Book Review: Unleashing Mr. Darcy – Teri Wilson

Author: Teri Wilson

Publisher:  Harlequin HQN
Publication Date: December 21, 2013
Genre: Adult – Romance, Modernized Austin
**I received an ARC from Netgalley.com.  Other than the joy of reading, I received no compensation for this review.**
Synopsis (From Goodreads.com):  It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman teetering on the verge of thirty must be in want of a husband.


Not true for Manhattanite Elizabeth Scott. Instead of planning a walk down the aisle, she’s crossing the pond with the only companion she needs; her darling dog, Bliss. Caring for a pack of show dogs in England seems the perfect distraction from the scandal that ruined her teaching career, and her reputation, in New York. What she doesn’t count on is an unstoppable attraction to billionaire dog breeder Donovan Darcy. The London tycoon’s a little bit arrogant, a whole lot sexy, and the chemistry between them is disarming. When passion is finally unleashed, might Elizabeth hope to take home more than a blue ribbon?

Review:  I’m a sucker for Jane Austin re-makes.  Especially Pride and Prejudice.  It’s my favorite Austin novel, as well as my favorite movie of all times!  So it is always hard to pass up a modernized version.   I recently found the mime below on Pinterest, which is about 99% truth.  (I tested it, asked my husband, “Do you know who Mr. Darcy is?”  The answer was no.  Which is surprising, since I watch the movie at least once a quarter.  Or at least every time I pick up a P&P remake.  It took everything in me not to put down this book and put in the movie this time around.
And there you have my review.  Sort of.  The modernization was good enough.  It centered around the dog show arena and of course the rich and…not-so-rich.  The book included plenty of Darcy, and Elizabeth moments, many of which avid fans will recoginize either from the book or by the movie.  In fact, many of the key phrases from the book were utilized here.  Elizabeth, true to the original, was a master of misunderstanding Darcy, but in this version it was almost to a fault.  In fact, I think that both the pride and the prejudice fell to Elizabeth most strongly in this rendition.  Mr. Darcy was constantly putting his foot in his mouth, and more than once I felt that Elizabeth’s responses and disdain were uncalled for.  I got a bit frusterated with her refusal to hear Donovan Darcy out, and if I were him, I most certainly would have given up on trying after so long.  Mr. Darcy was charming and compassionate and understanding.  He was apparently quite handsome, although for some reason I had a hard time picturing this particular Darcy in my head.  
The dog shows, while the common ground between Elizabeth and Darcy in this book, were really a rather small part of this novel.  I did enjoy the the bits that were there, but I think when I requested the book part of me had actually hoped on a few funny scenes and dog antics, but other than a scene of a dog peeing on beautiful carpet there really wasn’t any thing like that.  I guess they were show dogs, and were trained to absolute perfection.  
While I guess I didn’t LOVE, love this book, I still always enjoy an Elizabeth and Darcy rendition, in its (at this point) many varieties.  I love the different interpretations of the brooding, overly-handsome Darcy, and Elizabeth’s fumbling of the relationship.  If you’re an Austin fan, and enjoy modernizations, I see now reason why you wouldn’t enjoy this novel.

Book Review: Defy – Sara B. Larson

Author Sara B. Larson 
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
**I received an ARC from Netgalley.com.  Other than the joy of reading, I received no compensation for this review.**
Synopsis (from Goodreads.com):  Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.


The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?


Review:  I was destine to enjoy Defy for many reasons.  I have this crazy attractions to books that are seemingly historical, whether they are or not.  Actually, I think what draws me to them is not  that they are historical, but that they lack much of modern technology (although, I’ve been known to enjoy a steampunk book now and again, which sort of throws this theory out a different window).  The characters do not have the ease of jumping in a car or a plane and heading off to their destination.  They either travel via foot or horse or whatever animal happens to be available.  There are usually little to no guns, much less machine or automated guns; instead they have bow and arrows, swords, etc.  I also love the fantasy aspects, magic and evil of a very dark nature.  Some of the books that come to mind  that fall somewhat into these categories include:Throne of Glass, Pillars of the Earth, Robin Hood, Scarlet, and Graceling, to name a few.  So seeing Defy on NetGalleyand so recently after having read Throne of Glass, I knew it was for me.
At first I was afraid that Defy was going to be a bit too much like Throne of Glass and I wasn’t going to enjoy it, but as the story line moved from the initial “I’m extraordinarily good at what I do,” phase and into the real meat of the book, it took on a life of its own.  Alex(ia) shapes out to be such a three dimensional character; a girl disguised as a boy to protect herself from the terrifying breeding house.  She and her brother join the army, then are able to join the  guard to the spoiled crown prince, Damian. She lives in a kingdom run by a tyrant king who makes it his goal to banish all forms of magic everywhere, under the guise of revenge over his murdered wife and queen.
The story-line really was the best part about Defy.  I really enjoy watching it play out; Alexia determining who to trust and how far to get involved.  Then as her back story starts to come out, and peoples true characters are revealed.  All things that sucked me in and had me reading this book in less than two days.   I also enjoy strong female characters (although unbeatable female characters, while fun, are getting to be a bit over-done).  The climax/conclusion of Defy was the best! The story had its fair share of victories and heart break – and that’s not referencing the love triangle. 
Ah, the dreaded love triangle, we all know how I feel about love triangles.  I would have to say this was a bit of a lopsided triangle, since Alexia had a few moments of vacillating before choosing her guy.  HOWEVER, the ending of this book leaves me to believe book two might have more vacillating involved.   I really, really hope not.  I hate that.  I hate books being over-run with this “I want both of them” crap.  Another thing I would have to point out is that Defy was a bit heavy on the visual drooling on Alexia’s side.  Rarely in a YA novel do I notice so many references to the body (chest, arms, shoulders) of the male.  Yes, they usually are described  (muscles, or skinny and lean or whatever) enough to give you a mental picture, then the author may go back to one defining feature (great hair, eyes, whatever) however Defy did seem to linger a bit long.  As a twist to their story, I was expecting Prince Damian to hold off a bit longer and play with Alexia a bit before revealing that he knew she was a girl.  It was obvious from nearly the onset that he knew, and for a while it seemed like he was going to slip up and do something awkward.  I guess pushing Alexia up against a wall for a kiss while she thought he thought she was a boy might have been a bit traumatic to Alexia. 
If I had to stick my finger on one part of the book that made me squirm and in a way want to throw up – it would be the breeding house.  It was uncomfortable to read, to say the least.  I understand it’s purpose, and how we were suppose to hate the king , etc.  I can’t even say that the book would be better or worse without this aspect.  It was just hard to read, and almost throws this book out of YA and into the New Adult category for me.

BOOK REVIEW: Love Unscripted – Tina Reber

Author WebsiteTina Reber
Form: eBook, Netgalley
Genre: Adult Romance Fiction 
What girl at one time or another hasn’t dreamed of randomly catching the eye of their favorite, super-hot, movie star??  This is basically the story that Tina Reber has written. Even if Taryn wasn’t actually dreaming of the dreamy Ryan Christenson, she has definitely caught his eye and affection – this spinning her off into the limelight and razzel, dazzle of the paparazzi, grocery store tabloids and the craze that comes with ultimate fame.
 
Honestly, what Tina has captured is exactly why I do not go ga-ga over movie stars.  I absolutely love movies, and yes, of course I like the way actors look – who doesn’t…but even as a young teenager I really didn’t become star struck.  Okay, I take that back.  I really had a thing for Devon Sawa.  He was a cutie!  Anyhow, just knowing that 1. I never stood a chance, living in the middle of Ohio, of ever actually meeting these people, and 2. The fact that deep down they were just people, continued to keep me grounded ( and still does) about movie stars.  Reading Love Unscripted I was continually brought back to the Twilight craze when the first movie was filming.  I felt so bad for both Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in those early days.  I honestly wouldn’t want to live that way.
 
Anyway, Love Unscripted captured my attention pretty early on.  Taryn’s chance meeting of Hollywood superstar, Ryan Christenson, was entertaining – and the chemistry was great from the very start.  The book continued to keep me engaged – mostly.  Really, over 700 pages of this relationship seemed a bit too much.  All I know is that I was torn between, “is this about done yet?” and “I have got to know what happens…” pretty regularly. 
 
I can tell that this book was a first complete and published novel (at least as far as I can tell by website, etc.) because it is a little bit rough around the edges.  Sometimes the dialogue was a bit flat and seemed….well…scripted.  There is a part where Taryn and Ryan decide to let their relationship “grow naturally,” and I kind of feel like the book could have used a little bit of that as well.  As I said, the story was good, and kept me engaged from the start, but it does get a bit rough to deal with Taryn.  She is a bit of a tough cookie.  She has had a run of bad relationships, and that doesn’t help, but she is suspicious at every corner – just waiting on the other shoe to drop.  (Who wouldn’t, he’s a MOVIE STAR!)  No matter how true it is though, the constant back and forth in the book would make anyone reading roll their eyes along with Ryan, “what, we’re back to this?” 
 
I also had a hard time with her difficulty receiving gifts, and feel that there should have been some kind of impactful big “ah-ha” moment that helped her overcome this…or compromise.  Something. 
 
The good parts – the chemistry between Taryn and Ryan make this book worth the read.  When it’s just the two of them, and no suspicion or anything, they are excellent.  They are both romantic and loving.  Ryan, from the start, is a normal down to earth guy with an awesome job – even a bit shy, which is always endearing.  With the exception of a brief time in Florida, he seems to remain that way.  Both of them just want to love and take care of each other, even if Taryn is a bit unreasonable with her, “I’ll never let them hurt you,” mantra that she continues to repeat.  Silliness is what that is.  Oh well.
 
I feel like I may have been a little hard on this book – I really did enjoy it.  I think that a good portion of my feelings about the parts I didn’t like would have been eliminate if a couple hundred pages of this book was cut out.  Yes, really.  They went back and forth on the trust issue so many times, I’m pretty sure we  (readers) could get the point without it happening so much.  I think that Tina’s writing will get increasingly better as she continues to write and publish books, and I’m looking forward to watch her grow.

Starting to read: Love Unscripted

I’m starting a NetGalley book called Love Unscripted, by Tina Reber.  I wanted to share the preface with you:

         “You never know which way the wind blows” was one of my father’s favorite expressions.  I used to think it was silly, just one of those sayings we tell ourselves when we don’t think we have control over our own destiny.
        But I’ve since come to realize that sometimes when those winds of change blow, they’re strong enough to toss you into a whole new world, and you really have no control over where you fly or how you land.
        I’d always been quite content with my life; it was fairly easy and predictable, with only a hint of drama here and there caused by an occasional light breeze.  There were a few times when Mother Nature hit me with her best shot, but I always managed to land on my feet.
       Somewhere along the line I actually thought I had gained control over the weather, keeping the possibility of a terrible storm always at bay.
       That was until the day the wind blew through my door and carried me away.

Love Unscripted by Tina Reber
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Book on sale: 9/8/12; in print 1/1/13

Temptation & Twilight – Charlotte Featherstone

GENRE:  Adult – Fiction, Romance
FORM: eBook – Netgalley
SERIES: The Guardian Brethren

While I was granted permission to read this book by a NetGalley affiliate publisher, HQNbooks, I have received no compensation for this review other than the joy of reading!

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads):  Iain Sinclair, Marquis of Alynwick, is certain there is a special hell for him. An unrepentant rake, he holds nothing sacred – except for beautiful Elizabeth York. For years, Alynwick has tried to forget the woman he loved so well, and treated so badly. A woman who could hold nothing in her heart for him except hatred.

All of society believes Elizabeth, blind daughter of a duke, to be a proper young lady. But no one knows of her wanton affair with Alynwick. When Lizzy learns of her ancestor’s ancient diary – filled with exotic tales – she longs to uncover the identity of the unnamed lover within and hesitantly allows Alynwick, who claims to have knowledge of the “veiled lady,” to help her solve the mystery.

Eager to be Lizzy’s eyes, Alynwick brings the seductive text to life, and each night it takes greater effort for her to forget his betrayal. With each whispered word, her resolve gives way, without her knowing that a centuries-old secret will lead them to a present-day danger.

REVIEW:   I am in love with Charlotte Featherstone’s writing. She is like the epitome of a good romance writer in my eyes. You know how it is, you read books and you’re thinking, “yeah, that was a good book.” “Enjoyable, perfectly entertaining.” Well, when I read Charlotte Featherstone’s books, it’s more like “YES, this is exactly what I was looking for!” I have a feeling that her books could be rate G, and be written for 7 or 8 year old children, and they would still be excellent. She weaves a story that is interesting and engaging. You not only want to know what happens, you’ve got to know what happens. But what really does it for me are the characters. So unique and well formed. They are likeable, even if they are a bit ruthless and dark – if they have their reasons for their bad behavior, you love them for it. But since her books are not written for children (nor are they rated G,) – I have to admit, what I absolutely love the most is that her male leads are absolutely falling over themselves in love, they are gushing with it, it is their biggest downfall and greatest strength. It is wonderful, and absolutely without a doubt (to this extent) unrealistic. That’s exactly what you want out of a book, right?

Before you jump all over me, yes, it is possible to be absolutely crippled by love – but it’s not really healthy nor have I ever seen it as I have in these books. Reality is a little more…well, real.

Okay, so this is the third book in The Guardian Brethren series, and it is Iain and Elizabeth’s story. The mad marquis, Scottish rake and the blind sister of one of his “brothers,” Adrian. They have a past, they have had passion previously, but Iain walked away from everything that they had leaving Elizabeth broken and a bit hardened. You get little tidbits of their story in Pride and Passion, so going in you already know it’s going to be good. My favorite parts are the simple intimate impactful moments, like Elizabeth and Iain out in the snow. What a beautiful, heart pounding scene! I just re-read my review of Pride and Passion, and even then I said I wanted to give you a little sample of the writing – I denied you then, but I’m feeling a little more generous today I suppose, because I just have to share one little taste. This is a small part of the snow scene I just indicated, and you have to remember, Elizabeth is blind. This scene, in it’s entirety, is my favorite of the whole book, however this is just a portion of the very beginning:

“I have waited for this, Beth, this moment,” he whispered as he took her hands in his and brought her fingertips to his mouth, kissing each fingertip before placing her palms on either side of his face. “When Sussex, Black and I returned from the East, I watched you as you did this – touched Sussex, then Black. And I waited, holding my breath, barely able to control my feelings, waiting to feel your touch on my face. But you did not. You made a polite enquiry after my health and left me standing alone by the hearth. And, then, the other afternoon with Sheldon, you touched him, and I was alone, and apart again. Remembering what it was like to await your touch, and then never to feel it. Beth,” he whispered as he moved closer to her, “won’t you touch me? See me?”

This series is a little different from other series I’ve read. Usually in a series of books you get a straight line, with this one (well, at least the last two – I still need to read the first book) the line is a bit more jagged. Ms. Featherstone goes back and fills in a few gaps you didn’t even realize you were missing from the previous book. The story is the same in parts, yet continues in others. I’m anxious to get my hands on Seductions & Scandal, and I’ll likely revisit Pride & Passion. As much as I’ve enjoyed Temptation & Twilight, I think Pride & Passion is still my favorite thus far, the back story on that one is heart melting.

A Cold Creek Reunion – RaeAnne Thayne

GENRE:  Adult Fiction – Romance
FORM: eBook – Netgalley

SYNOSPSIS (from Goodreads):   

He was the one you called when you needed rescuing…

But who was Taft Bowman going to call when he needed help? Because ten years ago Laura Pendleton, the love of his life, had left town without a word, then or since. Now she was back, with a new last name, and two adorable, high-needs little ones in tow. Well, Taft had been stupid enough to let her go once before…he wasn’t about to make the same mistake again. He’d never stopped loving her, and one look at those adorable little faces and he knew that he was meant to be with Laura and her kids forever. All he had to do was convince her that this time he was a man she could count on!

REVIEW:  So I’ve decided you might as well add “Small town life,” and “ranch cowboys” to my list of books I apparently gravitate towards. When I look at the scope of books I like to read, it gets broader every day. I mean, one day I’m reading about ships and pirates, another day I’m in the London Ton, the next I’m chasing down vampires, and then I’ll finish it off riding a horse. Such is the way of a book lover!

A Cold Creek Reunion
has actually been sitting in my iPhone for a while. It’s a book I got from NetGalley, and while I try my best to be pretty time sensitive when I get a book from them, this particular one has continued to be pushed back to another time. I mean, it’s a Romance, so it’s a winner from the start, however the story line has been done (which obviously doesn’t bother me, since I DID request the book – right?), but I think I have to be in the moment that I feel like reading that particular kind of book. It doesn’t always happen that way, but apparently this one was one of those kinds of books.

And I must really have been in the mood, because I read two books back-to-back with extremely similar plots. Small town life, runaway bride returns home, old flame flares. It’s obviously a very frequently done plot, in all of its varieties. Like I said, I choose this (these) books, so I’m not knocking the over done plot here – but I’m pretty sure I’ve read 3 or 4 more that have the same basic outline. Thankfully, author creativity makes them not precisely the same book. Anyhow, reading two of these books back-to-back has helped me to really appreciate the value of a good writer. I am not going to name the other book I read, because…well, just because; but let’s just say that the other book was “less than” A Cold Creek Reunion, as far as stories go. While reading the other book I thought, this is a nice story. I’m enjoying it. Of course I love the way the story plays out, the idea around a rekindled romance. But it was just okay. Reading A Cold Creek Reunion in comparison was almost like night and day. I really got to know and enjoy the characters. I loved the town and the people in it. I could envision the story playing out in my head, it became much more than just words on a page. There was life and meaning in there.

Now, if I could tell you what the differences are as far as writing technique, details, etc., I would. I wish I could tell you why one book was just okay and the other evoked such a response that in the end I actually had tears of happiness. Maybe I was just having a sappy day? Or maybe with A Cold Creek Reunion, I had more time to really focus on the story where as the other book I was constantly being interrupted by one or three kids. Those are very distinct possibilities, but I truly believe there is a reason behind why one captured my attention so greatly and the other just merely entertained.

BOOK REVIEW: Allegiance – Cayla Kluver

GENRE: Young Adult – Historical Fantasy
FORM: eBook – NetGalley – ARC
SERIES: Legacy Series – Book 2

While I was granted permission to read this book by NetGalley affiliate publisher, Harlequin, I have received no compensation for this review other than the joy of reading!

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads.com): Only I saw Narian for who he truly was: a young man with courage and an independent mind, and made to pay for what was outside his control. He couldn’t help his past any more than he could help the way those intense, deep-blue eyes pierced me and held me captive.

An eighteen-year-old queen in love with the enemy as their countries pass the point of no return…

Bound to a man she cannot love, Queen Alera of Hytanica must forget Narian, the young man who holds her heart. For Narian is destined to conquer Hytanica at the behest of his master, the powerful magic-user known as the Overlord. Alera doesn’t truly believe Narian will fight against Hytanica-until Cokyrian troops attack with Narian commanding the charge.

Faced with the greatest betrayal a heart can know, Alera must set aside personal feelings and lead her kingdom through its darkest time. And when all hope, will and courage seem lost, she must find strength and remember that even the blackest night must have a dawn….

REVIEW: I am in love with this series. It combines all of my many favorite things; fantasy, historical setting, royal court politics, hot heroes, strong heroines, the most evil of villains. Allegiance is a book where the romance does not rule. While there are snippits of gushing here and there, but this book is more about the downfall of Hytanica and about Alera’s rising strength as a Queen. As in the first novel, Legacy, Alera has some questionably immature behavior. There are times when she seems to be completely oblivious to the danger her country is in, or of the responsibility of her new position, however she finds out rather quickly and harshly. In Allegiance she grows up quickly and is becoming a very strong and capable leader.

I addressed love triangles in my previous review, and it seems I’m still unable to get away from them, but in this case it’s a very open ended love triangle, since Alera does not actually love the man she is married to. I actually felt bad for Steldor throughout this book. It seemed as if he loves Alera, even though – if I’m remembering correctly – he never really came close to expressing those feelings in a way Alera could comprehend in the first book. He’s a man who is handsome and knows it. I believe I may have actually compared him to Beauty and the Beast’s Gaston, a comparison I think still fits – but only if Gaston’s character were extended beyond the courtship. You start to see the real man behind the ego in Allegiance. You see he’s a good person, even if he has a temper. He’s protective and possessive over what he sees as his. If played out right, I actually wouldn’t have minded if the book turned to his favor, even if I do love Narian.

Narian, the character who was present throughout the entire book, without actually being present. He was in it – mostly through Alera’s memories. The moments that he was actually there himself, sometimes he was being painted in a very bad scenario, which I think may have encouraged the “Steldor alignment” of the thoughts mentioned earlier. But Narian is a proven character, and he will behave as you expect him to at the right moments. He is a hero who will not let you down!

I loved Allegiance! I love the story, I love the characters. I love the imagery of the world that Cayla Kluver has painted. I will admit that there were points when I felt the book was getting kind of long on the details. I was a bit antsy waiting around in hiding, in fact, but isn’t that what it would actually feel like? I LOVE the covers, absolutely beautiful!!! As I have read these books in a “borrowed’ ARC format from NetGalley, I am so tempted to purchase the book copies of this series – just so I can see them on my shelf.