Tag: Random House

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
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
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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Review: Someone Like You by Lauren Layne

Posted December 16, 2016 by Rowena in Reviews | 10 Comments

Review: Someone Like You by Lauren LayneReviewer: Rowena
Someone Like You by Lauren Layne
Published by Random House, Loveswept
Publication Date: December 6th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 228
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
five-stars

Lauren Layne’s bestselling Oxford Series continues with the poignant, heartwarming story of New York’s most eligible bachelor, Lincoln Mathis, a man who’s living a lie—until his dream woman takes away the pain.

Lincoln Mathis doesn’t hide his reputation as Manhattan’s ultimate playboy. In fact, he cultivates it. But behind every flirtatious smile, each provocative quip, there’s a secret that Lincoln’s hiding from even his closest friends—a tragedy from his past that holds his heart quietly captive. Lincoln knows what he wants: someone like Daisy Sinclair, the sassy, off-limits bridesmaid he can’t take his eyes off at his best friend’s wedding. He also knows that she’s everything he can never have.

After a devastating divorce, Daisy doesn’t need anyone to warn her off the charming best man at her sister’s wedding. One look at the breathtakingly hot Lincoln Mathis and she knows that he’s exactly the type of man she should avoid. But when Daisy stumbles upon Lincoln’s secret, she realizes there’s more to the charming playboy than meets the eye. And suddenly Daisy and Lincoln find their lives helplessly entwined in a journey that will either heal their damaged souls . . . or destroy them forever.

I couldn’t start this book fast enough. Nick and Nereyda had already read and loved it so I knew that only good things awaited me so the first chance I got, I jumped in. I’m so happy to report that Lauren Layne does not disappoint with Lincoln Mathis’ book.

From the moment readers have met Lincoln Mathis, they have been intrigued by this man. He’s not the relationship type, gets all of the girls but at the end of the night, everyone leaves happy and with no hard feelings. There aren’t any crazy ladies trying to break down his door for explanations about why he never called. There aren’t any hurt feelings. Everyone loves Lincoln Mathis and with everyone in his circle of friends pairing up, it’s Lincoln’s turn, right?

Wrong.

Lincoln has no interest in pairing up with anyone. You find out why he feels the way that he does when you dig into his story and I won’t get into those things in this review because…you have to read those things for yourself.

Lincoln was everything I hoped he would be and more. I went into this book, ready to know what Lincoln’s been hiding from the rest of the group and to really dig into his personality and his background. I wasn’t disappointed. I got all of that and more. I think Layne did a great job of giving readers what they’ve been waiting for and bringing Lincoln to life. We got to see what Lincoln was really about and I was here for that party. I loved every minute.

Daisy Sinclair was the last person I was thinking of for Lincoln. He was such a big character that I was afraid nobody would be good enough for him. I didn’t think he had an equal (yes, he was that big a character for me) but Daisy was perfect for him in every way. The way that she saw right through him from the jump had me sitting up and taking notice. I loved that she could relate to him on a level that nobody else could. Nobody got him the way that she did and man, her story really hit me in the feels. She was such a lovely character, so different from her twin sister but no less wonderful and I came to love the hell out of her.

I really liked the way that these two came together. First as friends and then their friendship grew into something so much bigger than either of them was expecting. They were both so lonely, their stories so different but they understood each other. They cared about each other. I loved it all.

Lauren Layne is my author of the year. She has literally knocked me on my ass time and time again this year alone and in a year that has been one craptastic day after another, I was glad to have so many of her books to look forward to. This was another wonderfully romantic story that hit me in my feels at every turn and fans of Lincoln Mathis will not be disappointed with his story because it’s great, you guys. So stinkin’ great. I highly recommend this book to everyone.


5 out of 5

five-stars

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Review: Shut Up and Kiss Me by Jessica Lemmon

Posted December 7, 2016 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Shut Up and Kiss Me by Jessica LemmonReviewer: Rowena
Shut Up and Kiss Me by Jessica Lemmon
Series: Lost Boys #2
Also in this series: Waiting for Devlin, Shut Up and Kiss Me
Published by Random House, Loveswept
Publication Date: December 6th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 176
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

Cade: I tried. I really tried. I should be out of this small town by now, finishing my law degree and partnering up with my buddies, but I couldn’t resist one last street race. Now I’m sidelined in the hospital, and while my injuries will heal, I’m not so sure my voice will return. What kind of attorney can’t talk? Yeah, exactly. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to come back from this... until Tasha Montgomery reawakens every competitive bone in my body.

Tasha: I nearly watched Cade Wilson die on that lonely stretch of road. He’s damn lucky just to be alive, even if he doesn’t realize it. I know he’s destined for bigger and better things, but I don’t mind helping him get there as he relearns everything he took for granted. Cade’s a good student, a real perfectionist; I can tell how much his stutter bothers him. But when he lets his kisses do the talking, everything else disappears. And one day, maybe he’ll be able to tell me that he wants me—as much as I want him.

Shut Up and Kiss Me is the second book in the Lost Boys series by Jessica Lemmon. This book follows Tasha Montgomery as she makes that journey on the Cade train. Cade Wilson is the half-brother of the hero from the first book, Devlin. At the end of Fighting for Devlin, Cade is in a street racing accident that lands him in the hospital with some pretty big injuries. Doctors don’t know if he’ll ever talk normally again but they’re hopeful. Tasha is Devlin’s girlfriend’s best friend and is going to school to become a physical therapist. She’s months away from graduating with her degree and she’s already got a job lined up. All she has to do is stay out of trouble and graduate and the life she’s worked for will be hers.

Cade had a plan too. He was on his way to law school and opening up a firm with his buddies. They had their office space all picked out and everything. They just needed to finish school. Then his Dad gets into trouble and Cade wakes up. He spent the last couple of years, trying to get over his ex-girlfriend and while he doesn’t feel anything for her anymore, the impression she left on him is a lot harder to get rid of. He never wants to feel that way again so it’s been all one night stands for him. No more getting serious about anyone. He’s got other things on his mind but after the accident, the life he was planning with his buddies goes up in dust because who is going to hire a lawyer that stutters? He’s got a lot of work cut out for him but first order of business? Re-learn how to talk.

After the third therapist quits on Cade, Cade’s father Paul asks Tasha to try to help his son. Tasha and Cade have history, being schoolmates and all (they go to the same college) and they’re both not fans of the other but of course that changes because duh, this is a romance. Watching these two circle each other, while trying to keep each other at arms length was entertaining. And sweet.

I was expecting a lot of angst after the ending of the last book. I was expecting Cade to be a darker character and Tasha to be different than she was but I’ve got to say, the direction Lemmon went with Cade and Tasha’s story really worked. I was on board with pretty much everything going on. This wasn’t some long, drawn out drama but it had just the right amount of everything thrown in to make the story flow well and endear the characters to the reader. I was happy with this read and am really looking forward to digging into Lemmon’s back list further. She’s been a really good find for me this year and that makes me happy.


4 out of 5

four-stars

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Review: Fighting for Devlin by Jessica Lemmon

Posted December 6, 2016 by Rowena in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Fighting for Devlin by Jessica LemmonReviewer: Rowena
Waiting for Devlin by Jessica Lemmon
Series: Lost Boys #1
Also in this series: Shut Up and Kiss Me, Shut Up and Kiss Me
Published by Random House, Loveswept
Publication Date: November 24th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 224
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

“A must-read for everyone who loves to watch a bad boy hero fall to his knees in the name of love.”—Lauren Layne

In a standalone novel that kicks off the irresistible Lost Boys series, a good girl and her boss get wild . . . together.

Devlin Calvary makes his own luck. Abandoned as a child, he was raised with bookies and gamblers. Dev runs and lives above a trendy club the mob subsidizes for him, enjoying the good life and mindless sex with a string of women all too ready to please him. Until, one night, he finds out how much it hurts to trust the wrong people. . . .

Rena Lewis sticks to the straight and narrow, determined not to slip up again . . . like the terrible night of partying four years ago that ended in tragedy. A waitress at Oak & Sage, she knows that sleeping with her boss is not a smart move. But when Dev shows up on her doorstep, beat up and clearly shaken, Rena’s not about to turn him down . . . or kick him out of bed.

Dev reawakens something primal within her—and something protective within himself. And Rena soon finds out that the heart she’d sealed away years ago still has the power to fight for love.

I’ve been meaning to read more Jessica Lemmon books since I read The Billionaire Bachelor. She also comes highly recommended by Lauren Layne and y’all know I love that woman so I dove into Lemmon’s Lost Boys series with glee.

Devlin Calvary has been on his own ever since his father died. From his father, he inherited a restaurant and Devlin has really made the restaurant into a profitable business. Sure, he’s got a side business he can’t talk about but working for Sonny, a bookie, is easy money. Sonny is a father figure to Devlin, someone that has always had his back and there isn’t much Devlin wouldn’t do for Sonny. When Dev’s father died, he moved in with his father’s best friend, Paul Wilson and his wife Joyce. They raised Devlin as best as they could but Devlin never felt like he was part of that family so while he feels like he owes Paul for keeping a roof over his head, they’re not exactly close. The same can be said for Paul and Joyce’s son, Cade. Devlin has been alone and he’s grown up thinking that nobody sticks around so he keeps to himself and works at the restaurant and for Sonny.

Rena Lewis is a good girl who is carrying the weight of a dead boyfriend around. Everyone feels sorry for the girl that was left behind so she’s been keeping her head down and doing what she needs to do. She’s got one best friend that is good to her and she has a new job at the Oak & Sage restaurant that is owned by Devlin Calvary. Devlin is hot stuff and Rena has definitely taken notice. It’s been a long time she’s taken notice of anyone and for some reason, every time Devlin is around her, she perks right up.

Seeing these two circle each other was entertaining. I really enjoyed how normal their romance was. They met at work, they were immediately attracted to each other, couldn’t stay away from each other and then they fell in love. Trying to learn each other and figure out how to be together was the jist of their story but I really liked it. I thought Devlin was a great hero. He’s not perfect and I wanted to smack him upside the head a number of times but never once did I not like him. I especially liked him for Rena. Rena couldn’t stop herself from falling hard for Devlin and eventually, she stops trying to stop. I really liked how she owned her feelings and was always up front with Devlin about how she felt. He knew when she was mad. He knew why she was mad and that was great.

There was a lot going on in this book but everything was linked and I liked seeing how everything came together and then got worked out. Everything between Devlin, Sonny, Paul and then Cade along with Rena and Tasha and the Cops that came with Rena’s Mom. I liked the way that Lemmon brought everything out in the open, worked through everything and then fixed it all. There wasn’t a boring moment for me, I was completely invested in everything and everyone. I closed this book with a content smile and then dug right into Cade’s book. This was a good one and I definitely recommend.


4 out of 5

four-stars

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Guest Review: Just a Little Flirt by Renita Pizzitola

Posted March 30, 2015 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Just a Little Flirt by Renita PizzitolaTracy’s review of Just a Little Flirt (Crush #2) by Renita Pizzitola

Between all the parties and random hook-ups, Fallon Carr is this close to flunking out of college. But her internship working with pediatric patients means the world to her—especially since, at the end of the summer, one lucky intern will be offered a paid position. Determined to leave her bad reputation behind, Fallon even takes a bet that she won’t sleep with anyone from work. But there’s one little catch. . . .

Not only is Cade Ryan the hottest guy Fallon has ever laid eyes on, he’s a therapy dog handler who volunteers his time to visit kids at the hospital. So when he starts pursuing her, Fallon can’t believe her bad timing. The thing is, Cade is different. He’s not like the college guys who see her as a one-night stand, or the high-school boyfriend who took a part of her she can never get back. Cade genuinely wants to spend time with her—and not just between the sheets.

Fallon won’t let her growing feelings for Cade get in the way of her dreams. Besides, no guy can break down the walls she put up long ago. So what’s the harm in a little flirting? It’s not like she’s falling in love. But she may have seriously underestimated how complicated things can get when the perfect guy falls for her first.

Fallon has finished her freshman year at college and now she’s managed to score herself an internship at the local hospital in the Child Life center. She is excited about the internship – especially when she finds out that there will be a part-time paid position available for one of the interns at the end of the summer. Fallon wants that position badly but she wants to get it on her own merit. She’s afraid, however, that if anyone from work finds out about her extra-curricular activities (partying and hooking up with guys) that she had during the school year that they won’t consider her. She’s determined to make a good impression and decides to not really drink (ok, not get drunk) during the summer so she doesn’t have to worry about hangovers. The hooking up with guys part is a little harder after she meets dog therapist Cade but she may be able to manage it. She can flirt – but she can’t touch!

Cade sees Fallon and is smitten. They hit it off as friends and he makes no bones about the fact that he wants to date her. He and his dog, Scout, start to get under Fallon’s skin and Cade decides that he wants more with Fallon than just a date or two.

There’s a whole lot more to Fallon than meets the eye. She has a past that she’s trying to escape and in doing that she shot herself into the other end of the spectrum when it comes to guys. The truth is, she really doesn’t like sex so when she gets closer with Cade she can’t figure out how she can like him but then stay out of his bed. She just knows that if she goes to bed with him it will ruin the relationship for them completely. Cade, however, has a whole bunch of tricks up his sleeve and he’s not afraid to try them out on Fallon.

I have to start off by saying that I’m enjoying this series immensely. It had been a few months since I’d read book one in this series, Just a Little Crush, so I re-read it before I picked up book two and it was just as a good the second time around. It also reminded me about Fallon and what she was like in book one. She was completely different in this book but her internship was the reason for that. Because she was stepping back from drinking and guys it put her into a different mindset once she met Cade and that was a good thing. Her personality didn’t change – thank heavens! – and she was still as snappy with the comebacks as she was before. I loved that about her. Despite all the turmoil she was feeling she still had a great sense of humor.

I loved Fallon and Cade together and I loved the addition of Scout in their talks. The dog was a therapy dog and therefore helped soothe Fallon when she was talking to Cade about things that upset her. It was a nice way to for the author to get Fallon to relax and I thought it was a wonderful way of adding the dog and showing exactly what therapy dogs do.

Cade was a great guy. I really didn’t see anything about him that I would put in the “minus” column when adding up his qualities. He was kind, patient, giving, fun, funny, sexy, thoughtful and generous of his time. He was kind of the perfect book boyfriend. lol

So far I’ve enjoyed both books in Ms. Pizzitola’s series and hopefully future books in the series will be just as good. I definitely would recommend this New Adult series to anyone looking for some good books to read.

Rating: 4 out of 5

This title is available from Flirt/Random House. You can buy it here or here in e-format. This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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