cade, goes to work for the man everyone believes caused the “accident” which took Cade’s rodeo career and nearly his life. Of course Lark doesn’t realize this until she shows up, and in the best tradition of romance, Quinn Parker schemes and plots to get back at Cade for falsely accusing him and getting Quinn banned from rodeo competition for life.

This was a good read. I felt really invested in Lark and watching her grow up and stretch her wings a bit. In a book where she’s constantly complaining everyone treats her like a kid (and they do), I liked seeing her as the only one really acting mature, about both her profession and her relationship with Quinn. She sees past Quinn’s persona to see the real, sad little boy inside who is afraid to get hurt again, and does what she can to show him how much she cares, but she does it without giving ultimatums or throwing tantrums.

For Quinn’s part, he sees Lark as young, sure, but never as a child. He treats her as an adult who can make up her own mind. At one point she comes to him obviously upset and asks him for something. While his internal dialogue tells us he’s aware of how upset she is, Quinn doesn’t assume Lark doesn’t know what she’s asking. Which is more than can be said for Cole and Cade. Quinn and Lark are honest with each other about what is going on with Quinn’s rodeo career (and Cade’s involvement) and also their expectations of their relationship.

There’s a subplot with Sam and Jill from Quinn’s ranch which was unexpected, but I liked it. I thought Sam was pretty sexy and it was interesting to see these two relationships play out side by side. I though the resolution with the boy Jake seemed a little too simple.

One of my favorite bits about this series: Ms. Yates does Grovel VERY well. Both Sam and Quinn have to grovel and while I don’t believe you can ever have TOO MUCH grovel, the amount of grovel in this book was satisfactory. Quinn even does it in front of–well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.

Of all the characters in this series, Cade is the one who is the most intriguing to me, and I can’t wait for his book. A damaged hero? A friends-to-lovers story? A heroine with her own problems and a mysterious man out to hurt Cade? Where do I sign up?

Lynda the Guppy
aka The Fish Who Loves Grovel
aka The Fish With Sticks

RATING: 3. 5 Stars

Jagged, Kristen Ashley

WARNING: There WILL be spoilers in this review. I’ll mark the point just before where they are, but they are ruin-the-end-of-the-book spoilers, and YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. 

I have a problem with Kristen Ashley. When I read her books, I lose whole months. The first time I tried her was the end of June, and next thing I know, it is 14 books later and August. So when I obtained an ARC copy of her newest book, Jagged, I was apprehensive. I knew I was going to want to re-read the previous Colorado Mountain books, but was I about to lose October, too?

Not yet. Thankfully.

Jagged is the latest book (and number 5) of the Colorado Mountain series, and I’m not sure I’d classify it as such. It’s kind of a cross-over book for me, because while Nina and Max from The Gamble play a pretty big role (and Kami even makes an appearance), Ham Reece is actually from For You, book 1 of The Burg series. He’s the guy February had an on-off again relationship with while she and Colt were apart. Also, there’s a subplot which references another subplot of For You, but doesn’t directly affect Zara and Ham.

It felt to me as if Ms. Ashley wrote Ham (or Reece as everyone else calls him) in For You, liked him so much she decided to use him again. Which is fine, however in For You there’s some angst as you feel he thought February could have been “his one.” And in one of the early scenes of Jagged, he’s just been injured (read For You. Really. Good book) and he goes to Zara. I was worried because it seemed too soon after Feb for me to feel this was a natural move for him. Luckily, Ms. Ashley must have agreed, because they end up spending some time apart. Still, it almost feels as if “Reece” and “Ham” are two very different men.

Once I got past that aspect, however, while I enjoyed the book, I would have liked to have seen more character growth. I liked how they both learned to share more and talk about things, but they have a couple of huge arguments, and I never felt like they learned from them. They needed to learn how to fight without throwing out cruel words, and I don’t think they ever did. They both just gave each other a little time, then made up, but they didn’t learn how NOT to do that again.

Also if Zara had the childhood she did, I don’t know if I believe she would have been as agressive with Ham as she was. Especially considering how they “never fought” before and now they’re screaming at each other. I think we should have seen more of her issues coming up there. And, again, that goes back to wishing there was more character growth between the two.

WARNING: Spoilers ahoy! No, seriously. Lots of spoilers from here on out. Like end-of-book spoilers. You’ve been warned. Proceed at your own risk.

I would have liked to have actually SEEN her father and her aunt get what’s coming to them. Having them just waiting for trial seemed unsatisfying and inconclusive. After all her father did to her and her sister through the years, he needed to be punished and I REALLY wanted to see it.

I was pleased to see the final resolution of the sister’s subplot and the redemption of Zara’s aunt. Also, I liked they spent some time deciding what was best for Zander, and not just yanking him around just because they wanted him.

While Sweet Dreams remains my favorite Colorado Mountain book, I enjoyed Jagged and will reread it along with the rest whenever I next want to lose a month of my life. LOL.

Lynda the Guppy
aka See You Next Month Guppy
aka The Fish With Sticks

 RATING: 3 1/2 Stars

Willing Sacrifice, Joey W. Hill

This review was originally posted at Wicked Lil Pixie
on August 5, 2013

This was an interesting book. When I first heard Ms. Hill wrote another Knights of the Boardroom book, I was confused. Who was left? She had already written about all five Knights of the Boardroom, and I was unsure where she was going. I found out this book featured Janet, the Admin for Matt Kensington, and Max, driver for Matt’s company and Dana Winston’s regular driver. Now I was REALLY confused. I had always had the impression that Janet was much older than Matt and the Knights. I always thought she was in her sixties at least. Obviously I was wrong. This isn’t the first time, either. Some day ask me how long it was before I realized Draco Malfoy was a blonde. (Spoiler: The first movie. I was pretty stunned.)

Once I readjusted my image of Janet, I got sucked into the book, just as I have all the Knights books. In this one, Janet is the Domme and Max is the sub…kind of. LOL He’s a little too alpha to truly sub for Janet, but she pretty much tops him all the time. Even when she lets him be in charge, it is clear that it is at HER discretion and HER wish. It’s nice to see that role reversal once in a while, and it was a bonus that it was done well. Max was allowed to be the strong and tough former Navy SEAL and Janet could be the damaged Domme and neither of them really played head games. They allowed the other the time and space and support needed for each to work through their individual issues.

I’ve been reading this series since the first book came out, and I’ve enjoyed every book. Because these stories are often so intense, they tend to focus mostly on the couple, and the other Knights and their women show up only sporadically. This book had all the couples from the previous books throughout the entire book. It was great to see how the couples have evolved and what emotional strides they’ve made since each of their stories. It was especially great to see Ben and what he’s putting himself through to be the best man he can be for Marcie.

All in all, I enjoyed it. It was a sexy read, but it has an emotional depth which can be missing in books of this genre. While the sex scenes were plentiful, you never felt like the scenes in between were stuck there simply as filler until the characters could get back into bed (or a tent, a truck, a hot tub…). I was very pleased with this book and feel its a wonderful addition to the Knights of the Boardroom series.

Although I wouldn’t complain if Ms. Hill took us back to the infamous boardroom for some fun. *eyebrow waggle*

Lynda the Guppy
aka Fish with Sticks

Rating: 3.5 Stars

The Witness, Nora Roberts

This review was originally posted at Wicked Lil Pixie
on April 10, 2012

I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advanced copy of this book, and sped through it fairly quickly. The Witness is Nora Roberts’ 200th book. Can you believe that? This woman is a writing machine. While this not one of my top 10 Nora Roberts books, (I reserve those spots for books like Midnight Bayou and Carolina Moon and The Perfect Neighbor), this book was definitely on the better side. It was interesting to see Ms. Roberts once again use the technique of beginning a book when her main character is very young, and then advancing the book forward.

The Witness begins with Elizabeth at the age of 16 rebelling for the first time in her life, and it does not end well. I think Ms. Roberts has a real knack for portraying her characters in a realistic light. When we begin the book, we truly can imagine this poor little girl rebelling against her cold, controlling mother, and wanting to do anything to be able to live her own life. As it turns out, that’s not an option for many more years.

The beginning of the book is paced very quickly. There is a lot of information that Ms. Roberts is trying to portray to the reader, and she has a very deft touch. The reader never feels like Plot Anvils are raining down on their heads. Once the book moves forward to present day, the pace naturally slows a little. Slower town, slower life, slower plot. Again, it works. I liked Brooks a great deal, and I totally fell for his parents, but I never quite connected with Abigail the way I would have liked. It’s almost like Ms. Roberts couldn’t quite decide which way she wanted to go with Abigail: Super smart with a tender heart? Socially awkward and inept? Suspicious, capable and overly-protective of her privacy? While Abigail is all those things, I felt as if Abigail would don the traits of the particular part of her personality the situation called for. It never truly felt like they were all different sides to the same woman. That’s unfortunate, as Abigail had the potential to be a complicated and complex character.

There is a small subplot throughout the book dealing with Brooks’ best friend Russ and the hotel Russ runs. I could see Ms. Roberts using it to lay the foundation for Abigail’s growth and her realization she will never be able to live her own life her own way without facing her past. I would have liked to have seen this plot begin just a little bit earlier in the book. If we had seen this subplot advance a little faster, the resolution wouldn’t have seemed anticlimactic. As it was, against the backdrop of this larger crime and danger and resolution, it felt like it became nothing more than a nuisance to Brooks.

A trademark of a Nora Roberts book is an underlying thread of humor throughout. She does not disappoint here. In one of the darkest, most serious scenes, when Abigail has told Brooks all about what happened and what the risks are, there is a moment which could have gone horribly wrong and turned into a scene of obnoxious slapstick humor, and instead it does it’s job and lightens the mood of both the characters and the reader, and makes you laugh out loud through your tears.

Finally, one of my biggest “complaints” is a pet peeve of mine with various authors. Using similarly spelled/pronounced names in the same book. It’s one thing in real life when you go into a room and there’s a Kristin and a Kiersten, but this is fiction. The author has an entire world of names from which to choose. Why would you choose such similar names? It only confuses the reader. Okay me. It confuses me. In this book we have a Sybill and a Sylbie and an Agent Peski and Agent Pickto, and if you think I didn’t have to pause and do a little mental jig to figure out who was whom, think again. An entire WORLD of names out there, everyone. Choose wisely.

On the whole, an enjoyable book, and one I’ll reread in the future.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Redwood Bend, Robyn Carr

(This review was originally posted at Wicked Lil Pixie on March 8, 2012.)

Okay, here goes. My first review. *gulp*

I’ve been a fan of Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series since nearly the beginning, and one of the things I enjoy about her novels is the consistency. She introduces us to these characters, and makes us fall in love with them. Unlike a lot of other series books, she doesn’t “forget” the characters or only bring them back as convenient ways to further the plot. These characters come back again and again with actual storylines in future books. Just because a couple has a Happy Ever After in one book doesn’t mean they won’t hit a rough patch in another. Redwood Bend, which just came out, is book 18 in the Virgin River series, according to Ms. Carr’s website (www.RobynCarr.com). It was a nice addition to the series.

Katie, our heroine whom we met in her brother’s book Hidden Summit, is back for her own story. She has two young twin boys and is moving to Virgin River from Vermont when she and the boys get a flat just outside Virgin River. And of course it’s raining. And of course a nice group of motorcyclists stop to help. This is how our couple meet. A little outlandish of a meeting? Maybe. But for these two it works.

Dylan has flaws, but he believes his flaws are far more serious and damaging than they really are. He still sees himself as he was as a teenage TV heartthrob rebel with a family so dysfunctional it makes the Barrymores look like the Bradys, with his grandmother Adele being the exception. It was nice to watch him realize what we, the readers, have seen nearly since page one, and that’s what a nice, warm, caring guy he is. He’s not selfish, nor is he a curse for anyone he cares about.

Katie’s husband also has a presence in this book, even though he’s been dead for years. (Don’t worry. No ghostly appearances here.) He was a special forces soldier who was killed in Afghanistan when Katie was pregnant with the twins, and he received a Medal of Honor posthumously. In the beginning, Dylan is a little intimidated by Charlie. I mean, dead military hero who was the love of her life? And Dylan thinks he’s a major screw up?  OF COURSE he’s intimidated. Who wouldn’t be? but Katie talks openly with Dylan about her husband and his good and bad character traits, and it never really becomes a big issue between them. Katie says she loved Charlie, and would love him still if he had lived, but he didn’t, so she’s moving on. One of the nice things is that Charlie is neither lionized nor vilified. He was a real man who died too young, and without knowing his sons, but that’s the way life sometimes is. Sometimes it just sucks.

There were parts of this book that were a little too pat. For example, Dylan’s grandmother Adele is an aging, but still in demand, actress. When she comes to Virgin River to check up on Dylan, we learn that she’s good friends with Muriel, who is an actress on par with Adele. Really? This tiny little town with maybe 200 people and the one actress who comes to town just HAPPENS to be good friends with the only other actress in 100 miles? Granted, Hollywood can be a small town, and actresses of their stature are rare, so it makes sense, I guess, that these two would have become friends during their careers, but at no point at any other time did this come up. It was only brought to our attention because Adele needed a place to stay that wasn’t Katie’s. How conveeeeeeenient.

Also, at the very end of the book we learn something new about Dylan. It’s something that wasn’t really integral to the story, but he kind of blows it off as no big deal right at the end, and I think Ms. Carr missed an opportunity for her readers to learn something. In the past she has taken the time to teach us about midwifery and things like breast exams and other women’s issues, and by contrast it seemed what we learned about Dylan was added as an afterthought. Kind of a “gee, his childhood didn’t suck QUITE enough, so let’s dump a little more on him.”

All in all, I enjoyed this book a great deal. I liked that Katie didn’t rely on Dylan for every little thing. She could change the oil in her car and put up a swing set for her boys without having to ask her brother or some other guy in her life to do it for her, and the men in her life recognized that. They don’t treat her as some sort of delicate, fragile flower. She also doesn’t put up with any of Dylan’s crap. She calls him on stuff, and expects him to put just as much into their relationship as she does. She also doesn’t expect him to look out for her kids. She makes it ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that her kids are first. Full stop. No exceptions. And if he doesn’t like it, there’s the door, and make it quick, because she doesn’t have time for games.

Ms. Carr has developed a knack for creating characters who feel very real. This series is made up of people with real lives and flaws, accomplishments and doubts. This town, even with its overabundance of military men, feels very real. There are people  who die, either expected or not. There are births and miscarriages, new homes being built, and forest fires threatening old ones. It’s a place where life isn’t always easy and everybody doesn’t live forever, but it’s full of hope and happiness anyway. They’re going to take care of their own, and they’ll do the best they can, and if they fall in love or rekindle the sparks, well, even better. And that’s the kind of story that keeps me coming back book after book.

Now, when does Sunrise Point come out?

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars