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Ana G. "The Book Smugglers" (UK)

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Someone to Watch Over Me
Someone to Watch Over Me
by Lisa Kleypas
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the best by Lisa Kleypas but..., 28 Jan. 2008
...still above average

I adore Lisa Kleypas. She is one of my favorite Romance writers - I like her style, I like that most of her heroes are members of the working class and not only Lords of the Ton, I like the fact that she is able to take a much used plot and turn it something unique due exclusively to her amazing storytelling abilities.
I also adore her because she has given me my top two favorite Romance Heroes: St Vincent (Devil in Winter) and Derek Craven (Dreaming of You) . She has delighted me with interesting and spunky heroines such as Lawless Lily and Lilian Westcliff. And this is why it breaks my heart to say that Someone to Watch Over Me didn't do much for me.

I mean, it's not by any means, a bad book. Once again, she shows how good of a writer she is - this time she deals with the old amnesia + revenge scenario which, in the hands of a less qualified writer, would leave me wondering "why I am reading this"; but in her hands she manages to add something that gets me going. And that something is definitely the characters she invents.

Grant Morgan is a good man and a good hero. He works as a Bow Street Runner, a sort of police officer and as the story begins he is called to investigate a drowning. Once he gets to scene he recognizes the victim as Vivien Duvall, London's most famous courtesan. She is barely alive and it is clear that the incident has been a failed attempt of murder - she has strangling marks around her neck. Grant takes her to his home so he can keep her safe and find out who is trying to kill her but when she regains conscience , they realize she does not remember anything, not even who she is. Which brings us to the revenge scenario - Grant has vowed to make her pay for some rumors that she had spread around the Ton that she refused his advances when they first met but it was actually the other way around. He sees the current situation as a perfect way of getting back at her by telling Vivien that he is her current protector - he plans to use her and dump her.

But of course, nothing goes according to plan as there is something about Vivien that is not quite right. She doesn't behave as a courtesan; she has an air of innocence that is very puzzling and attractive to Grant. She is, in fact very adamant that she would not be capable of doing the things she is said to have done. She feels this connection to Grant because he saved her and as they go about investigating the mystery of who tried to kill her, Grant can not help but to feel utterly attracted to her and right from the very beginning he thinks that if he didn't know that she was a conniving, ruthless woman he would be quite mad about her. And as they succumb to their attraction to each other they finally realize what is clear to us - that she is not who they think she is. And now, they must run against time to find out the truth, get the would-be killer who is still at large and to come to terms with their insecurities so they can get their happy ending.

There are amazing sequences in the book, specially the ones relating to Grant realizing his feelings and how important Vivien is to him but I also felt like there was something missing front his read and I am not sure what. Perhaps, the fact that towards the end of the story Grant became a bit too overbearing for my taste not giving Vivien the time she needed to get to grips with who she really was and what she wanted for her life.

In the end, it was a nice read but not the Amazing and Heartwarming that I have come to expect from Lisa Kleypas. I have high hopes that the other two books in this series will be better. If not, it doesn't matter; she still is an auto-buy for me.

Review courtesy by the book smugglers

The Spymaster's Lady (Berkley Sensation)
The Spymaster's Lady (Berkley Sensation)
by Joanna Bourne
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic writing, amazing story, 20 Jan. 2008
Annique Villiers is a French spy who, as the book opens, is being held prisoner in a French dungeon by a couple of villains who believe she holds the so called Albion Plans - Napoleon's plan to invade England and they want it. She does know the secret plan (as it is plain from the very beginning) and her inner struggle to decide what to do with them is the underlying plot for most of the novel - will she keep quiet or will she warn the British about it? If she does tell the British she will be avoiding death and destruction but at the cost of giving away France's secrets (number of weapons, men, ships etc) and this is why she is torn. She may not agree with Napoleon but she is French and she is loyal.

But as it turns out she is sharing the cell with two British spies: Grey and Adrian (who has a gunshot wound and is barely alive) and together they manage to escape from the prison but Grey knowing that the Annique is this ultra famous spy, plans to capture her and take her to England as soon as they are out of the dungeon. And hence beings a game of cat and mouse where we are never sure who is the mouse or who the cat is. They are both extremely skilled in their profession, cunning and smart but eventually Grey is the winner for he has the only thing that can subjugate Annique - physical strength.

And so they go about trying to leave France, fighting common foes and fighting each other all the way. Are they allies or enemies? The boundaries of their relationship keep moving as they go along - there is the undeniable attraction between Grey and Annique as well as their growing respect for each other's skills .

And what skills! This is where I say that this book is unbelievably COOL. There is no other word for it. As they shift from French and English to The Courtesan, to The Innocent, to The Master , to The Seducer, through all the fighting sequences that were so thrilling, my heart skipped a few beats a couple of times, I must admit.

But enough about the plot - I cannot talk about much of it as to not spoil the many twists - there is one in particular that left me gasping "Holy Guacamole, did I just read that? Are my eyes deceiving me?" - for where this book really shines is in its writing.

The storytelling is amazing but the writing is simply superb. Joanna Bourne managed to convey the accents of each person and how they speak in such a way, that you have no doubts about who is talking and when. You read Annique's speech and thoughts and you know that she is French. There is also such a cadence in her writing, it is almost like reading poetry:

"He did not touch her, but something in her body reached out and greeted his body as if the two were old friends who had not seen one another for a long time. She did not like it that her body chatted to his in this fashion".

I was awed by the writing, captivated by the heroine, thrilled by the plot , intrigued by all the secondary characters and I can not praise this book high enough. It is hard to believe this is her first book and I have only one question: what's next?

The Rake
The Rake
by Mary Jo Putney
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good thoughtful romance, 16 Jan. 2008
This review is from: The Rake (Mass Market Paperback)
Reggie is a consummate rake. Which means that he spends his days doing nothing but indulging himself with women, gambling and all-nighters. He also has the usual issues: difficult childhood, no one who really loved him after his family died when he was 8, plus the fact that his inherited rights have been denied to him. You must be asking yourself, how is he different from the truckload of Tormented Heroes around?

The difference is that he has a serious drinking problem. He is also suffering from depression: he realises that he has nothing to live for and at the age of 37 he cannot keep up with his younger mates. He is suffering from constant memory loss that usually follows a night of debauchery and it is not unusual that he wakes up feeling like the world is crumbling apart, full of bruises he does not know how he came about or money he does not remember he won. A voice keeps telling him that this way of life is going to kill him and he despairs.

So it is no surprise when he jumps at the chance life is giving him when his cousin, who recently inherited the family title, decides to give his mother's estate back to him. Strickland is where he was born and where he lived a happy life until he was 8, a estate that it should have been his for years but his eviiiiil uncle wouldn't allow it. I could not help but to think that Strickland was to Reggie what Tara was eventually to Scarlett O'Hara- a lifeline, a source of strength where he could go and try to change his life.

Alys is a 30 year old spinster who is also running from her past. She is capable, smart and has earned her living for years as a governess and later on as the steward of Strickland, a job she got based purely on her references. Reggie's uncle never interviewed her for the position and everyone in London just assumed she was a man. She is accepted and respected by everyone in the region and soon enough by Reggie too, who realises that she is brilliant at what she does.

On top of her brains, she also has a heart - she has 3 wards that she must raise by herself and she is the friend who provides Reggie with the support that he needs.
I loved Alys - she is a force to be reckoned with but to me, the book belongs to Reggie and his struggle to fight his inner demons, to stop drinking and to become a better man so that he could be with Alys.

I was very surprised to see how delicately and yet seriously, the author dealt with the issue of alcoholism in the book. But this is still a romance novel and there are also moments that there are silly, flirty and sensual and a few secondary plots there were also interesting. And of course, eventually we are granted with the happily ever after that these two deserve

by Jo Goodman
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, 11 Jan. 2008
If his kiss is Wicked is quite simply splendid!

Emma Hathaway, our heroine, has been kidnapped and almost killed by unknown captors but she managed to escape and is now certain that the threat is not over although she is not sure that she is the intended victim of the attack or even if she is not just simply going mad. She contacts our hero, Restell Gardner, a sort of Private Investigator, who helps people in trouble in exchange for favours to be returned when necessary, and he agrees to help her.

To say more about the plot is to spoil part of the pleasure of the book - the investigation of the crime is as much as important to the story as the romance between Emma and Restell. I am glad to report that the mystery was not a secondary, contrived storyline that was there only to serve the main plot, i.e. the growing love between the protagonists. Quite the contrary, the mystery and the romance were intertwined in such a wonderful way that at times I didn't know whether I wanted them to carry on investigating or kissing.

And talking about kissing (since I can't talk about the mystery without spoiling the outcome): wow. What a love story. Restell is such a wonderful hero. Not your usual Tormented Alpha Male, he is considerate, funny, smart and sweet. Not that I have anything against Tormented Heroes but sometimes it is very refreshing to get a respite. Because he doesn't have issues that need to be dealt with, he can concentrate in helping Emma whilst at the same time being unable not to fall in love with her. She doesn't believe in love - she thinks it is nothing but a passing feeling - but she can't help falling in love with him either, for all of the above qualities, plus did I mention he is hot? Well, he is. The sex scenes are well written and of good taste - although there is one scene that may offend the more sensitive, but for me it was on the right side of erotic.

Actually, the whole book is well written. Jo Goodman has a way with words, to be sure, and I found myself going back to sentences, paragraphs and even whole chapters in order to let the writing sink in. This is a top notch book and I highly recommend it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 22, 2011 8:47 AM GMT

The Prize
The Prize
by Julie Garwood
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent historical, funny and heartwarming, 9 Jan. 2008
This review is from: The Prize (Mass Market Paperback)
It's England and it's 1066, which means that the Normans are coming, and the Saxons are doomed. Except if you happen to be our Heroine Nicholaa, a courageous, crafty, spontaneous young woman who is the Prize that the title refers to. She has become quite the legend at King William's Court because thus far she managed to fight off 3 of the King's warriors that were trying to get her to surrender her keep and her lands. Her parents are long dead, her younger brother is at his death bed in a nearby abbey, and her older brother is off fighting the Conqueror in the North so she has to use whatever methods are at her disposal to defend herself and her people (including her sling - she is a mighty shot and she never misses.)

The book opens with attempt number 4 by the Normans who are being led this time by one of the King's Favorites, Royce. He is a warrior and he trains William's men in the arts of war. He is also our Hero, which means that this time she will fail and her keep will finally fall into Norman hands. But not before outsmarting him one last time - he didn't count with her faithful servants who help her to get away to the safety of the Abbey where her brother is - she dresses up as a nun and pretends to be her own twin. He soon finds out about the deceit and figures out a way of getting her out of the Abbey so he can take her to the Court, where the Lords will have a chance to fight for the Prize - whoever gets her gets not only gets one of the most beautiful women in England but also a wealthy one.

Over the time they spend together on the way to London, they come to appreciate each other: he finds himself admiring her struggles and failed attempts to escape and she appreciates his sense of honor and the fact that he never seems to loose his patience with her or with any of his subordinates. At this point, they are half way through falling in love with each other and it's not a surprise when Nicholaa, after winning the Queen's respect and given the chance to choose a husband, picks Royce. "Checkmate" she says, alluding to the game of wits they have been playing for the past weeks.

What happens next is the good old battle of the sexes where each has its own views on what their place in the world should be. Royce sees marriage as a map: ordained, organized, where everyone has a duty. His is to protect his wife, her family, his men. Hers is to give him peace by following his rules: to obey his orders without questioning, to not raise her voice, to not allow spontaneous actions to rule her decisions and to not weep - each and every single one she fails miserably to comply with which leads to funny and endearing moments of endless lectures by Royce while she daydreams about love and family traditions and how to make their marriage a happy one.

It was great fun to follow these two and see them slowly but surely fall in love with each other. But the love story was not the only amazing element in this book. The historical research was spot on: the conflicts between Norman and Saxon's traditions, the insurgency growing in the North and even the description of King William's relationship with his wife Matilda which seems to have been one of genuine respect and love. There were other subplots that also kept me entertained: the growing friendship between Royce and her younger brother Justin who was struggling to find his new place in the new order of things, her fear that at some point there would be a deadly clash between her older brother and her husband - what would her place be then? Is she a traitor of her people by accepting her fate so easily and falling in love with the enemy?

I loved The Prize and this is one of those books that I will be coming back to in a rainy afternoon when all you want to do is to get a cuppa and a blanket and sit down with a comfort read. And I am definitely going to carry on reading Julie Garwood's historicals
Highly recommended

The Raven Prince: Number 1 in series (Princes Trilogy)
The Raven Prince: Number 1 in series (Princes Trilogy)
by Elizabeth Hoyt
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.99

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I got the book based on raving reviews but, 8 Jan. 2008
England, 1760.

I meet the hero, Edward at the same time that Anna, the heroine, does. They are involved in an accident in the very first chapter when he nearly runs her over with his horse and is unseated into a puddle of mud. He does not appear to be much of a gentleman, as he does not help her to collect the things he knocked out of her basket. Instead he is rude to her and rides off! He also happens to be ugly. My interest is immediately picked. That is an intriguing opening that offers great potential for an original story.

And the story is original - Anna is a penniless, plain widow who needs to get a job (and not a rich husband as it seems to be the usual goal of penniless heroines) in order to keep herself, her mother in law and a maid in training. Edward is an Earl who is in dire need of a secretary since he appears to be unable to keep one for more than a few months due to his legendary foul temper. So, she starts working for him which is not a problem at all, I am sure women became secretaries all the time in Georgian times.

The cause for Edward's temper is that he has issues: his family died when he was a child due to the smallpox and he is the only one to have survived - he has pox marks all over his body which makes him ugly to everyone including his late wife who died in childbirth cursing his ugliness. But it turns out, Anna doesn't think he is ugly, she finds him attractive. He also finds her attractive but cannot make a move because she is a lady after all. Not only she is a lady, she is also a lady who cannot have children and what Edwards wants more than anything in his life, is to have a family. And this is why he goes to London in order to arrange a marriage with a chit who cannot look directly into his eyes but who says that the marks in his face do not bother her, and he is so desperate he actually believes her. Oh, he also goes to London because he needs to attend to his bodily functions and get rid of his desire for Anna by having sex with a prostitute at this exclusive brothel called Aphrodite' Grotto.

But Anna, the plain, penniless secretary who at this point has major hots for the Earl is a cunning feminist who believes women have the same rights as men to have sex without being called whores by society. What does she do then? She asks a prostitute that by a Deus Ex Machina of a secondary plot lands at her door step to help her get into the brothel so she can pretend to be a prostitute without Edward's ever knowing. What ensue then are two torrid encounters that leaves me, Anna and Edward breathless. Also, who ever knew that a simple mask could be such an effective disguise?

Of course, Edward ends up finding out about the plot, gets really upset (he even cries, thinking that she might have had sex with other men other than him or that she was only attracted to his pox marks) but sees no other option than to ask her to marry him. Which she refuses because she cannot deny him the right to have children. Until they eventually get together and work out their issues and there comes the Happily Ever After which surprise, surprise, involves children.

There are some other silly plots going on at the same time, which I will not dwell into as they did not capture my interest and did not add to the story in my opinion. Come to think of it, I don't think I was really interested in any part of the story at all. What started as an original premise quickly became an unbelievable plot that involved more sex than love. I could not see how, when or why they fell in love with each other. As a matter of fact, it was not even clear to me that they were so attracted to each other or that the sexual tension was powerful enough to make Anna take such a desperate measure as to pretend to be a prostitute. Edward on the other hand, was calling her "my Anna" in a point of the story where they were hardly even friends.

I did not connect to the characters mainly because I didn't see their connection to each other. All I saw was a horny secretary and a lonely Earl.

I started out very excited about this book, having read nothing but raving reviews everywhere but must say I ended up sorely disappointed. I will give the author another try with The Leopard Prince though.

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