Genre: General

Retro Review: Angels’ Blood by Nalini Singh

Posted April 5, 2017 by Holly in Reviews | 9 Comments

Retro Review: Angels’ Blood by Nalini SinghReviewer: Holly
Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh
Series: Guild Hunter #1
Also in this series: Archangel's Kiss, Archangel's Consort, Archangel's Storm, Archangel's Legion, Archangel's Legion, Archangel's Shadows, Archangel's Shadows, Angels' Blood, Archangel's Heart, Archangel's Heart, Archangel's Heart (Guild Hunter, #9), Archangel's Kiss (Guild Hunter, #2)
Published by Penguin
Publication Date: March 3rd 2009
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Paranormal, General
Pages: 368
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FIRST IN THE GUILD HUNTER SERIES from “a major new talent” (CHRISTINE FEEHAN).
View our feature on Nalini Singh’s Angels' Blood.
Nalini Singh introduces readers to a world of beauty and bloodlust, where angels hold sway over vampires.

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux is hired by the dangerously beautiful Archangel Raphael. But this time, it’s not a wayward vamp she has to track. It’s an archangel gone bad.
The job will put Elena in the midst of a killing spree like no other—and pull her to the razor’s edge of passion. Even if the hunt doesn’t destroy her, succumbing to Raphael’s seductive touch just may. For when archangels play, mortals break.

*****As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

This review was originally posted on September 11, 2009.

As many of you know, I have an aversion to vampires. A big one. I kind of have a mental block in place when it comes to them, as a matter of fact. So I put off reading this for quite some time. I’m sorry for that now. What an amazing story. The world-building and characterizations were fabulous. Casee already reviewed this book here, so I’m not going to go into the plot too much.

Elena was strong and witty. I might want to be her when I grow up. I love that she was independent and strong, but not the point of stupidity. I understood her fierce need to be in control of her own life and appreciated the way she stuck to her personal values and morals. I love that her attraction to Raphael didn’t stop her from standing up for herself, or doing what she felt was right.

Is there anything better than seeing an (arch)angel fall? Raphael started out cold and harsh, but really melted as the story progressed. Even though he was obviously dangerous and his motives were murky I still adored him right from the beginning. I think Singh really did an excellent job of writing him so he was the perfect anti-hero; Dark and dangerous, but lovable in spite of that.

I think one of the best things about this was how subtle the changes in their feelings for each other were. It’s obvious from the beginning that Raphael is attracted to Elena. But that doesn’t really mean anything to us as the reader, because we know he thinks of her as a toy. Watching his feelings slowly morph and change into something more was truly wonderful to watch.

I enjoyed the storyline, too. It was a different take on an old theme (angels and vampires) and I was drawn in from the first page. I do have questions about the Archangels and the major conflict of this novel, but I have a feeling the answers won’t be revealed until later in the series. I’m reserving judgment for now.

This was a fresh and amazing start to a new series. Singh has proven herself to be a master storyteller already, and this novel just secures her status.

4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars

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Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie Garwood

Posted February 22, 2017 by Holly in Discussions, Reviews | 15 Comments

Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie GarwoodReviewer: Holly
Shadow Music by Julie Garwood
Series: Highlands Lairds #3
Also in this series: Ransom
Published by Ballantine Books
Publication Date: 2008
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, General
Pages: 438
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Goodreads
two-half-stars

Throughout her acclaimed writing career, Julie Garwood has captivated readers with characters who are compelling, daring, and bursting with life. Now one of the most popular novelists of our time proudly returns to her beloved historical romance roots–in a thrilling tale of love, murder, adventure, and mystery set against the haunting landscape of medieval Scotland.
For Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, Scotland is a land of stunning vistas, wild chieftains, treacherous glens, and steep shadows–skullduggery, betrayal, and now murder. Prized for her exquisite beauty, the daughter of one of England’s most influential barons, Gabrielle is also a perfect bargaining chip for a king who needs peace in the Highlands: King John has arranged Gabrielle’s marriage to a good and gentle laird. But this marriage will never take place.
For Gabrielle, everything changes in one last burst of freedom–when she and her guards come upon a scene of unimaginable cruelty. With one shot from her bow and arrow, Gabrielle takes a life, saves a life, and begins a war.
Within days, the Highlands are aflame with passions as a battle royal flares between enemies old and new. Having come to Scotland to be married, Gabrielle is instead entangled in Highland intrigue. For two sadistic noblemen, underestimating Gabrielle’s bravery and prowess may prove fatal. But thanks to a secret Gabrielle possesses, Colm MacHugh, the most feared man in Scotland, finds a new cause for courage. Under his penetrating gaze, neither Gabrielle’s body nor heart is safe.
A gripping novel that delves into the heart of emotions–unyielding passions of love, hate, revenge, and raw desire–Shadow Music is magnificent gift from Julie Garwood and a crowning achievement in her amazing career.
From the Hardcover edition.

******As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

Man, I love me some early Julie Garwood historicals. She lost me with her romantic suspense. I remember being so excited when she announced she was releasing a new historical. I’m still pretty disappointed it didn’t live up to my expectations. I wonder what would happen if I read it now? I might need to reread it and see if I still feel the same. 

This review was originally published January 8, 2008

This is less a review about this particular book and more my thoughts on the writing of Julie Garwood. Casee reviewed the book here. You can check that out for a plot summary and her thoughts, for they mostly mirrored mine.

Throughout her career, JG has remained a favorite of mine. Well, let me clarify. Prior to Killjoy she was a favorite of mine. Her historicals still call to me on occasion and I find myself picking them up at random, anxious to sink into an old, comfortable story, similar to how I might slip on my favorite sweats after a long day at work, or pop in a favorite DVD if I’ve had a particularly bad day.

But after Killjoy, not only did I think contemps were not her thing, I decided her writing itself deteriorated. The last novel I read by her was Slow Burn. While I enjoyed the basic premise behind it, I was sadly disappointed in the actual writing. Sentences were choppy, paragraphs seemed to bleed together, or go in odd directions that made no sense to me, dialogue was stilted, characters were half formed or one dimensional. I thought the plot was an awesome one, and had it been better fleshed out it had the potential to become her best written novel yet. But instead it fell far short.

After that, I decided not to read another of her contemps. I told myself, and others, that I’d buy her again if she went back to historicals, but otherwise I was done with her. I removed her from my auto-buy list and comforted myself with her old historicals, the ones that got me hooked on romance to begin with.

Then the announcement came. That yes, Julie Garwood, historical legend, would be returning to her roots. Love her older historicals or hate them, you can’t deny she’s a basic staple in romance. I was happy to hear she’d be returning, but somewhat apprehensive. Because although the moment I’d been waiting for had finally come, I was concerned about her actual writing style. The way she wove a story back when was unconventional perhaps, but still engaging. I didn’t think she’d be able to return to that, not after seeing evidence of her decline in her more recent novels.

I’m sad to say I was correct. She may have done quite a bit of head-hopping in her previous novels, but the focus remained on the two main protagonists. In this novel, however, she chose to write in a more narrative style than from one POV or another. So I was constantly pulled out of the story by her glossing over things, or seeming to sum things up. Very frustrating.

I’m also extremely unclear about how they H/H came to fall in love. There was hardly any interaction between the two, and what there was was disjointed and…once again, glossed over. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to her writing. A chapter would start out from one POV or another, and then half-way through she’d jump into a narrative style, summing things up rather than allowing us as readers to follow the progress.

I suppose it would be like me starting a story, in which I use rich, colorful detail and much humor only to say, once you’re engaged and intrigued, “Blah blah, yada, yada, you get what I mean” and then just leave it at that. Frustrating, no?

There were some good parts. When the POV was written from either the hero or heroine, I was drawn into the story. Unfortunately, those parts were few and far between, and when they did happen, they didn’t last long. The basic premise was also a good one, and classic Garwood. Sadly, the point of the plot was lost somewhere in the muddle of switching from one writing style to another, the jumping between characters and places (i.e., from the Barons in England to the clans in the Highlands to the heroine to the hero to the guards of the heroine to her father back to the barons to the king of England, etc, etc) and the mass amount of inconsistencies presented.

A lot of the reviews I’ve read for this book said the Priests provided a lot of comic relief, but I didn’t really see that. Sure, there were some amusing parts, but I think I assumed they played a bigger part in the overall story (with actual read time, I mean) and that just didn’t seem to be the case.

I’m sure I’ll end up buying her next book (assuming she continues to write historicals), just to see if she somehow improves…hmm, or perhaps that’s not the right word. Regresses into her old writing habits? Goes back to being the Garwood I knew and loved? I’m not sure. I have a feeling I’m going to be sorely disappointed when (if) that time comes, however.

On a related note: Ange, The Romance Groupie, posted about this book on Saturday. I mentioned my disappointment in the overall writing in the comments, and she responded with this:

Actually, I’ve noticed that many of the popular authors appear to be going down in the quality department. I’m wondering if it’s the editors, publishers, etc. that are ruining it. It just seems strange that so many great authors have gone bad in the last year or so. Is it just me? Are you seeing this trend too?

I thought about it some, and yes, I have to agree. Some of my favorite authors have seriously declined in the last few years. Could it be because of the publishers or editors? Or is it just simply something with them personally?

Regardless, I’m disappointed.

Even though I said this was less a review and more my thoughts on JG’s writing as a whole, I’ll still rate the book:

2.5 out of 5

You can buy it here in hardback or in eBook format here. When I bought it from Books on Board, they were offering a $5 cash-back incentive, bringing the total book price down to $9.95. I’m not sure if they’re still offering the promotion, but you could email them to see.

two-half-stars

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Retro Review: Once Smitten, Twice Shy by Lori Wilde

Posted February 15, 2017 by Holly in Reviews | 5 Comments

Retro Review: Once Smitten, Twice Shy by Lori WildeReviewer: Holly
Once Smitten, Twice Shy by Lori Wilde
Series: Wedding Veil Wishes #2
Also in this series: Addicted to Love
Published by Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: December 14th 2008
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, General
Pages: 384
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Legend claims this antigue Irish wedding veil can grant your heart's deepest desire. But be careful what you wish for...
Wedding videographer Tish Gallagher is at the end of her rope. Her business is about to go bust. She's just spent her last buck on nonreturnable (but oh so fabulous) shoes. And her most sustainable relationship is with a pint of Haagen Dazs. So she makes a wish on the lucky wedding veil to get out of debt...and sees the man she never stopped loving, her ex-husband, secret service agent Shane Tremont. Sure, their chemistry was off-the-charts sizzling hot, but their clashes were legendary, and no amount of longing will change that.
When her dream job of recording the first daughter's wedding appears out of the blue, Tish knows it's her only shot to get out of the red. Just one teensy glitch: Shane is the groom. From the moment they see each other, she knows nothing's changed--the same old black magic is still between them, as irresistible and potent as ever. But he's promised to another and Tish has been burned before. Will she always be...ONCE SMITTEN, TWICE SHY?

******As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

I still have very fond memories of this series. I stopped reading Wilde some time back, but I often think back fondly on these books.

This review was originally published February 02, 2008

This is the second book in Lori Wilde’s Wedding Veil Wishes series. I didn’t read the first book, and don’t feel I missed anything by having skipped it. I think at some point I’ll pick it up, just because I like to read all the books in a series, but I never felt like I missed something while reading this book.

Shane has no idea what he was thinking to propose to the President’s daughter. But she’d caught him in a weak moment, staring at him like he was ten feet tall and bullet proof after he’d put his life on the line for hers. And now she’s concocted some scheme involving his ex-wife – the ex he still cares about more than he should.

Elysee knows Shane needs to make peace with the past if their marriage is going to work, so she hires Tish thinking they’ll be able to heal old wounds if they spend enough time together. But even she couldn’t have predicted just how much history there was between Tish and Shane, and just what they’d need to move past old hurts. And now she’s wondering if she made a grave mistake, because not only has she seen the looks the former couple pass between them, but she’s been getting some looks of her own, from her #1 bodyguard, Cal Ackerman.

I must confess, normally a story where one of the main protagonists is engaged to someone else would immediately turn me off. But in this case, it didn’t bother me a bit. I think the author did a fabulous job of writing an unconventional story that really worked.

This story is a somewhat predictable piece of fluff, but it was engaging and I really enjoyed it. Well, I enjoyed it until close the the end, that is.

You see, Wilde did a fabulous job of keeping the focus on the main trio of characters. Elysee, Tish and Shane were shown in equal light, each with their own demons to battle and insecurities to overcome. I empathized with all three, understanding perfectly their personal issues. Shane, the wounded hero who just needed to be needed. Tish, the independent free spirit who needed someone to lean on. Elysee, the hopeless romantic who wanted nothing more than a knight in shining armor to sweep her away.

But then, more than 3/4 of the way through the book, a new element was introduced…that of a terrorist group who wanted to assassinate a woman who was trying to escape India. The thing is, there was nothing leading up to the sudden twist in the story. For almost the entire book, the focus remained on the three main characters and then BAM, all of a sudden Tish is being attacked and Shane needs to save her and Elysee is involved in an international rescue plot and there’s a murderer out to get them all. But..uh..I must have missed a memo, because that seriously came out of nowhere.

Despite that, however, I liked the book. I loved Tish and Shane together and I’m hopeful that Elysee will get a story of her own someday. Basically, buy this book for the romance, but don’t be surprised if it goes in a strange direction unexpectedly.

Even though I had a major issue with the latter half of the book, I’m still giving this:

4.5 out of 5

Because I really, really liked the rest of it.

The series:

There Goes the Bride
Once Smitten Twice Shy
Addicted to Love
All of Me

You can buy it here in paperback or here or here.

four-half-stars

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Retro Review: Demon Angel by Meljean Brook

Posted February 8, 2017 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Retro Review: Demon Angel by Meljean BrookReviewer: Holly
Demon Angel by Meljean Brook
Series: The Guardians #1
Also in this series: Demon Moon, Demon Night, Demon Bound, Demon Forged, Guardian Demon
Published by Penguin
Publication Date: January 2nd 2007
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Paranormal, General
Pages: 432
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

For two thousand years, Lilith wrought vengeance upon the evil and the damned, gathering souls for her father's armies Below and proving her fealty to her Underworld liege. Bound by a bargain with the devil and forbidden to feel pleasure, she draws upon her dark powers and serpentine grace to lead men into temptation. That is, until she faces her greatest temptation—Heaven's own Sir Hugh Castleford...

Once a knight and now a Guardian, Hugh spent centuries battling demons—and the cursed, blood-drinking nosferatu. His purpose has always been to thwart the demon Lilith, even as he battles his treacherous hunger for her. But when a deadly alliance unleashes a threat to both humans and Guardians in modern-day San Francisco, angel and demon must fight together against unholy evil—and against a desire that has been too long denied...

 ******As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.
Man, I miss Meljean Brook. Per her website, she’s still writing, but things are going slooow. We haven’t had a new release from her in way too long. Demon Angel isn’t my favorite Brook novel, but it sets up this world so beautifully I had to repost this review. I feel a series re-read coming on.
This review was originally published July 15, 2013

The world building was imaginative, sensual and amazing. I was pleasantly surprised by the way Brook drew me into her fierce battle for souls and the fight between good and evil. I was also drawn in by the two lead characters, Lilith and Hugh. Though they came from two different worlds (literally) and were on opposite sides of an eternal battle, their connection to one another came across as not just sexual, but very emotional as well, which made their constant conflict all the more believable.

I also enjoyed the secondary characters and the relationships they had with Lilith and Hugh. Colin, the vampire they both befriended despite themselves; Sir Pup, Lilith’s hellhound; Savi, Hugh’s roommate and even Auntie, the woman who once took Hugh in, were fabulous characters, and while they played a large part in the overall story, they in no way intruded on the focus of the main story.

There were too many questions left unanswered, I think. Part of the appeal of this book is it really makes you think. Nothing is tied up in a nice, neat little bow, there are questions left unanswered and things you have to figure out on your own. Which was good and bad. I felt there were a few too many things left unexplained. However, because this is the first book of a series, I’m willing to wait for the next book before passing judgment.

I really struggled with the pacing. As much as I enjoyed this book, it was very slow moving. At times, the pace would pick up and I’d be sucked in, unable to set it down, and then it would get bogged down again and I’d have a hard time giving it my full attention. I understand that a lot of the information imparted was important for the story and the basis of the world Brook created, but at times there was Too Much Information. I think, in all honesty, the story could have been 100 pages shorter and been better for it.

Overall, I adored the storyline, the world building and the characters. I can’t wait for Demon Moon. I do hope, however, that the pacing will work better than it did in this one.

I think I’m going to give this one a solid:

4 out of 5

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This book is available from Berkley Sensation. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

*This review was first published at Sanctuary’s Finest.

four-stars

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Retro Review: Miracle by Deborah Smith

Posted February 1, 2017 by Holly in Reviews | 12 Comments

Retro Review: Miracle by Deborah SmithReviewer: Holly
Miracle by Deborah Smith
Published by Bantam, Random House Publishing Group
Publication Date: October 1st 1991
Genres: Fiction, Romance, General
Pages: 464
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Haunted by a past filled with poverty and abuse, Amy Miracle finds escape and release in the vineyards of Georgia--and in Sebastian de Savin, a brilliant and arrogant surgeon whose own past has hardened his heart. Amy finally breaks through de Savin's shell and teaches him to love and laugh again, and Sebastian helps Amy blossom into a magnificent woman.

******As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

I remember loving this book so much, but the idea of re-reading it now makes me cringe. I can’t imagine diving back into this epic mess.

This review was originally published June 11, 2007

Many thanks to Wendy for turning me on to this author. I found this novel to be very reminiscent of Danielle Steele, without the constant repetitiveness in the writing style.

Amy and Sebastian meet at his father’s Vineyard, where Amy is working. Sebastian is a brilliant surgeon and finds himself drawn to the vineyard after losing a patient. For some reason he’s drawn to Amy and finds himself returning there to see her again and again.

After a brutal fight with her father, Amy searches Sebastian out to help her with a medical problem and he offers her sanctuary at his house until she can find something new. After spending several weeks together, Sebastian has to leave for Africa and offers to pay Amy’s way through school. Though reluctant, she finally accepts and they’re separated. Sebastian is convinced Amy will be better off without him – he has major emotional baggage from a tragedy in his past – and says goodbye to her, never planning to see her again.

But over the next two years, he can’t stop thinking about her. Amy dedicates her time to her studies and fantasizing about seeing Sebastian again. But Sebastian’s family – French aristocrats – step in and drive a wedge between them – one that forces them to move on from each other physically.

Ten years later, after a major journey for each of them, Amy and Sebastian are reunited, but they’re both different people and they struggle to make the wrongs of their past right.

I truly enjoyed this story. Watching their separate journeys through life was wonderful. Amy was so shy and lacking in self-confidence in the beginning, watching her mature and grow confident in herself was wonderful. She was a strong heroine, and once she found herself, she didn’t compromise herself, not for the hero or anyone else.

Sebastian was a great hero, and a wonderful counterpart for Amy. He was extremely tortured, and desperately needed Amy’s lightness to bring him out of the darkness of his past. He suffered a lot, starting from an accident in his childhood, to a loveless marriage.

Although there was a lot of drama and the H/H were apart for most of the book, the story really worked for me. There were a few times when I was rolling my eyes, or thinking GET ON WITH IT ALREADY, but for the most part, I was just wrapped up in it, hurting for the characters and cheering them on.

I definitely recommend it.

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

This book is available from Bantam. You can purchase it here.

four-half-stars

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