Monday, March 31, 2008

Man Love Monday

omg, my gal pal lisabea has an exclusive interview with JL Langley (much beloved m/m author, see previous entries on this blog and chez LB) for the ongoing celebration of Man Love Monday. Check it out and enter the contest! I hear that a PRINT copy of My Fair Captain is available for the winning as well as a copy of With Caution. Most excellent! Go forth and win!!!! *g*

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night

Ok, I guess I was just a little too optimistic last week when I thought I would be able to write five reviews in five days. This should have been up on Friday. But real life (aka work, school, boyfriend) intervened. Alas.

Let's get back to the magickal mystery tour. Our last entry took us around the world and back again on the Talisman Hie. This race to the finish included our new hero Bowen MacReive. He's Lykae and from the same clan as Lachlain (he of A Hunger Like No Other fame). Bowen or Bowe as his friends call him has a bit of an attitude issue. Quite frankly, the guy is a major sourpuss. He has good reason to be. Lykae mate for life and since he lost his mate just after they got together, he is doomed to live out the rest of his long immortal existence alone. No mate. No lurve. The angst. It drags. Us. All. Down. With. Him.

But wait! Remember that the prize for winning the Hie is a magickal key that allows one to travel in time? Of course Bowe figures that all he has to do is win that key, then go back in time and save his mate and live happily ever after. Armed with this fledling hope, the man is on a mission. He attacks each challenge in the Hie with single-minded devotion and when he finds himself in an ancient burial chamber with Mariketa the Awaited (a witch) he has no qualms in grabbing the gold and sealing her in the tomb. He's seen that she can work powerful magick and figures that she'll be out of there in a jiffy, but at least he'll have slowed down another competitor. All's fair in love and war, right?


Mari stays trapped in that cave (along with some other magickal beings) and is tormented by incubii. Ewwww! Bowe finishes (loses) the Hie and comes back to find that he's enemy of the public numero uno. If he doesn't go back into the South American jungle and rescue Mari, an inter-species war is going to break out. Och!

Rescuing Mari and the other magickal beings turns out to be more complicated than just getting them out of the cave. They have to slog through the rainforest on foot, staying out of the way of warring rebel factions and squabbling amongst each other. Bowe has the hots for Mari but he doesn't trust his instincts because he is convinced that Mari's magick is messing with his mind. Mari wants to strangle Bowe for being such an overbearing boor (but secretly she has a thing for him as well). They fight and make up. Quite a few times, in fact. There is a lot of trudge and grudge. Trudge through the jungle, hold grudges against the other. Bowe is hardly a prince charming. His idea of romance is telling Mari that she might be his mate Mariah reincarnated (how else can he explain his urges towards her...Lykae only mate once after all). Charming indeed.

What doesn't really work is the overly plotty and convoluted ending as well as the pacing of the story in general. It goes in bursts and therefore my attention goes in the same manner. Up and down. What does work is the sexual tension between the lead characters. It's believable and it's hot, and I like that part. Also, there are some very interesting secondary characters that are probably getting set up for their own books. (I am SO ready to read about the hot (heh) rage demon king Rydstrom, gimme that book now please!)

Oh well. I'd still be game for the next installment.

Grade: C+

Thursday, March 20, 2008

No Rest for the Wicked by Kresley Cole

No Rest for the Wicked picks up right where A Hunger Like No Other left off. Valkyrie warrior heroine Kaderin "the Cold Hearted" (it's kind of like a WWF name, get it?) is preparing to enter her fifth Hie. The Talisman's Hie is described as the Amazing Race for the immortal set. I've never seen either show (though I hear the Hie kicks AR's collective ass) but the exotic locals and derring-do adventures that the competitors go through reminded me of a cross between Indiana Jones and TombRaider. Kaderin has won this competition for the past millenium or so. It takes a combination of daring, hard work, skill and downright ruthlessness to succeed. And she's got all of those fine qualities in spades.

When not traipsing around the world seeking ancient treasures for an inter-species scavenger hunt, Kaderin's day job (or night job as the case may be) is killing vampires. After losing her two sisters in an epic battle against the evil Horde variety of vampires, Kaderin's got something of a bone to pick with those bloodsuckers. I bet you can't even imagine who fate has got HER matched up with? *blinking innocently*

Sebastian Wroth never wanted to be a vampire. Turned against his will by a brother who wanted to save him from death, he has spent the past centuries alone and depressed. When Kaderin the Vampire Slayer comes a-calling at his castle, he's ready to shake off this immortal coil and welcomes the killing blow she's ready to mete out. But something about him makes her hesitate at the last moment. And before you can say 'fated to be mated' (I'm starting to like that phrase, heh) his vampire heart begins to beat. Which means that he has found his Bride. Too bad for him that said Bride is a lean mean fighting machine with zero interest in emotions or love and a serious prejudice against vampires.

Thus begins a really fantastic romp around the world. The sensual game of cat and mouse between these two is interwoven with the larger arc of the Hie, as they travel to exotic and forbidding parts of the globe. Kaderin has a driving need to win this one as the ultimate prize is a time-traveling key that might offer her the hope of rescuing her sisters from their fate. For his part, Sebastian joins up with the somewhat sweet idea of winning the prize for his prospective GF, not really realizing what a freaking FORCE of nature this gal is to be reckoned with. But here's the thing. Rather than get all stompy alpha male about the fact that Kaderin can take care of things, he's supportive of her and uses his unique skills (like that vampire trick of tracing) to help her whenever he can. It's super sweet and really damn hot, the way these two clash and yet still work together throughout a variety of hair-raising adventures.

"We've got to stop this," she whispered, even as she moved her fist on him. "These beasts..."
"Are suitably terrifying. Doubtless." he pressed a brief hot kiss to her mouth, then met her eyes again. "Appreciate it if you'd keep...stroking."

Cole keeps the sexual tension-o-meter on high pretty much the whole way through and this combined with the excitement of the Hie makes this book damn near impossible to put down. As my bud lisabea pointed out to me the other day, these books really do follow the road-romance type. And we've already established that I'm a sucker for those.

I really had a great time reading this book. Strong heroines are a hard character to get right. They so often end up as either unsympathetic ball-busting stereotypes or (worse) faux warriors that are really just looking for the right man to take over for them. Kaderin is neither. She's a complex woman with her own motivations and a history that has shaped her. Ultimately, her ability to face her fears and allow herself to feel emotion is a reflection of her courage and I really respected that. The catalyst for this thawing is of course the steady and dependable wooing of Sebastian. And he's no slouch in the courage department either. He realizes that if Kaderin wins the key and travels back in time, he risks losing her forever. And he's willing to help her do it despite the cost to himself. Clearly, the man is a romance hero to fall in love with.

I heartily recommend this book. Run out and buy it right now. Even if you don't read the others in the series, this one is well worth your time. I'm supposed to be sending it to CJ about now, but I am feeling the need to reread just once more before passing it along. Enjoy!

Grade: A-

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

I'd read some of Cole's books before now, trying to see what all the fuss was about. Frankly, the two that I read (both featuring pirates/andor/seafaring which I usually love) were pretty bad and I thought that whatever the hype was, it was obviously misdirected. Then my good buddy lisabea sent me the first three installments of the Immortals After Dark series. Aha! Now I get it. These were seriously entertaining.

A Hunger Like No Other has the unenviable task of being the first introduction to this new world and suffers a bit from the strain of setting up the world, establishing the parameters, introducing the various characters, the various races and their feuds, etc. There are a LOT of immortals running around and they all seem to have quite a history with each other.

Our story begins with Lachlan MacReive, the leader of the Lykae (werewolves), being tortured for a few hundred years beneath the catacombs in Paris. The dastardly vampires put him down there and since he is blessed (cursed?) with immortality, every time he burns and dies, he wakes up and lives again...only to keep burning. Um, ouch? Lucky for Lachlan, his one true wuv aka MATE happens to walk across the ground above him and being the extra-sensory perceptive immortal that he is, he can feel that she's there. His instincts kick in bigtime and this gives him an extra boost of power to throw off the shackles and free himself...but only after ripping one of his legs off. Well, hey at least he's free and can regenerate minor things like missing limbs.

Lachlan's mate Emma is a half-breed. Born of a Valkyrie mother and a vampire (oh noes!) father, she is blissfully unaware that a big angry Scottish wolf-man has the hots for her. Until of course, he finds her, kidnaps her and comes onto her in a majorly alpha male way. Oh it's steamy stuff and only in the first chapter! (inwardly, I gave a cheer, outlook for hot sexy book favorable!) However, despite all the rough and provocative almost-sex, Emma and Lachlan spend the majority of the book fighting about how she doesn't buy into this whole mate thing and Lachlan fighting himself over the fact that he's meant to be with a vampire (remember the bit about them torturing him for 200 odd years). Emma was raised by a coven of kick-arse Valkyrie warrior women and she has always been the timid protected one. Throughout most of the book it is like she can't decide who she is. At times she is so whiny and TSTL as to make me shake with rage. At others, she grows a backbone out of thin air and dislocates Lachlan's jaw. You go girl. Just figure out which of your multiple personalities you want to settle on and then give me a call when it's over.

So did I mention the sexxoring? It's pretty hot stuff, although Cole makes us wait for the big moment of truth. I suppose that's the difficulty of using this 'fated to be mated' concept. Where's the tension if they're together from page one? So instead we have lots of near misses, hot buildups without the payoff and sexy naked showers. heh. Well, no one ever said that lots of foreplay wasn't a good thing.

The action picks up near the end of the book and Emma gets a chance to save the world (apparently she decides that the strong her is the personality she's going to stick with after all). Her Valkyrie aunties get a chance to make me really weary of them. Lachlan gets a chance to ditch his fake Scottish accent...oh wait, no that didn't happen. Lachlan gets a chance to move beyond his prejudices and accept that love conquers all. Awww, it really is romantic.

Despite some frustrations, overall this was a very fun read. I appreciated that women in this alternate universe are not wrapped in cotton wool and that they're allowed to have some good dialogue lines too. And I think that Cole has set up a very interesting world and I look forward to spending more time in it.

Grade: B-

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Dream Thief by Shana Abe

Ever wished you could see the future? Seems like a handy talent to have, no? Well, judging by what I learned from Lia, the heroine in The Dream Thief, this future-seeing thing may not be all it's cracked up to be.

Lady Amalia Langford or Lia is the daughter of Rue and Christoff, the powerful drakon first introduced to us in The Smoke Thief. Drakon are an ancient race of dragon/humans who have the power to Turn into smoke and also into dragon form. Originally from the Carpathian mountains, this particular clan of drakon live a very tightknit, secretive existence in the woods of England. The only human who knows who and what they are and is still allowed to live is Zane, a clever thief who played a secondary role in the previous book. Lia is the only Langford who doesn't have any of the drakon special powers. She can't Turn. She can't fly. What she CAN do is see the future in her dreams, but this is a secret she keeps to herself. And given the fact that she's seen that her future includes Zane as a lover, this is probably a smart idea (uber-protective father plus ultra-secretive clan plus non-drakon BF does not make for happy intra-species dating, and believe me I should know.)

Drakon have this thing for jewels. They can hear them sing. And apparently there is one jewel to rule them all, so to speak, called Draumr. Rue and Christoff commission light-fingered Zane to travel back to the old country and fetch this diamond. They offer him a lot of money. What they DON'T tell him is that Draumr can be used to control drakon. Lia shows up along the way and compels Zane to take her along on the journey. Of course Zane is remembering her not-quite-human father and thinking that this would be a very bad idea. But he doesn't have a lot of options. So off they go into the wilds of Hungary and Romania. Searching for a diamond that may or may not exist and guided by Lia's ability to hear the song of Draumr.

About that future-seeing thing. Not so great when you can foresee the man who is destined to be your lover use the jewel-to-rule-them all to control you and your family. The question is...knowing what you do about the future, can you work against your fate and change it? Can you trust the one you love? And most importantly, what's it like to be a virgin and yet have experienced passionate mind-blowing sex in your foreseen future???? (this is really what my inquiring mind wants to know...check out page 139 for the answer)

Nineteen years old, a virgin who'd never even known an actual kiss - yet she knew all about making love. She knew a human man's taste, and his body heavy over hers, and the wild pleasure of him inside her, every night. She did whatever he asked of her, everything he asked. She did things she'd never known a man and woman could do together.
Touch me here, like this.
Take me in your mouth.
Lie back.
Put your arms above your head.
Do you feel this, Lia? Tell me. Tell me how I make you feel.
Tell me what you want me to do to you.

No wonder she couldn't sleep.

Heh. Yeah, no wonder.

What really worked for me in this book is the road-romance aspect of it. I do so love a book in which the h/h are together for long periods of time and we get to see the development of their relationship. I also really love those morally ambiguous heros who are just on the edge of being an anti-hero. Zane is a thief. Not a gentleman masquerading as a thief, not a duke in a spy's mask. He's a gutter born London thief who has crawled his way up using all of the skills at his disposal. And yet he's not coarse or crude. He has a great deal of wry humor and wit and, perhaps surprisingly for a thief, honesty. And Lia. I tend to be very hard on my heroines. I have great expectations (har) for them. And I get annoyed with them when they become TSTL. But I gotta hand it to Lia. She's smart and she's tough and yet still vulnerable. I like how she thinks things through, analyzes and decides on her course.

The lyrical nature of the prose has to be mentioned. And the very clear sense that one gets of the world of the drakon. And I really really want to read the next book now because the glimpses I got of the Carpathian side of the clan are quite intriguing. So bravo, good stuff. I recommend it.

Grade: B+

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L. Wilson

I haven't read fantasy in quite some time. I'm not sure if CS Lewis' Narnia books count (cuz I read those things ad naseum in my childhood) but I think I can safely say that I'm somewhat of a newbie to the genre. Oh yeah, I did the requisite Tolkien read in college mainly because I dated a guy who was obsessed with them and who gave me the entire LOTR boxed set as an X-mas gift. I remember (vaguely) kind of liking the concept of the neat worlds and magical powers and stuff, but missing the romance and lurve action that I really do like to have in my reading diet.

Enter C.L. Wilson. What I quite like about Lord of the Fading Lands is that it feels very much like the fantasy books that I remember reading, but with a good strong thread of romance running through it. Do I dare attempt a summary? There are so many characters, subplots, machinations and whatnot, that I'm not sure it's possible to do it justice.

Rain Tairen Soul is a really old (and yet hot and young-looking) tairen who lost his wife a long time ago in a big epic war against EVIL. (and as we are reminded time and again, that would be Evil with a capital E). Rain is the King of the Fey and the leader of the tairen, otherwise known as the Tairen Soul. His kind, the tairen, seem to be facing extinction because all of the female tairen are barren (oh man, that rhymed and I totally did not intend it). All these years later, he is alerted to the existence of his truemate, who happens to be a young peasant girl. Elysseta or Ellie is the adopted daughter of a woodcarver in the kingdom next door. Her life is turned upside down when Rain literally falls out of the sky and claims her as his mate. Wowza! Before she knows it, this hot masterful king with the kick-ass powers (he can turn into a winged-cat thing and FLY!) has a one-track mind to marry her. Lil' ol' her. She spends the majority of the book protesting that it must be a mistake. She's just a nobody. Not worthy. Etcetera. But of course we readers know better. Ellie has special powers of her own and she's just starting to come into them. Will Rain claim his mate and will she save all of tairen-kind and by extension the entire world? [insert dramatic music]

Well, I don't know because this is a series and apparently book one is more like episode one. There is more to come. And ultimately, that is my whine with the book. I liked the writing. The author has a very strong voice and does a skillful job with building her world. It felt authentic and real and dare I say, epic. BUT at the end of the book, we do not get to see Rain and Ellie together in the truest sense of the word. It is like we get to the end of part 1 of their courtship. You gotta read the next book to find out how/if/when they actually get their mateship on. Arg! I hate cliff-hanger endings. So as a romance novel, this brings the grade down for me. As a fantasy epic, it's probably just par for the course.

That said, I like the book and I will read the next one. Probably pretty soon in fact. I have a soft spot for stoic yet sensitive heros and Rain has that going for him in spades. Yum. And if Ellie doesn't come to her senses and marry him posthaste, I may just beat her to it.

Grade: B

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Magickal Mystery Tour

So it seems as though the last week and a half has been my time for magick and mystics and all things paranormal-y. I began by finally cracking the CL Wilson book that dear katiebabs sent me many moons ago. Lord of the Fading Lands was definitely in the vein of fantasy with elves and fey and other such things. I devoured it very quickly. But upon reaching the end of the book, I did not jump into the sequel. I was a little bummed out that our h/h didn't even get together by the end and wasn't sure if I had the patience to go through another entire book waiting for this to occur. At least, not right away. So I took a break and entered yet another world - the world of Shana Abe's drakon. The Dream Thief worked much better for me than The Smoke Thief. I even woke up an hour early (on a weekday!) just so I could get in some extra reading time before work. Good stuff. Then, wonder of wonders, the mail came and a triple dose of books arrived from my blogging buddy, lisabea. Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark books 1-3. A Hunger Like No Other introduced me to this new world of magickal creatures. And boy, are there lots of them. Multiple species of vampires, witches, demons, werewolves, nymphs, the list goes on. The sheer variety of mystical beings sorta made my head spin. No Rest for the Wicked was super-good. I may have to skim it once more before sending it on to CJ. And today I read Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night, which was actually not as bad as I had been expecting (especially considering the awfulness of the cover art.)


So my ambition for this week is as follows. To write up a short review of each of these five books and to post one review for each day of the week. huh. We'll see if I can do it. The magickal mystery tour begins...

Monday, March 10, 2008

You've got mail!

I love fun packages that show up in the mailbox. Thanks, lisabea! CJ, these are coming your soon as I tear through them. hehe.

Man Love Monday strikes again...

...but not on lazy sula's space. Thankfully dear lisabea has prepared an entry of awesomeness which is so good that it is worth two blog entries (mine and hers). So please, surf on over to Nose in a Book for your weekly dose of manlovin'.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Congrats to Sarah!

The voting is over and the results are in...nope this isn't about the presidential primaries, folks. I'm talking about the AAR 2008 Annual Reader Poll.

There's lots of good books on the list, but I wanted to give a quick shout out to a fav author and an awesome book that I really loved. Congratulations to Sarah McCarty and Caine's Reckoning for taking the Best American History/Frontier award!!! That's a mainstream category and speaks a lot, I think, to Sarah's ability to write a compelling story that doesn't only rely on erotic content. (Although, lord knows, the heat level totally works for me and I lurve it). So yeah, congratulations Sarah!

Now hurry up and give me Sam!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Man Love Monday: Cops edition

Hello friends. It's Man Love Monday and for once in a long time I have more than just a Captain Jack video to share with you. (although goddamit, that Cap'n Jack is so good with the manlove). Anyways, our topic today is an m/m anthology of three short stories called Arresting Developments. In each story at least one of the heros is involved in law enforcement. I'm going to review them in order of best, pretty good, and nope that didn't work for me. Let's start with the best, shall we?

In a Dark Wood by Josh Lanyon
Thanks to my blogging buddy, lisabea, I had already been exposed to Josh Lanyon's witty persona via livejournal and blog comments. I knew the guy had a way with words, but dayum! What I didn't know was that he had such a knack for drawing realistic characters and sucking you into a narrative within one page flat! This is a taut little gem of a story. It has a creepy mystery angle mixed in with an emotional journey of self-discovery and a tender budding relationship. Travel writer and columnist Tim is set up by a friend with detective Luke. The two of them embark on a weekend camping trip to explore a spooky house in the woods where Tim had a traumatic childhood memory. Along the way, they learn more about each other and Tim faces some realities about himself that he's been avoiding. The story is told in first-person from Tim's point of view, but rather than being limiting, this device adds to the layers of how we access both characters.

I mentioned that there's a mystery, and I'm not kidding. It got truly SCARY for a few minutes there, and I was turning the pages quickly and hoping that everything would turn out ok in the end (it does). *whew* You may be saying, fine fine, that's all well and good but what about the sex? Here's the thing, I found the lovemaking between our two heros to be really organic and romantic. It's not as HAWT as you might be expecting, but I loved it. Again, Lanyon has this way with his words. It felt earthy and natural, and not just tossed in to spice things up. The sex isn't there just for sex's sake. It serves the story and expands our awareness of the characters' emotional development.

"I need so much. There's such a big gaping emptiness in me. I need him to fill it with heat and hungry demands; I want his need to overwhelm my own."

le sigh. In my inexpert opinion, this is a character study drawn in confident strokes. The guys jump off the page, and you get a sense for what makes them tick but without long passages of boring or obvious exposition. Lanyon's writing makes it look easy. Give the man an A and for goodness sake, give me more of his books.

Coyote Crossing by James Buchanan.
Now on to my second favorite story in the anthology. This one is about a border patrol officer in the Southwest. One night while stopping a group of illegal immigrants, he finds the leader of the group is none other than a childhood friend. Actually, it's the little brother of his best friend from high school but lil' brother is all grown up now. Augustin, or Augi, has fallen in with the wrong crowd since Rick knew him as a teenager. Now he's mixed up with trafficking people across the border and possibly with drugs as well. Rick is allowed to vouch for Augi so that he won't have to get tossed in jail immediately and takes him back to his apartment. (This whole bit I wasn't real sure that legal? ethical? I dunno...just roll with it, it's fiction). There's some nice angst between these two guys. Rick can't believe that he's attracted to his best friend's kid brother. Back when they were in high school, Augi used to shadow him and look up to him. It's pretty obvious to the reader that Augi had a crush on Rick back in those days, but apparently this never occured to Rick. They spend some quality time together talking about family and the past. Rick gets the chance to rescue Augi from some nasty drug dealers (awww) and then Augi comes out of the closet to Rick. hooray! (oh come on, we knew it all along didn't we?) Imagine making it with that guy you always dreamed about as a teenager but who never even knew you existed as a potential romantic partner. I think anyone can relate to this, and I know that I found the consumation of Rick and Augi's attraction to be rather sweet and emotionally satisfying. We're left with a definite HFN which is fine and dandy with me for such a quick story.

Grade: B

Gamble Everything by L. Picaro

I didn't really want to review this one. Not because I am squeamish about bad reviews. But frankly, this story bored me. I'll do my best to be quick, honest, and fair.

Adam is a police officer who comes to the aid of a man who just ran off the road because someone shot at him. This man, Marc, looks vaguely familiar to Adam, but he can't place him. Marc says that he's pretty sure he was shot at because he's gay, and that he'd just received threats while leaving a local bar. Adam thinks this is a bit odd because he's also openly gay and has lived in this town for years without any issues. After taking Marc to the police station to fill out some forms, Adam drives him home. The attraction between them is immediate and intense. Then Adam realizes why he recognizes Marc. He's a famous porn star who disappeared from the industry some time ago. Porn star? alrighty then. And it goes from there. Bow-chicka-bow.

I dunno, maybe I'm being too critical. Or maybe this just wasn't the right anthology for this story after the previous two entries. But in any event, I did not connect emotionally with either Marc or Adam. It all felt just a little too, dare I say it...porny. Oh well.

Grade: D+

Two out of three ain't bad.

You can find Arresting Developments at Aspen Mountain Press.

And for more ManLove Monday fun, please surf over to lisabea's to catch her awesome interview with author Samantha Kane!!! And also, don't miss azteclady's review of JL Langley's The Broken H over at Karen's blog. Happy MLM!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Ride the Fire by Pamela Clare

The year is 1763, and the Ohio Valley frontier is seething with the beginnings of the French and Indian War. Newly widowed and heavily pregnant, young Elspeth Stewart is alone on her homestead when a wounded stranger shows up on her doorstep. Nicholas Kenleigh has been through hell and back. Captured and tortured by Indians, he has survived his ordeal but now lives life without a sense of purpose.

This story has three distinct parts. In the first, we have Nicholas and Elspeth, or Bethie, alone in her cabin cautiously trying to figure out if they can trust one another. Nicholas is wounded and although Bethie nurses him back to health, she sees him as a dangerous man who is not to be trusted. They slowly start to rely upon one another. Bethie goes into labor and Nicholas helps her through the delivery. He teaches her how to read and write. Bonds of friendship and something more begin to form. It's obvious from early on that Bethie has been mistreated by the men in her life, and to Nicholas' credit he can sense this and never pushes her too far.

The second act begins when Nicholas and Bethie are forced to flee her home and make their way through the wild woods to the nearest English fort. Here they end up in the middle of a siege as the fort is quickly surrounded by Indians. Nicholas has leadership experience as well as knowledge of Indian fighting tactics, and he becomes integral to the fight. Bethie is assumed to be his wife, and they live together in order to shield her from the possible negative attentions of the soldiers. Although the situation is dire, it is during this period that Nicholas and Bethie truly begin to explore intimacy. Again, Nicholas is exceptionally tender and understanding and has the patience of a saint. He understands better than Bethie the ramifications of her abusive past and works very hard to awaken her to the possibility of pleasure between them. The fort siege comes to a end, and in the aftermath, Nicholas and Bethie make their way back east.

The third portion of the book begins to feel a bit like an ending gone on too long. Bethie returns to the home and the stepfather who terrified her as a child. She faces her fears and moves on with her life. She and Nicholas then go to Philadelphia where she finds out that the man she's fallen in love with is in fact a rich, titled landowner from Virginia. As the daughter of simple farmers (and Scots-Irish to boot), Bethie faces feelings of inferiority and her martyr complex kicks in. We get a few chapters in which she continues to refuse to marry Nicholas because she thinks he deserves better than her. Although I can understand the sentiment, I have very little patience for martyric heroines and this started to get on my nerves. Thankfully, it doesn't go on too long. After facing down yet another crisis situation with violence from warring frontiersmen, Bethie and Nicholas get their HEA.

There were a lot of things to like about this book. First of all, what a nice change to read a story that isn't set in Regency England. It's refreshing to visit another period of history and this time period lends itself well to romance because of the adventurous and uncertain nature of the era. If you've ever watched and loved Last of the Mohicans, you'll probably enjoy this book. I also really liked the characters of both Nicholas and Bethie. Nicholas was everything I want in a hero. He's strong and capable, yet tender and exceedingly nurturing with Bethie and her little baby. As for Bethie, she is strong enough to have survived some pretty awful things and doesn't spend a great deal of time feeling sorry for herself.

What brings the grade down for me is a combination of a few things. First of all, I felt the ending was a bit too drawn out, as I mentioned above. One too many climactic endings. Bethie's continued refusal to marry Nicholas 'for his own good' hit one of my personal hot buttons. Also, it must be said that the descriptions of torture were really quite graphic; much more than you would expect and in the very first chapter. I got the uncomfortable feeling throughout the book that the Native Americans were brutal savages without being given some context for why they might be doing the things they did. Having lived in a variety of cultures, I'm always sensitive to the idea that people have reasons for their rituals even if they aren't pretty. Describing elaborate scenes of ritualized torture without some kind of explanation gives one the impression that it's just senseless violence for the sake of violence, and I am somewhat doubtful that this was the case. So while I can understand the author being "true to history" (and yes, those were some violent times), I would have liked to have been given more background information to help me process what was going on. I did appreciate that the author tried to include some observations about the white settlers' actions which contributed to the situation, but overall I was left with a somewhat one-sided portrayal.

However, I still very much enjoyed reading this book, and I intend to read more by this author. Readers looking for a combination of action, adventure and satisfying romance should definitely give this one a look.

Grade: B

Saturday, March 1, 2008

N&S Crusade Finale!!!

*gulp* Well, I totally dropped the ball and didn't post this linkage until today. Blame it on a crazy day at work combined with the prep and delivery of a Peace Corps week presentation that I had yesterday afternoon. Anyways, enough excuses....

As you are no doubt aware, for the past several months I have been in cahoots with fabulous bloggers Kristie(J) and katiebabs in a crusade to get anyone and everyone to see the fantastic BBC movie (miniseries?) North and South. I had heard about the film from a post over on the AAR boards and then when I finally saw the movie and fell head over heels for it, I posted a thank-you thread which turned into a discussion about the movie. Kristie then watched it and did what Kristie does so well. She decided that others must be given the good news and put her formidable enthusiasm and effort into getting the word out. One thing led to another and we all decided to pool our resources. One very crazy AIM PJ party and countless email exchanges later, we launched the N&S Crusade (tm). And the rest, as they say, is history.

Yesterday, the grand finale to our Crusade was posted over at Ramblings on Romance, etc. Not only is there a plethora of pretty pictures, but author Carrie Lofty contributes a fascinating essay on Mr. Thornton's interactions with the male characters in North and South. It has to be said, that Carrie, she knows how to write. (And I blame her entirely for my ongoing obsession with all things Dr. Who and Torchwood, but that's a post for another day.)

(carrie, I'm posting Fist of Doom in your honor. lol)

AND there's more! A North and South DVD to be won! And a huge AIM PJ party to be planned. Oh the fun never does end. Hie thee to Kristie's for the details.