Thursday, July 30

Review: Danger in a Red Dress by Christina Dodd

First, I'd like to start this post by begging for forgiveness!! Jill, please forgive my laziness!! Basically, Jill contacted me back in the beginning of June and within 2 days, we were done... but I never got around putting the review together before today ^_^; Yes, I know! My bad!! But it is done and I think it's a great one :) So enjoy everyone!!

Danger in a Red Dress by Christina Dodd
published by New American Library (Signet) in March 2009

Home care nurse Hannah Grey is dedicated to her patient, an aging widow still tainted by the financial scandal her late husband perpetrated. She makes Hannah promise that upon her death, she'll right the family's wrongs, and gives Hannah her offshore account's access codes.

But Carrick Manly will do anything to discover where his family's fortunes lie- including kill his own mother. Fearing for her life, and desperate not to betray the widow, Hannah flees. And when Carrick's half-brother, Gabriel, tracks her down in Houston, Hannah must trust her own instincts-and her heart-to survive.
Genre: romantic suspense
Series: Fortune Hunter series/The Lost Texas Heart, book #4

Nath: Hmmm, it’s been a while since I read this book. I will need to refresh my memory about it. What did you think of it, Jill?

Jill: Okay, I had some major issues with Danger in a Red Dress, most of them stemming from Gabriel. The main stumbling block was Gabriel's complete distrust of Hannah and yet still being attracted to and lusting after her. I didn't understand his motivation. If he thought that Hannah was a killer and a whore, why on earth would he be attracted to her? What made it even worse was that after he watched hours upon hours of security footage of Hannah, he still couldn't decide if Hannah was a good person or not. What a dolt! I also didn't like that he was always lying to Hannah and never felt compelled to tell her the truth.

Nath: What can I say. A man is a man – Gabriel was simply not thinking with the right part of his body, LOL. However, I got to agree with you about Gabriel. I actually thought he was really bland – that he didn’t have much of a personality. Like you, the fact that he was attracted to someone he thought was a murderer and a whore annoyed me. What was the most frustrating was that he watched the videos, he saw how Mrs Manly treated Hannah. Mrs Manly actually liked Hannah... I mean, seriously, Gabe, how dumb can you be?

Jill: You describe Gabe perfectly - BLAND. Exactly. He just didn't work for me at all in any way. He was a complete idiot to believe the lies about Hannah, even when the truth is slapping him in the face. He was the worst part of the book for me.

Nath: Nod nod. Gabe just went through the motion. For an action man, it took it lots and lots of time :(

What did you think of the heroine then? I liked Hannah and I loved the way she handled herself. At the same time, I think that she took some bad decisions and should have been more cautious. You might not care about what others think about you, but no matter what, it’ll have repercussions on you.

Jill: I actually liked Hannah. She wasn't afraid to speak her mind. I loved how she handles the family of the man whom she nursed after he leaves her an inheritance. I also have to give Dodd credit for making Hannah's ears stick out. I love that Hannah had some flaws and wasn't just picture perfect or a supermodel.

Nath: I really hated how people just assumed that because Hannah was given a part of the inheritance, it must be because she performed sexual favors or manipulated these old people. I mean, it's obvious that if you treat someone badly and here comes a nurse who really takes care of you, she'll get something. Actually, the family should give them something... 25$?!? Seriously, that's how much you value your father?!?! Shame on you!!! So that bothered me a whole lot.

Jill: I wasn't as bothered by the first family’s reaction to Hannah. I just brushed them off. I mean they were just a bunch of jerks, greedy and arrogant. But yes, Hannah should have handled it smarter than she did.

Nath: One of the characters worth mentioning was Mrs Manly. I loved Carrick's mother. She was a hard person and unapologetic for it. She was also very cunning, LOL :)

Jill: Mrs. Manly was a hoot. I also like her a lot and enjoyed reading her scenes. She was not afraid to speak her mind nor was she ever going to apologize for it. I was completely surprised by the truth about Carrick's father. I didn't see that one coming!

Nath: I certainly didn't expect what happened to Mr. Manly. That was a pleasant surprise I have to admit. I mean, not only was Mrs Manly a hoot, but she was clever and smart - imagine, all the people she tricked... her husband, the feds, her son. Just unfortunate she had to die... but then, at the same time, I don't think a character like her believes in redemption.

I have to admit, my biggest disappointment was that Carrick turned out to be a bad guy and an ass :( He looked/sounded cute in the first book and there weren't really any foreshadowing that his character would be bad, so it was a major bummer.

Jill: I had never met Carrick before. I guess I missed reading the book he showed up in. Actually, I know I haven't read all the books in both series, so that is partly why I was lost.

Nath: Anyway, I think that Carrick appeared only in book 1, Trouble in High Heels... and he was mention in others.

I was also kind of disappointed at how it ended it. I thought the ending with all the family members showing up… well, it kind of sucked. Not only was it confusing, but a bit unnecessary at this point. Was it ever told how Gabe found his foster sisters?

Jill: You bring up a very valid point - It wasn't really touched on in any details of how Gabe reunited with his sisters. What I remember is that he was adopted into that family when he was 11 - 13 and then the parents died and he went into foster care. As to how he found his sisters I can't remember. I think I only read one of the books from that series and I can't remember which sister's story it was.

I thought the end was a little confusing with all the extended family members. I couldn't for the life of me figure out who was who. I know that this book was a wrap up of two series. It just seemed a little confusing at times.

Nath: For a second, I was wondering why you said "both" series... but now I get it. Ohhhhhh! LOL, the lightbulb just went on! I didn't realize this was a wrap-up to another series! Ah well, I guess now I understand why Ms. Dodd didn't really touch on Gabe reuniting with the sisters - it probably took place in the other series. In which case, it makes for an even messier ending.

Ugh, it’s so unfortunate that I didn’t really like Danger in a Red Dress because I do enjoy Ms. Dodd’s writing. I have to say though the storylines are just not working for me. Nothing is clear-cut... She likes writing ambiguous characters - male and female, but most of the time, it's missing this likable factor. I mean, seriously, no matter how good the storyline is, if the readers don't like the characters... It feels to me that she is trying too hard to revive the "jerk" factor à la Anne Stuart and Linda Howard...

Jill: I didn't look at it like that, but if you do compare her to Anne Stuart or Linda Howard, you’re right. Her heroes just don't measure up, at least not in this book. But I do like that her characters are ambiguous, it can make for a more interesting read.

I will say that even though the last few of Dodd's books I’ve read haven't been great, I keep coming back for more. I really do like her writing style. It's fast paced, and usually the characters are captivating. Danger in a Red Dress had very good pacing and there was a lot to keep me turning the pages, but I HATED Gabriel and that was a killer for me.

I think I am going with a C- for this one.

Nath: I agree with your grade, C- it is for me as well.

Friday, July 24

Review: Branded by Fire by Nalini Singh

Yes, you're not dreaming!! This is not an illusion!! Two reviews at Breezing Through in the same week? When is the last time that happened? LOL, I can't remember either ^_^; Of course, that means I didn't have any review up at my blog this week, but who cares... See, I still need to get back in top shape.

Today, my buddy reviewer is Cindy. Sweet Cindy wanted to try her hand out at buddy reviewing... We tried several books, but the only one we ended up both reading was Branded by Fire by Nalini Singh. Let me tell you, the Psy-changelings books are never easy to buddy review, because there is always so much to gush and talk about :P But we did it and with a lot of fun!! :)

***Warning: There are spoilers, be aware!!***

Branded by Fire by Nalini Singh
published by Berkley Sensation in July 2009

Though DarkRiver sentinel Mercy is feeling the pressure to mate, she savagely resists when Riley Kincaid, a lieutenant from the SnowDancer pack, tries to possess her. The problem is not simply that he pushes her buttons; the problem is that he’s a wolf, she’s a cat, and they’re both used to being on top.

But when a brilliant changeling researcher is kidnapped from DarkRiver territory, Mercy and Riley must work together to track the young man—before his shadowy captors decide he’s no longer useful. Along the way, the two dominants may find that submitting to one another uncovers not just a deadly conspiracy, but a passion so raw that it’ll leave them both branded by fire…

Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Psy/Changelings, Book #8 (counting novellas)

The Story: Many events occur in this book and it’d be too hard to summarize them without giving away too many spoilers… However, the blurb sums up the story pretty well. Branded by Fire is definitively Mercy and Riley’s story :)

Nath: So Cindy, what did you think of the book?

Cindy: This one started with a fire and just kept on raging. I loved Mercy and the way she was just not going to back down but then neither was Riley. Clearly they irritated each other for years but once their story starts they don't have the horrid 'I hate you!' thing going on. No stamping of feet or wails of 'he done me wrong'.

Nath: I totally agree with you. I like how Ms Singh jumped straight into the relationship in Branded by Fire and made it the focus of the book. I think it was a clever move from her, since Riley and Mercy had already been introduced and readers already caught glimpses of their interactions (the “I hate you and you annoy me to no end”) in previous books. Seriously, Ms Singh did a great job at foreshadowing this relationship in previous books.

Cindy: The other part I liked was the sensuality. In the last few books because the H/H weren't two Psy or two changelings we've never been shown the sensual side of the animals. Normally I don't like books that start with a sex scene but it made sense and it was hot and heavy and dangerous. I liked that. In the other books the sex scenes came later because the H/H were of different groups - eg. Psy H/H have to get used to touch gradually so the sex scenes are normally later in the book.

Nath: I totally agree with you, Cindy :) Because they were both changelings and so dominant, neither of them held back – physically or emotionally. Not only that, but I think that having two changelings H/H, especially from two different species, gave us much more insight on the changelings and their worlds, even more on the way they feel, think and act.

I thought it was great fun to see two dominant changelings going at each other. What I appreciated the most in this instance is that because Riley and Mercy were both changelings and dominant, they understand each other so well. They might be different changeling animals, but deep down they are the same… or at least, Mercy has been around dominant males enough to understand ;)

Cindy: To me, it was more fun to watch how two different changelings had to come to grips with what the other was. The loyalty to the pack drives its members and having two people from different loyalty groups fall in love was interesting to watch. I also enjoyed watching how the leopard and wolf reacted to each other - they each knew that they had differences and they were able to look at it logically and not over react (okay those two times were allowed). When Riley finds Mercy in leopard form sleeping on a rock in the sun flicking her tail I could see it. Riley asks her a question and he can smile to himself as he watches the leopard act nonchalant and lazy in answering. Also, when Mercy got all pissy and wounded Riley's pride it was nice to see her have to go in and apologize.

Nath: I think that part was very cute and I liked that Mercy apologized. It shows that although she's dominant, she's not completely irrational :)

Speaking of different changelings, I was actually quite surprised at how rare mating between different species happened… to the extent that Mercy wouldn't know whether her children would change or not? That means it must be really, really rare...

Cindy: I actually thought it was rare because there are predators and prey per se and also because of pack ties. Also, and I might be remembering it wrong, but there were wars between the Changelings for many years so the alliances are so new that cross specie mating might have fallen off greatly.

Nath: I think you’re remembering it correctly, Cindy. There was a war for territory and there are some prejudices between species as well…

I wonder if the courting would have been easier if Mercy and Riley were not Sentinel and Lieutenant in their respective pack. They would still be two different types of changelings, but I think their degree of loyalty would be less, no? and LOL, that last part, where Riley tells Hawke and Lucas to not declare war on each other, because it'd be easier on their domestic life? :P So cute!! :)

Cindy: I don't think it would be much different except for the dominance part. The way it was told was that the pack is family so the loyalty is true for all members of the pack. What would be interesting would be if a non-dominant mated with a dominant of a different species whether the pack ties would still remain like they did with Mercy and Riley.

Nath: I don’t think the pack ties would be as solid in that case. Didn’t the pack ties remain with both Mercy and Riley because they had a blood bond with their Alpha? If it was a non-dominant and a dominant, they’d probably know right away who would have to leave whose pack.

Cindy: We should mention Joaquin and Eduardo from Mercy's Grandmother's pack. Knowing how hard it is for a dominant female in a sentinel position to give up dominance to another, Mercy's Grandmother (an alpha in her own pack) sent two leopards up to 'court' her. Normally, pack members roam from pack to pack to meet their mate but because of the local disturbances and the threats to Mercy's pack she doesn't feel right about leaving her pack. So her Grandmother sends some help. I liked that Mercy in no way felt the need to needle Riley with these men. I mean, he was upset but Mercy never gave him reason to be. She was straightforward with everyone and the male cats only stayed for as long as they did because there was no mating scent on Mercy. Even still, Mercy knew her body and leopard only wanted Riley but it was the mating and loving part that took work.

Nath: I like the idea of the leopards roaming around to find their mates. As a result, it doesn't limit the mating to one pack... and it would explain how Mercy's family ended up in San Francisco given that Mercy’s grandmother is the Alpha of a pack in South America. LOL, and it was very helpful and sneaky from Mercy's grandmother to send in Joaquin and Eduardo - LOL, with Lucas' permission! That’s another aspect that I like about Mercy – she doesn’t play games with people (okay, teasing Riley doesn’t count LOL). I mean, she’s frank and to the point. She didn't have any interest in Joaquin and Eduardo at all (personally, I think that at point, she already knew there was something more between her and Riley than lust and an itch to scratch) - so she didn’t string them along and didn’t use them to bait Riley… actually, it was quite the opposite LOL.

In the end, I think the reason why Branded by Fire and the relationship were such a success is the characters. I loved Riley and Mercy for their strength, their intelligence and the fact that they didn’t compromise their personality. At the same time, they’re not brutes; they feel and they can be vulnerable. Their characters were very well developed with many layers and I liked that they stayed true to themselves. I think that is the reason why Riley and Mercy did not hesitate much about the mating. I think that once Mercy was reassured that her children would change, the mating was just a matter of time. For most couples, being from two different species would have been the biggest hurdle to overcome, but with Riley and Mercy’s strength of characters, it wasn’t. Actually, for them, the biggest hurdle was who would have to leave their pack... and in the end, the most important was for them to be together. I think the subtleties were well incorporated.

Cindy: Agreed!

Nath: Did you notice that Mercy is actually the first changeling we meet that has a complete family? Parents and siblings? I thought it was great fun to meet her family :)

And oh, I thought it was really fun to see how the two packs interact and how much grief the kids are giving each other :)

Cindy: The kids! Hell, Hawke and Lucas can barely keep from knocking each other around. It was nice to see the alliance holding up and that even though they do have an agreement, each camp keeps some of its secrets.

Nath: LOL, you're so right!! I didn't think of it that way, LOL :P I think that as long as those secrets don't affect the alliance... it's fine.

What did you think of the overall storyline? As usual, the rest of the plot about the Psy, the humans and the changelings was solid... and quite interesting. I wonder if a balance between emotions and Silence can be achieved for the Psy that are like Judd. For now though, I thought that the idea of the Psy Council aiding people for whom Silence isn’t quite working was very clever, especially the way they did it, showing that for some Psy, Silence is necessary. They handled it like real politicians would ^_^; I actually wonder if Silence is really fragmenting in every Psy or not. Also, do you think it’s one of the councilors who is behind the mind manipulation that caused those terrorist acts.

Cindy: I thought the overall storyline was very complicated. I tell ya, this is not a series I try and skim because I know things are happening in almost every new chapter. I was surprised how the Council allowed for people to freely determine if they needed to go in ‘fine tuning’ with Silence. Not that any of them are above finding problems within the net – after all, that’s why Judd and his family left the net after finding out Sienna was going to be sent in for re-conditioning which would leave her as a vegetable. Scary stuff. Where I found things complicated involved some of the characters because they didn't have names like John or Mike but were 'The Information Merchant' etc. I think Tatiana (one of the councilors) was behind the Psy who were acting against their will. She was somehow linked mentally with someone who could do mind control and used him as a puppet and then killed him in the end. (Seriously, a lot happens in the last few pages) Wait. She was the one who tried to have the councilors killed right? So the other people who were used against their will were collateral damage, right?

Nath: Ms Singh is doing a great job at world building... I like it that she introduces new things in each of the books and that the overall storyline involving humans, changelings and Psy is becoming more and more complex with each book. I think the way she introduces all these things is very realistic as well.

I guess that those names: the Ghost, the Information Merchants - it's either because she doesn't want us to know their identity yet... or because giving them a name such as John or Mike is not important.

As for the mind controller, I don’t it was Tatiana... her shadowing/controlling the Human took out so much of her energy already... I don’t think she could have handled anyone else. Also, it looks more like what was done to the hyenas... mind programming in which case, it would probably be Ming and his faction. Kudos to Tatiana though, it was really gutsy of her to attack the other councilors... Seriously, those Psy councilors are scary!! Everyone has a hidden agenda! LOL :P

Cindy: The Psy are definitely power hungry and their agendas are crazy confusing. Tatiana wanted to rule the net. I think the Ghost also is looking to preserve the net but in his own way.

Nath: By the way, what do you think is Nikita's purpose, sending Sascha that book?

Cindy: Nikita was thinking about power - whether she has figured out that the net might not survive and is hedging her bets or what, I'm not sure. I see Nikita as so ruthless she wouldn't hesitate to use her daughter as a weapon if given the chance. Now that I think on it, maybe she wants Sascha to know everything about her powers so that she reaches her full potential and could be used by Nikita.

Nath: You’re probably right on that point, Cindy. One thing is sure, that woman has no maternal instincts at all.

Cindy: What did you think of the big birds at the end of the story? Like, what the hell? They are obviously birds of prey but the fact it took Mercy and Riley to move one that was unconscious makes me envision something enormous!

Nath: LOL, I think Adam is simply a huge man... I don't think that's a trademark of the human form of the eagle... but then, Adam is the new Alpha right? So perhaps his being huge was an indicator. LOL, just imagine a football player, that's what I do :P

I’m hopeful that Ms Singh introducing a new pack means that she will give us a little bit of variety in the changeling heroes and heroines we had so far. I think it'd be interesting... I also would like to know if what types of changelings exist... So far, obviously, we know about wolf, leopard, wild cat, hyena, rats, swan, eagle and one other I can't remember (they're non-predatory and were attacked in one of the book... doe?)... I wonder if there are horse... and if there's leopard, are there lions, tigers, and so on...

Cindy: Yes, the deer pack and this time there was the bear pack that Riley and Mercy checked on. But I'm not sure I would be that enthralled with say a Swan H/H because they are not as fierce.

Nath: Right, deer... I couldn't remember the word. Hmmm, wonder if those bears are predatory... and LOL, probably not as fierce, but it'd be interesting to see a swan H or H. Different... I'm just Ms Singh would make it work :P

Cindy: I read the preview for the next book and see it's not Hawke's story which I hope is with Sienna but who knows.

Nath: I'm actually happy that we're not getting Hawke story right away. I think that both Hawke and Sienna need time. What do you actually think of Kit and Sienna? That really came as a surprise for me!! Actually, age-wise and personality-wise, Kit and Sienna could really work... but then, now that we have confirmation that Hawke and Sienna both have feelings for each other... I can't imagine another couple.

Cindy: I have a horrible memory so having someone named Kit show up was just like being thrown a ball I didn't know was coming. I'm sure he's been mentioned many times in the previous books but I don't remember him. Anyway, I’m not loving it, but I get cranky that way. Also, I think Sienna is going to be so strong that Kit would feel inferior in some way or was Kit that one that everyone knew was going to become an Alpha?

Nath: Yes, Kit is the cat that people believes will become Alpha in the future. As a result, I think he would be able to handle Sienna... I don't think there would be any inferior complex... and Kit has an advantage: the way he was raised, completely loved by the Pack and knowing who he really is. He's not searching like Sienna and he's not emotionally stunted like Hawke... Sigh, I can't wait to get his book :) But he'll have some growing up to do :P I think that if the foundations weren't already laid down for Hawke and Sienna, I would really like Kit and Sienna. Right now, I wonder if it's not only friendship between Kit and Sienna.

Cindy: I'm all right with her having a relationship outside of what might happen with Hawke. After all, I imagine Hawke is not a virgin ;) And the Changelings are very affectionate and open with sexuality. It's just I have my heart set and now I have to hope it don't get broken!

Nath: I know what you mean!! LOL, Hawke as a virgin - I think not. The thing is, if Sienna is going to open her heart to someone and be comfortable enough to have sex with someone, I’d prefer it to be Hawke. I mean, I’d prefer for the person to get to Sienna, touch her core, be her hero… Also, I’m afraid that Kit might get his heart broken ^_^; So friendship between Kit and Sienna, I’m okay with… Kit can show Sienna a lot of things and he can help her… but anything more? Big no, no.

Cindy: See, we’re both on Hawke’s side ;) Where I keep tripping up is the mate idea. The wolves know that Hawke's mate died when they were kids. A) How did he know she was his mate? Is it because they are in the same area so they instinctually know? B) Is there an assumption by the Changleings that there can only be one 'mate'. I should re-read the short story with Tammy and her mate as she grew up knowing they were mates. I just don't know how that would work because I do think her mate was sexually active before he realized she was his mate. I'll have to check on that.

Nath: From what I understand and remember, wolves and cats only mate once in their life... once you mate, it's forever even if one dies. I think that in Hawke’s case, he recognized his mate when she was still a kid, but died before they could mate. I don't know how early you can figure these things out, but seems like you can. Eg. Tammy and Nathan. In their case, Nathan waited for Tammy to be ready and once he knew she was his mate, he didn’t have sex with anyone else. Since they weren’t mated, I don’t know if Hawke can still mate with someone else or not ^_^;

Cindy: From what I remember Hawke was either 12 or 13 when his potential mate died (she was 6 or 7?) and yes, once they mate they are mated forever and usually die if the other does. But because Hawke was never mated I would have thought he would still be open to the fact that there could be another potential mate. Except, he did say to Riley in this book that the bond is a once in a lifetime chance. So we know he is mourning the fact that he'll never be mated.

Nath: I’m not sure about that. I mean, didn’t Sascha refuse to mate with Lucas in the first book because she was going to die and therefore, that would be it for Lucas? I’m also not sure about the dying thing… Yes, perhaps it’d be likely they would die from grief once they lose their mate, but just die because the other died?

In any case, I wonder if it possible for Hawke to develop a relationship with Sienna without being mated... That’s an option; however, given Hawke’s craziness, I think that being mated would make him more stable. Ah well, we'll have to wait till Ms Singh writes it, right?

Cindy: Yep, you're right but I have to say, the woman would have to be strong to know Hawke would continue to mourn his mate. I'm not sure I could handle it!

I'm impatient when I see characters that appeal to me and Hawke and Sienna do. I'm just terrified that Singh could do what Suzanne Brockmann did with her last book and match Hawke and Sienna with completely different people. YIKES!

Nath: Oh, I think that Ms Singh is going to do a better job than Ms Brockmann... because when it comes to Hawke and Sienna's book, it will focus on them... not on 50 other characters and 3 other storylines. I have absolute faith in Ms Singh :) I think that we can be reassured that Hawke and Sienna will have some kind of relationship in the future – we pretty much got confirmation in this book, no? Unfortunately, I don’t think it’ll be in the near future, since Riley mentioned that everyone would be against it if Hawke made a move on Sienna at the moment, since she’s not ready.

I’m glad we got to see Hawke from Riley’s point of view… also, I’m so happy though that we finally get an idea of what power Sienna has!

Cindy: I'm all curious about what an X-Psy is and what they are capable of.

Nath: Me too! X-Psy - it sounds all powerful and dangerous and powerful, LOL :) And she’s an X-Psy cardinal as well!! I wonder if it means she has all of the Psy abilities… Hmmm. I do feel bad for Sienna, knowing that she’s responsible for her family being sent to rehab... Must be hard for her. Although, it did lead to their defection and a much better option for them. I'm also glad we got to see her little brother, Toby. We saw Marlee and Sienna a lot in the past, but never Toby.

Cindy: It's probably wrong that I'm also interested in Sienna's father. What is he doing, does he interact as much with the pack?

Nath: You mean her uncle? Well if Judd got his story, why not Walker... although so far, he's been very quiet and in the background... it'll be interesting to find out what he can do.... as it turns out, the Laurens are a very powerful bunch no? No wonder the Councilors were afraid.

So, Cindy, what grade would you give Branded by Fire? While I really enjoyed Riley and Mercy and the book in general, I felt like Branded by Fire was missing a little bit of oomph. I mean, it was really solid… but something was missing for it to be a wowzer for me.

Cindy: For me it was a KEEPER, KEEPER, KEEPER! I’d grade it a straight A. This book has to be one of my Top Ten Favourite books of all time. Seriously, I loved it that much!

Nath: I'm giving it an A-. Loved it, but the wowzer factor... Perhaps it's my fault and I inhaled it too fast ^_^; Luckily, next book in the series comes out in November!!

Tuesday, July 21

Review: How to Score by Robin Wells

Ugh, I finally kicked laziness to the curb! I hope it'll stay very far, very far away from me!! LOL :) So the plan is to have at least one review up per week. Since it's buddy reviews, it's a bit more work than just regular reviews and well, need two or more persons to read the same book (that can be difficult to arrange sometimes :P) If you're interested to buddy review a book with anyone of us, just leave a comment! :)

Today's review is How To Score by Robin Wells. I have to say thanks to Ames for three reasons: 1) making me buy it, 2) buddy reviewing it with me and 3) being so patient!! Thank you Ames! :)

How to Score by Robin Wells
published by Grand Central Publishing in June 2009

Her life coach...

Museum curator Sammi Matthews isn't just in a dating slump, she's putting men on the injured list. After giving one date a black eye and cracking another's rib, Sammi decides she needs professional help. Enter life coach Luke Jones, who advises Sammi on how to overcome her klutziness. And their phone sessions work! Sammi soon meets a sexy FBI agent who seems to know just what she needs. changing her life

When his brother Luke goes into federal protection, FBI Special Agent Chase Jones agrees to cover for him. Then Sammi's hot voice sizzles down the line, and the usual "phone only" rule is out. With "Luke" coaching her by day, and Chase dating her by night, Sammi's confidence soars, along with her appeal. Chase falls hard, but how will Sammi feel if and when he comes clean? Chase would rather she break all his bones than risk breaking her heart.

Genre: contemporary
Series: ?

Nath: So I bought it because you said it was good and I agree, it was good :D

Ames: Yeah, it was. I really enjoyed it.

I usually don't like secret identity plots but in this case it worked really well. And the whole way it was dealt with was good too.

Nath: True, it worked well. I like the fact that Chase was conscious about the problem this was causing from the start. He didn't set out to lie to her... At first, he was simply curious and wanted to see her.

Ames: Yeah, he wasn't a bad guy. He had every intention of telling Sammi the truth but there was never a good time.

I like Sammi as a heroine. She was really smart and despite the fact that she hired a life coach, she had it pretty much together. Even her klutziness was cute.

Nath: You're right. I was actually surprised at how she had it together. All she had to deal with was a little klutziness and boost her self-confidence :) I kind of related a little bit with her about the part where she can't say "no" or doesn't know how to say "no." It's really not fun to be pushed around... So I really admired her character for taking the steps in order to change things that she was unhappy with in her life and thought she was really courageous.

As for Chase, I agree with you. There just wasn't any good time to tell her and at first, it wasn't going to be an issue because he didn't plan on getting involved with her and afterward, he didn't want to affect her self-confidence by not seeing her again... it's just unfortunate that he ended up in such a complicated situation :P What I liked about Chase though is that he was level-headed and realistic - he realized right away that she'd be angry at him and their relationship would be at risk.

Ames: What I also liked about Chase was the fact that he wasn't scared to be in a relationship with Sammi. Once he realized the way things were going, he wanted to be with her and tell her the truth. He was a good guy. It was funny how Sammi kept hurting him and yet he wasn't scared away. LOL

Nath: Hmmm, I don't know, but I thought it took him a while to take the first jump, to admit to himself that he was interested in Sammi, that she meant more... that he wasn't just helping her.

Ames: Maybe. The secondary romance was also enjoyable. Her boss's story was kind of sad and I'm glad she got an HEA too. And the house, the house and the architecture was also like a character and I found it very interesting.

Nath: I thought the secondary characters were interesting. I liked the fact that Sammi's boss and landlord weren't evil or nasty. I think their characters were well developed and circumstances in their lives shaped their current mood/action/personality. Have to say, I'm more fond of Sammi's landlord than her boss, but then her story was indeed very sad :( I think that the seriousness the secondary characters and romance provided was important because it balanced out the humor in Chase and Sammi's.

What really make How To Score stands out though was the humor! It's been a while since I've last laughed so much while reading a book... and it wasn't a chuckle at some sarcastic or cynical comments! and LOL, Horace stole the show!

Ames: Horace was so funny! I like how he turned up at the end. LOL

Nath: The part where Horace's assignment was to call for the apartments and he was re-telling how it went to Chase!! Hilarious!! And you're right, it was so funny when he turned up at the end. I'm glad he showed up and did a bit more :)

I actually really liked Chase and Sammi's characters. They were good people and interesting characters.... and Chase's SCABHOG plan! LOL as if that will ever work.

Ames: OMG! I completely forgot about SCABHOG!! And that was such a funny thing. LOL Seriously, people need to read this book just to laugh over the funniness that is SCABHOG.

I'm really glad I picked up this book. I'll definitely be looking for more by this author.

Nath: Me too :) I'm going to look for her backlist... or at least try.

I have to admit though, I would have liked some more closure at the end... That's my only complaint.

Ames: I do like what Chase did in the ending though. He did something he had a real phobia about and it was good. But yeah, there could have been a bit more.

Nath: Oh, I like his grand gesture and it was actually pretty cute and funny. Grand gesture are always nice in my opinion :) I just wished for a little more closure. Just a little.

I'm also happy that there was no sequel-baiting, although I wish we'll see the characters again :)

I'm giving it a B+. How To Score was simply a cute and fun :) Perfect to pass time or if you're in the mood for something light and fun.

Ames: It was totally light and fun, a straight up contemporary romance with no NAVY SEALS or anything like that. It made me laugh. I'm giving it a B+ too!

Nath: I know! I thought the idea of a life coach was great and original :D and although Chase was an FBI agent, it didn't overtake the storyline.

Ames: Yeah, I liked how the FBI stuff kind of took place before the story began.

Tuesday, July 7

Review: Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

Usually I do my buddy reviews with Nath - I'm too shy to go out and solicit reviews from other bloggers (hint hint LOL). But new blogger Monroe, from Monroe with a Twist, is such a sweetheart that I just had to ask her to do a buddy review with me. We decided to read and review Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas. Also, this is Monroe's first buddy review ever. Thanks sweetie!

As always, our review reads more like a discussion and so there are spoilers. You've been warned.
He answers to no one...

No one has ever truly touched Jack Travis's heart or soul...until Ella Varner comes along. She appears one day on his doorstep with fury in her eyes and a baby in her arms. Her troubled sister is the mother and, according to Ella, Jack Travis is the father. But when Ella demands that Jack take responsibility for the first time in his life, he ends up taking much more than that...

She trusts no one...

Ella Varner is responsible and controlled. Her childhood taught her that love is fleeting and best avoided. That is, until baby Luke appears on her doorstep after her reckless sister, Tara, abandons him. What Luke needs now is stability, and Ella's determined to do what is best for him. As her bond with the helpless child grows stronger every day, Ella goes to Houston in search of the father. What she finds there will change her life forever...

And when things heat up between these two, the time for talking is long gone...

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: 3rd in the Travis family series

All right - let's get to it!

Ames: I liked Smooth Talking Stranger. It's been a while since I've read an LK contemporary and I've forgotten how she reels you into the story. So much so, I got a little teary eyed at the end.

And you?

Monroe: Well as you know I've been reading these books pretty much back to back and none of them have fallen short of my expectations. I love LK's way of making you feel like you’re really there in the story. And she truly does make you sympathize with the characters. I LOVED this ending so much and I think Jack ended up being my favorite out of all the heroes in this series.

Ames: Jack is definitely my favorite hero too! Although I would have liked a bit more internal dialog from his point of view when he first meets Ella and then later decides to pursue her. Because why would he go out on a date with that super model type chick and then come back to Ella and put the moves on her?

Monroe: Ohh good point. Ya we didn't get too much into his head. And when Ella saw him with her I was fuming! And I just loved how that model didn't think Ella was a threat to her beauty! HA! THANK GOD he got rid of her.

Ames: Yes - but what was the turning point for him? I would have liked a bit more from his point of view in that regard.

But once he does start going after Ella? Hot stuff! He's so sexy and he's exactly the kind of hero I like. Like totally alpha but not too domineering.

Monroe: Ya and I liked that he didn't really go in-between his feelings much. He stayed VERY persistent when courting her! I do love a man who knows what he wants and knows how to get it! ;o)

Ames: Exactly!

As for Ella, I really liked her character. I understood the attitude she had towards marriage and how her childhood really affected her adult relationships. She was smart and loyal - too loyal though. Her boyfriend Dane was such an ass!

Monroe: Oh sheesh! Ya he was such a moron. Open relationship...ok if he wanted that it seems he would've talked to her about it beforehand! But I will say I loved how they ended their relationship. There were really no hard feelings, although that would never happen in real life! Lol And boy was her childhood so relatable! I loved how LK showed a different kind of abuse in the story. Yes there was some physical with her sister and mother's boyfriend but the main abuse that was brought up was all mental and that's something that hard to translate into a book. It comes with a lot of emotion and LK RULES the emotion department.

Ames: Yes she does! I really felt for the two young sisters and their mother, awful! There's a narcissist for you.

As for her open relationship Dane should not have assumed that their relationship was open unless they had discussed it. Because Ella was caught off guard with that conversation, you could tell. And as for how it ended, it was very calm and "adult" and yeah, I doubt things can end that well in real life. (If so, what does that say about the kind of relationships we've had? haha) But the way it ended, it shows how un-invested Ella was in her relationship with her guy so we don't feel so bad about her hooking up with Jack. And what a hook up! I thought that scene in the parking garage was hot stuff. LOL

Monroe: Ya heat is one thing her books are never lacking! And what's great is in that heat is also tenderness. Like for example when Ella, Jack and Lukeall go on his pocket yacht...after laying Luke down for his nap Jack pulled Ella into the bedroom of the ship and told her she could have
whatever she wanted and her response was that all she wanted him(sweet). Then he proceeded to pin her wrist down to the mattress and make sexy lovin' to her (hot) then they talked about how they were going to try to have a traditional relationship together UNLIKE what she had with Dane. Such a good mix of my fav L's - Lust and Love! Lol

And what did you think about the boating accident? Ok call me blind but I totally didn't see it coming! I guess I was just so caught up in Ella having to give up Luke it didn't even cross my mind that something was wrong with Jack! So that was a surprise to me!

Ames: Oh yeah, that boating accident totally caught me off guard!! I remember someone too at one point telling me something about someone dying so here I was all worried for Joe. LOL Luckily, no one dies. Then we found out it was an explosion I thought maybe Ella's sister's lover tampered with the engine so that he wouldn't have to support Ella's sister via legal agreement. And then in the end it was none of those things. haha

And the reveal as to who the baby's father was? I saw that one coming. I knew it wasn't who Ella thought it was. That it was the other guy. Her sister kind of annoyed me at the end when she was all "I'm going to be with him" blah blah blah. We all know how that turns out.

But the story was about Ella and Jack and I thought it was a sweet story. I'm not a big fan of babies in my romances and I totally didn't mind Luke. Actually, that's what had me teary eyed at the end, when Ella gets her complete HEA.

Monroe: Oh ya I totally saw the true father when she first went to the church. I don't mind babies as long as they aren't mine! Lol I like babies in stories and Luke was great! I loved how Jack was with Luke. So loving and gentle! And the selfish of her! Who wants to be the "other woman". He won’t ever leave his wife...did you hear her..."after a few years when the kids are grown he will leave"...YEARS?!?! Whatever!

Ella SO deserved her HEA! I would not have been satisfied with her
only being the "favorite aunt" to Luke. Now her little family is complete! (OH and I SO wanted her to get pregnant at the end lol)

Ames: Ok, I say I don't like babies in my romance, but I totally melt for heroes who are nice to kids at the same time! LOL I'm so contradictory. But yeah, it just shows how the hero is a great guy.

Her sister was totally selfish. I don't really feel like things were completely resolved for her sister. But again, glad that her sister didn't get more page time. And her mom? Coming onto Jack? That's sick!!

Monroe: Oh I totally forgot to bring up her mother! What a hussy! And to get with her boyfriend when she was in high school?!?! OMG! THEN for her to come after poor Jack. Well I say poor but honestly if anyone could handle this intolerable cougar it's him! And how sweet is it that he didn't want to let Ella know it happened. In fact I loved when he knew her mother was coming and he snatched up Luke when she tried to make him leave. Like he was holding Luke as leverage! lol

Ames: I loved how Jack handled her mom. And the whole thing at the end saying if she keeps Ella happy for 6 whole months he'll buy her a car? haha!!

Monroe: Oh and I don't think this review would be complete if we didn't bring up the proposal...*sigh. It was absolutely sweet how he wrote to her like one of her readers (which btw those snippets of letters were too cute, and Ella was one smart cookie when answering). And how the ring was in her cup! Epp! Loved it! And when she walked back into the room with the
ring he was relieved! :*)

Ames: Ooh, that was a cute proposal. Seriously, everything Jack did was just perfect for me. Even his jealousy and possessiveness were spot on.

Monroe: Oh ya he wasn't like creepy/jerk possessive it was more like "mine" (he even said those words to her hehe) and "let me take care of you". As apposed to Dane who couldn't even man up enough to help her with Luke. I mean she talked about visiting and he said he's stay somewhere else! MEN!

Ames: Oh Dane was so UGH. There's no other way to put it. I thought it was cute that Jack got jealous when Dane stayed the night too. LOL

Monroe: Ooooo...I know what you mean and when he said he wasn't going to stand back and let him takes what's "his"!!! I was like "that's right suckaaa!" lol

Ames: Yeppers, Jack totally made this book for me.

But Ella held her own and that's what I like in my heroines.

Monroe: Ya I loved her! Oh and when he made her eat steak! Lol Too funny!

Ames: Oh yeah that's another thing - with Dane, Ella was totally a doormat. But with Jack she was all feisty.

Here’s an example:

“Unbelievable,” I said in disgust.
“What’s unbelievable?”
“Your ego. It’s surrounded by its own cloud of antimatter. You’re a black hole of…of hubris!”
Jack stared at me through the shadows, and then he averted his face, and I thought I saw the white flash of a grin.
“Are you amused?” I demanded. “What the hell is so funny?”
“I was just thinking if the sex with you is one-tenth as fun as arguing with you, I’ll be one happy bastard.”
“You’ll never find out. You—“
He kissed me.

Monroe: Ya it was like she wasn't afraid to hold back. And she didn't! lol

Ames: True, true.

All right then, in the end I really enjoyed Smooth Talking Stranger and it was a B+ for me. :P

Monroe: Hmmm...honestly I would give it 5 stars on my blog so A then? (Im way too sweet on LK ;op)

Ames: Okay, at this point on Monroe's blog, she likes to include a little snippet of the book that she really enjoyed. So since she liked when Jack got possessive, here's the perfect snippet to reflect that:
He turned me around to face him. "Beautiful," he whispered. His hands went lower, following the clingy knit of my dress. His expression was intent, his lashes half-lowered until jagged shadows scored down his lean cheeks. And he breathed another word so softly I almost didn't hear it. "Mine."

Mesmerized, I stared into those dark eyes and shook my head slowly.

"Yes," Jack said, and he brought his mouth to mine.

Monroe: Ooh i just got shivers!