Tag: Ballantine Books

Review: Shadow Music by Julie Garwood

Posted November 19, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Shadow Music by Julie GarwoodReviewer: Rowena
Shadow Music by Julie Garwood
Series: Highlands Lairds #3
Also in this series: Shadow Music , Ransom, The Secret (Highlands' Lairds #1), Ransom (Highlands' Lairds, #2), Shadow Music
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: December 26, 2007
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 339
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Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 A-Z Reading Challenge, Rowena's 2019 TBR Challenge
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four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

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.

I read this a couple of months ago and have been really busy so I’m catching up on writing my reviews right now. Shadow Music is the third book in Julie Garwood’s Highlands Lairds series and it follows Ransom, which came out ages and ages ago. While this book is part of the Highlands Lairds series, it can totally be read as a standalone. Reading this book brought back many memories of the other books that I have loved from Julie Garwood and it started an epic Julie Garwood binge readathon. I went back and re-read The Secret and Ransom and just kept right on re-reading all of my Garwood favorites. I enjoyed this book and even though it wasn’t a favorite read of mine, it was still a solid read that even my picky book club friends enjoyed.

Gabrielle’s father is a Baron from England and her mother is a Princess in St. Biel. St. Biel is a small country that has an interesting history that not very many people on St. Biel believe to be true. They believe the story of their homeland is more myth than truth but it’s part of their history and everyone knows it. When the story of St. Biel’s history becomes a real life threat to Gabrielle’s life, this story really heats up. Between being a pawn in King John’s efforts in trying to keep the peace with the Highland Lairds, her betrothed being killed and then coming upon an attack that starts a Highland war, there is much to dig into with this story.

Laird Colm MacHugh is trying to find out what happened to his brother. He is healing from injuries suffered from an attack at a nearby abbey and Colm means to find out what happened and who did this to his brother. He was not expecting to find himself engaged to an English lass who was just outed as a whore. As a favor to his friend, Brodick Buchanan, Colm steps up to protect the young lass and claim her as his. When she accepts his suit and then promptly disappears, Colm knows that he’s going to have his hands full with this new fiancee.

There is a lot going on in this book but I thought that Garwood handled the storytelling really well. I was invested in what was going on with Gabrielle and Colm. I loved seeing them come together in love. I adored seeing Brodick again, hearing about the Maitlands and the Ramsays and even though Brodick brings up what went down in Ransom and got the details wrong (he said that Ramsay’s brother Michael was taken when it was actually Iain’s son Alec that was taken), I still really enjoyed this one. Gabrielle was a great heroine and I really loved her guards. I loved how loyal they were to each other. They didn’t question anything or back down from anyone but Gabrielle and I really loved that. I also really loved seeing Gabrielle run circles around Colm until he couldn’t help but love the heck out of her. There were parts of the book that I didn’t care for, like the constant crap with the two English barons fighting over Gabrielle but I enjoyed the other bits enough that I could overlook them and their shenanigans.

This was a solid romance that I enjoyed from beginning to end and even though it’s not my favorite book by Garwood, I’d still recommend it to fans of her other historicals. I really wish she’d write more historicals.

Final Grade

4 out of 5

Highlands Lairds

four-stars


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Review: Never Love a Highlander by Maya Banks

Posted November 1, 2018 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Never Love a Highlander by Maya BanksReviewer: Rowena
Never Love a Highlander (McCabe Trilogy, #3) by Maya Banks
Narrator: Kirsten Potter
Series: McCabe Trilogy #3
Also in this series: In Bed with a Highlander, In Bed with a Highlander, Never Love a Highlander, Seduction of a Highland Lass, In Bed with a Highlander (McCabe Trilogy, #1), Seduction of a Highland Lass (McCabe Trilogy, #2)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: October 25, 2011
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 305
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four-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

In a tale of strong ties and true love, Maya Banks' trilogy comes to its conclusion, as the youngest McCabe brother uses sword and seduction to save his clan - and seal his heart.

Caelen McCabe’s young, reckless heart nearly destroyed his clan. Now, putting family loyalty above all else, he steps up to marry his older brother’s jilted bride and salvage the uneasy alliance between two clans. While beautiful Rionna McDonald is a fit wife for any man, Caelen trusts no woman, especially not this sweet temptress who torments him with white-hot longing.

As the sacrificial lamb in her father’s power game, Rionna will do her duty but vows to protect her heart and her pride from humiliation. Despite everything, though, the heat in Caelen’s touch melts her defenses, and she craves the sensual delights of a husband who guards his emotions as fiercely as his clan. But when the ultimate battle for the McCabe legacy is upon them, Rionna’s true warrior spirit emerges. She will risk the wrath of her father, the fury of her enemies, and her life to prove to Caelen that his wife’s love is too precious to lose.

Never Love a Highlander is the series finale and boy oh boy, what a finale it was. This book wasn’t as angsty as Seduction of a Highland Lass but it was just as good. I was telling Holly while I was reading this book that Maya Banks did such a great job with this series. This entire series was well written and reading each book just added to my overall enjoyment of these stories. Each story was different and refreshing but one thing that didn’t change through each book was how grumpy Caelen was.

Rionna McDonald has been engaged to all three of the McCabe brothers but it is the youngest of the McCabe’s, Caelen that she will finally marry and his attitude leaves much to be desired. He’s bossy, he’s grumpy and she can’t at all picture a happy future with him. Not that she has much of a choice. With her blessing, Caelen takes over as Laird immediately after they wed and not after their first child is born as originally agreed upon. As you can imagine, Rionna’s father was not happy with that but Caelen doesn’t give a damn and honestly, neither does Rionna. Rionna has grown up knowing that her father was a bad Laird and an even worse father so she can only hope that Caelen is a better Laird and will turn things around for her clan.

When they get back home to the McDonald keep, there is much to be done. Caelen has to earn the respect and loyalty of the McDonald men and Rionna has ideas of how to go about that but Caelen, being the hardheaded asshole that we’ve known throughout this entire series doesn’t listen to her. He’s gotta do it his own way and seeing him work through every defense that the men throw his way went a long way to winning me over to him.

Rionna was such a fantastic heroine. I warmed all the way up toward her character in the last book when we find out how she looked after Keeley and her reasons for her silence on the matter. The amount of love Rionna had for Keeley warmed my heart and seeing her front and center in her own book only served to show me how much more I would come to love her.

The romance between Caelen and Rionna had moments where I was frustrated with how dense Caelen seemed to be about Rionna’s feelings and then he’d explain himself and I couldn’t help but see where he’s coming from. There was a lot of back and forth between them but I was wrapped up in all of their drama. I loved every minute of it.

The entire last half of the book had me shook. From the lengths that Rionna goes to save Caelen, doing what she had to do to make sure that he stayed alive hit me right in my feels and that ending battle? Seeing all of the McCabe brothers fighting side by side to bring the bad guys down? I had pictures of Jon Snow going into battle and coming out victorious running through my head while all of that was going down. I loved it all and when I finished the book, I was a little sad to be done with all of the books. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the McCabes and McDonalds and the way that Banks wrapped up everyone’s stories was so satisfying that she cemented herself on my auto-buy list. This book was good dammit. Go and read this series if you haven’t yet. You won’t be sorry.

4.5 out of 5

McCabe Trilogy

four-half-stars


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Summer Reading Challenge Review: In Bed with a Highlander by Maya Banks

Posted September 11, 2018 by Rowena in Reviews | 4 Comments

Summer Reading Challenge Review: In Bed with a Highlander by Maya BanksReviewer: Rowena
In Bed with a Highlander (McCabe Trilogy, #1) by Maya Banks
Series: McCabe Trilogy #1
Also in this series: In Bed with a Highlander, In Bed with a Highlander, Never Love a Highlander, Seduction of a Highland Lass, Seduction of a Highland Lass (McCabe Trilogy, #2), Never Love a Highlander (McCabe Trilogy, #3)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: August 30, 2011
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 351
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four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Maya Banks' beguiling new trilogy features three unforgettable brothers risking everything to save their clan and their legacy—and to surrender their hearts to love.

Ewan McCabe, the eldest, is a warrior determined to vanquish his enemy. Now, with the time ripe for battle, his men are ready and Ewan is poised to take back what is his—until a blue-eyed, raven-haired temptress is thrust upon him. Mairin may be the salvation of Ewan's clan, but for a man who dreams only of revenge, matters of the heart are strange territory to conquer.

The illegitimate daughter of the king, Mairin possesses prized property that has made her a pawn—and wary of love. Her worst fears are realized when she is rescued from peril only to be forced into marriage by her charismatic and commanding savior, Ewan McCabe. But her attraction to her ruggedly powerful new husband makes her crave his surprisingly tender touch; her body comes alive under his sensual mastery. And as war draws near, Mairin's strength, spirit, and passion challenge Ewan to conquer his demons—and embrace a love that means more than revenge and land.

In Bed with a Highlander is the first book in the McCabe’s Trilogy and it’s also one of Holly’s picks for my Summer Reading Challenge. I’m happy to report that Maya Banks has hooked me with this first book and I cannot wait to read Alaric and Caelen’s books.

Mairin Stuart is a wanted woman but not by the law or anything like that. No. She’s wanted by land and money hungry men who want to claim her and all of the riches she brings to a marriage. When she’s found at the abbey where she was hiding at and then captured, she comes across a young boy who needs her help and protection so she uses her wiles to protect that little boy. After a severe beating, Mairin and her young charge flee for their lives. The young boy, Crispin vows that his father will protect her and all they need to do is get home.

When they’re rescued by Crispin’s uncle and taken home, Mairin realizes that she may not have to marry Laird Cameron but she does have to marry Crispin’s father, Ewan McCabe, in order for him to properly protect her. She has no wish to marry someone she doesn’t know and a little part of her has always wanted someone to want to marry her for her and not what she can bring to their marriage. While living with the McCabe tribe, Mairin tries to make the best of her situation and make a place for herself within the McCabe clan and just when she thinks maybe she’s found her place in the world, she’s summoned before the King to validate her marriage to Ewan.

Ewan has the weight of the clan’s problems on his shoulders and even though he’s made progress on building his clan back up, he’s still struggling to make ends meet, make sure everyone is fed and clothed and the responsibility never ends for him. When his young son goes missing and returns with a woman who protected him from those that meant to harm him, on one hand, he’s grateful but on the other hand, he’s wary because he has no idea who this woman is and what she’s doing with him. She becomes the answers to all of his dreams and nobody is more surprised than he is that he develops feelings for her and he would go to the ends of the earth to keep her safe.

Maya Banks is new to me but she’s won me over because I have already downloaded the rest of this series to my kindle and as soon as I can, I’ll be getting to know Alaric and Caelen a lot better. I can’t wait. Ewan and Mairin were a great couple that reminded me of my favorite couples from old school Julie Garwood books and that’s a plus for me. Who doesn’t love old school Julie Garwood? This was a fun book from beginning to end and the romance was lovely. So good. I definitely recommend.

Grade: 4 out of 5

McCabe Trilogy

four-stars


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Review: Blood Fury by J.R. Ward

Posted February 15, 2018 by Casee in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Blood Fury by J.R. WardReviewer: Casee
Blood Fury by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Legacy #3
Also in this series: Blood Truth
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: January 9th 2018
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 411
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Series Rating: four-stars

A vampire aristocrat, Peyton is well aware of his duty to his bloodline: mate with an appropriate female of his class and carry on his family’s traditions. And he thought he’d found his perfect match—until she fell in love with someone else. Yet when his split-second decision in a battle with the enemy endangers the life of another trainee, Peyton has to face the idea that his future, and his heart, actually lie with another.

Novo, as a female in the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s training program, feels like she has to prove herself to everybody—and she has no interest in being distracted by falling in love. But when Peyton proves to be so much more than a rich playboy, she is forced to confront the tragedy that has broken her soul and closed her off from love.

As the two grapple with Novo’s past and Peyton’s present, another couple must contend with an erotic connection that is unparalleled—and potentially scandalous.

Saxton, who has had his heart broken, discovers in himself a deep-seated attraction to Ruhn, a new member of the household. But will the other male explore the connection? Or will he close his mind and his heart to what could be true love . . . and cost Saxton everything?

Although the characters overlap between the Black Dagger Legacy and the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, the BDL series has overtaken the BDB. I am forcing myself to be a realist. Blood Fury is only the third book in a series that could potentially be eighty three books long. Zsadist’s book was the third book in the BDB series. At that time the series was still exciting and fresh as a daisy. What number are we at now? Fourteen? Twenty two? I digress. It’s not just the new look at the series, it’s the actually characters of the series. While they all have their stories, they aren’t hardened like the warriors are. It’s refreshing.

Blood Fury brings us the story of four characters. We have Peyton and Novo. We also have Saxton, who straddles both series, and Ruhn. I am not quite sure why Saxton and Ruhn got their story in a BDL book. Sure everything go explained away, but their story didn’t belong in this series.

Peyton and Novo have been dancing around each other since Blood Vow, which was book two. Novo is attracted to Peyton, but doesn’t have time for a man that is in love with another woman. A woman that is already mated. Peyton is attracted to Novo and he thinks he’s in love with Paradise. It’s only after he almost kills Novo by protecting Paradise (who doesn’t need protecting) that he realizes that he mourns a friendship that was made at an incredibly dark time for the glymera. Peyton and Paradise come from a world where friendship like theirs just aren’t formed and what he thought was love was nothing compared to what he feels for Novo.

Novo knows she’s attracted to Peyton and accepts that attraction. What she won’t accept is the squishy feelings he invokes in her. She’s been through enough in her life, losing who she thought was her mate to her sister. Right before she miscarried his young. Novo is someone that has never belonged anywhere in life, but she finds a home in Peyton. The love story between these two is intense. There are no BIG MISUNDERSTANDINGS, which was amazing. They are two people that have been misunderstood their whole lives. Finding each other is something that neither one of them ever expected and they don’t take it for granted. Then, well, this:

She was not his sun or his moon, but his galaxy.

I admit, I got misty. Novo was so deserving of everything Peyton was willing to give her. Of course she almost threw it all away, but she’s a smart girl.

Saxton and Ruhn. Ruhn and Saxton. Honestly, the summary of the book is misleading because it’s actually Saxton that almost ruins what could be what he’s been looking for his whole life. Saxton knows that what he feels for Ruhn is different. Even different than what he felt for Blay. Then he almost throws it away. What a fucking idiot. It doesn’t take him long to put his head out. As for Ruhn? I don’t think you could get a more perfect character. He definitely has his demons, but he is not going to miss out on life because of them. Ruhn isn’t bitter. He isn’t resentful of what he’s had to go through. He just is. I loved him.

There are parts of this book that definitely pulled at me. I was surprised that I liked it as much as I did. I was correct when I said that it would be easily finished once I sat down and actually read. It’s a fast read and will pull you in.

4 out of 5.

Black Dagger Legacy


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Review: Some Kind of Hero by Suzanne Brockmann

Posted July 13, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Some Kind of Hero by Suzanne BrockmannReviewer: Rowena
Some Kind of Hero by Suzanne Brockmann
Series: Troubleshooters Series #17
Also in this series: Into the Storm
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: July 11th 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 448
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Navy men don’t come tougher than Lieutenant Peter Greene. Every day he whips hotshot SEAL wannabes into elite fighters. So why can’t he handle one fifteen-year-old girl? His ex’s death left him a single dad overnight, and very unprepared. Though he can’t relate to an angsty teen, he can at least keep Maddie safe—until the day she disappears. Though Pete’s lacking in fatherly intuition, his instinct for detecting danger is razor sharp. Maddie’s in trouble. Now he needs the Troubleshooters team at his back, along with an unconventional ally.

Romance writer Shayla Whitman never expected to be drawn into a real-world thriller—or to meet a hero who makes her pulse pound. Action on the page is one thing. Actually living it is another story. Shay’s not as bold as her heroines, but she’s a mother. She sees the panic in her new neighbor’s usually fearless blue eyes—and knows there’s no greater terror for a parent than having a child at risk. It’s an ordeal Shay won’t let Pete face alone. She’s no highly trained operative, but she’s smart, resourceful, and knows what makes teenagers tick.

Still, working alongside Pete has its own perils—like letting the heat between them rise out of control. Intimate emotions could mean dangerous, even deadly, consequences for their mission. No matter what, they must be on top of their game, and playing for keeps . . . or else Pete’s daughter may be gone for good.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Troubleshooters book by Suzanne Brockmann so I was pretty excited to jump back into this world. I was hoping to catch up with all of the previous couples and there are quite a few of them around in Some Kind of Hero but to be honest, I miss the guys from the beginning of the series.

I miss Sam Starrett and Johnny Nilsson, though I don’t miss Nilsson’s wife Meg. I also miss Wildcard and Cosmo and just…those guys. They’ve all moved on from the Navy but for me, they were the guys that I loved so much that I kept coming back for more. I like the new guys fine but they just don’t compare to the older guys. My guys.

Anyway, on with the review…

Some Kind of Hero follows Lietenant Peter Greene and Shayla Whitman. Peter’s daughter has gone missing and Shayla gets roped into helping him by being at the right place when Peter needed a helping hand. Peter’s daughter Maddie gets herself wrapped up in some bad business and because she has no relationship with her Navy SEAL father, she doesn’t turn to him for help. She decides that she can handle taking on a drug lord all by her teenage self. sigh Too many times I wanted to punch Maddie in the throat for being so stupid.

Anyway, so Peter and Shayla are trying to track Maddie down because she’s missing and they’re piecing together what happened throughout the book with the help of Peter’s SEAL buddies Izzy Zanella, Mark Jenkins and a whole bunch of newbies that are all named John. It really takes a village to raise a child or in this case, find a missing child and the more I read, the more I got frustrated with a bunch of things.

  • Maddie. When the only person you have left in the world is your father, someone who has bent over backward trying to fix your broken relationship and is a Navy freaking SEAL, you turn to him for help when you’re framed for stealing money from a drug lord. You don’t lie and make things so much worse by running away and putting those that are trying to help you in danger by not being upfront about everything. I was also not cool with the way that she kept throwing her underage self at Dingo who was trying so hard to do the right thing by keeping his distance at the same time that he was trying to help protect her from the bad guys. Maddie annoyed the shit out of me at every turn in this book. I never quite warmed up to her and that sucked.
  • Shayla’s internal dialogue she had with Harry. It’s one thing to talk to yourself in your head or to even have conversations with your made up character in your head but the amount of times that Shayla shushed Harry out loud made me roll my eyes all over the damn place. I wanted to shake Shayla and tell her to stop acting like fucking weirdo, especially cause I thought she was too old to be acting the way that she was.
  • The earthquake. As someone who grew up in Southern California and is used to the earthquakes that we have down here, the whole earthquake scene just didn’t feel authentic to me. Peter did entirely too much and the earth shook for too long and I was reading that scene like, nope…that wouldn’t happen, there’s not enough time for all of this to happen. We’ve never had an earthquake that long and sure it’s all explained away but nope, I didn’t buy it.

There are more things that I was frustrated with but those were the main ones. I wasn’t a big fan of the romance between Peter and Shayla because they were too old to act the way they were acting. The whole “OMG, does he like me? I’m so stupid. Why did I say that?” Ugh, seriously? You guys aren’t 16 and in high school, so stop acting like you are. You’re a freaking Navy SEAL, Peter…open your mouth and tell Shayla how you feel about her. Same with Shayla. She wrote romance novels for a living for crying out loud. If you can write steamy love scenes and dialogue featuring a whole lot of “I love you’s” than you should be able to tell the man that you love how you feel and stop dodging what was really going on between you two.

I will say that even though there were things that annoyed me, I still enjoyed being in the Troubleshooters world again. It was good to see Izzy and Eden again and to hear about Lopez and Jenk and everybody else that was brought up in this book. Izzy is my favorite hero of the newer generation of SEALs so I loved, loved, loved seeing him again. I love his personality and he hasn’t changed a bit since his book. He’s still freaking awesome.

Overall, the romance kind of fell flat for me and the heroine got on my nerves with her inner dialogue crap and the earthquake didn’t feel right to me at all but I loved seeing the SEAL team come together and be there for one of their own. I loved how they juggled their jobs on the base with being there for Peter and helping out any way that they can. I loved hearing the Navy slang again and even though this isn’t my favorite book in the series, it’s still good.

Grade: 3 out of 5


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