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Moon Awakening

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I've had this book on my to-read for a while. I haven't read many good historical paranormals, but Monroe's modern suspense titles came so highly recommended, I took a chance on a historical title.Mostly, I liked it. Lachlan & co. are sexy, dangerous and charming when they initially meet and coerce/persuade the heroines away to their dread castle.However, once the heroines hook up with the heroes, it seems like the author was reaching for a conflict and the couples descend into bickering, sometimes cruel and brutal, sometimes trivial, winding and so specific as to be lawyer-worthy. "But you said..."While I admire the heroine's grasp of logic, I began to lose patience, and to tell the truth, a lot of the character plot is moved by these tedious arguments. Even until the last chapters, the heroes were still making cruel accusations and flinging unforgivable -considering that I'm rather forgiving of these romance heroes, that's saying something- insults at the heroines. By this point in a novel, I expect the characters' relationships to have progressed past this stage. It's much too late to introduce disrespect and breach of trust like this, wrap it up in a few pages, and expect the relationship to come off as a success.It's also a little unbelievable the way these characters analyzed their own feelings so accurately and completely at the end of every argument. I've never seen that myself...On the other hand, the author wrote the werewolves excellently. She really delved in depth into their history, lore, society and laws. Her explanation of their origins and long-standing place among the clans was also interesting. They're as I might expect of historical werewolves, a little harsh and loyal to the bone. I loved that their beasts are such an integral part of their lives, that they truly embrace them, and that we see glimpses of the characters as wolves. At one point, the heroine even encounters the hero as a wolf and her awe and wonder (as a human) are so convincing. That moment is beautiful. I wish more authors would write wolves like this.I forgot that the characters were highlanders much of the time, except where their differences arose, like the wild terrain, etc.,-- which is good. It means they weren't corny. Neither does the historical aspect descend into encyclopedia, clinical or limp territory. Her style is a little OCD when she's explaining about the wolves, rehashing and rewinding. I wish she would edit those points to be more concise. Otherwise, it's fluid and pretty. All that said, I was between three stars and four. I gave it four mostly because when the heroes and heroines weren't fighting, they were very compelling, hot and sweet. I don't mind conflict, mind you, but this kind, where the hero and heroine never understand each other, just becomes a downer, LOL. I'll look for the second book in the series though and hope that the potential I saw in this book is realized in that one.
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Warprize

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Warprize disappointed me. I had my first clue a few pages in when I realized the prose I could expect would be basic at best, for a romantic fantasy. While I liked the premise of Warprize and Vaughan's grasp of relationships and human dynamics, the plot was mild, with little conflict to speak of and thus, little suspense or action or even upset. It's all very ho-hum. I liked the hero Keir -he was to all appearances strong and charming and everything nice, an admittedly refreshing change from the normal gamut of romance heroes- but we only know him superficially, through the heroine's eyes. For those who don't like first person narratives, Warprize embodies all that form's weaknesses. Readers are treated to a painstaking list of the heroine's every mundanity in a flood of monotony: "I...went into the bathing area to remove the dress carefully. I tried to fold it, but the material slipped and slid, the dress ending up on the floor every time. Tired, frustrated and upset, I finally gave up and left it lay on one of the benches. A tunic and trous were set out for me, and I climbed into them for sleeping. After washing out my undergarments, I washed up quickly. My hair was windblown from the tower and the ride, so I gathered up a comb and returned to the other room to try to deal with the tangled mess."Was her editor unavailable that day? I've heard my GoodReads friends describe first person narratives as journal writing. Warprize is journal writing if the writer were a drone. The heroine lists events, lifelessly recounts her reaction in brief (if that) and repeats indefinitely. There is next to no internal dialogue, so we never know the heroine. Since most of these events revolve around her work in the field as a healer, the account becomes excruciatingly repetitive and descends into unnecessary detail (as above). I can't count the number of times I read about Lara brewing fevers foe, but I'm sure a recipe would sum up the book nicely.I can understand completely when readers question whether Warprize can be called a romance. Since the heroine, or more properly, the disinterested observer, has no feelings, there's no sexual tension or tension of any kind. Nine times out of ten, we see the hero from a distance. He's gone fishing most of the time. Else, we receive only a brief report of his dialogue with a woeful lack of body language, or any insight into Keir's character. Warprize is certainly not like the passionate romances, explicit and non-explicit, to which I'm accustomed. It is more appropriately an account of a foreigner in an army camp or a remote ballad. I've seen romances with too much inner dialogue where the heroine stews and wrings her hand endlessly. This is the other end of the spectrum entirely. Two-thirds through the book I finally realized, nothing is happening. It's essentially about the heroine learning about her new people and caring for them. A travelogue, in short. I would recommend this book for someone wanting a calm, mild, relaxed romance with no moral questions, darkness or turbulent emotion. Perhaps on a rainy day. Also, for those wondering, this is PG, maybe 13 for some "kissing" and a vague sex scene. I'm sure this is someone's cuppa. At least the ending was nice.Just a note: there is no middle-eastern culture. Someone mentioned such a label on the book in another review. Just a clarification.
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A Dangerous Woman

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Going into A Dangerous Woman, I found all the makings of a typical romance, typical romance suspense and perhaps typical interracial romance. The hero's a blonde, blue-eyed good ol' boy, while the heroine is a pretty, black, kick-you-back-five-Sundays CIA agent. They even begin with the conventional antagonism between them. Wyatt enters the narrative giving every appearance that he is exactly the caveman that he appears. He's flip with Odessa and his thoughts run something like, "beer, food, woman." They trade barbs throughout the novel, but we later learn, as he realizes the gravity of the situation -and his admiration for the heroine, despite his best efforts to avoid such an intimidating woman- and gets down to business, that he is a sharp, principled detective. Then the real action begins as Wyatt and Odessa unravel each other's characters and find that they're both deeper than first impressions suggest. These two and their dilemmas were believable and real, especially Wyatt. In fact, I really came to admire Wyatt, and that's saying something, considering his beginnings at page one. I found that while I started the book looking at something like a Silhouette suspense, I ended up reading something a little richer.My only complaints were minor, the author's emphasis again and again that someone is to-be-feared, the posturing and machismo (kind of reminded me of a PNR, LOL), etc.-- but it's not altogether surprising in a story about an agent and a cop, I suppose.All in all, the book was quite layered for such a short read, glancing upon themes like police ethics, interracial relationships, etc. It's a little more realistic and affecting than the average romance suspense-- with almost a contemporary feel. The action's brief and infrequent, but I was more caught up in the main mystery of the novel, which is all the more gripping since it's a very personal search for the killer of the heroine's father. Jeffries captures the heroine's rage and ferocity very well (she's mad and she's bad). So if you also like the story of a wrong avenged and justice served (and done good), this is definitely that.FYI: There are two bedroom scenes, explicit and heated but brief. Violence is mild but abuse of power is discussed and implied (often). The heroine's full of violent fury over the murder of her father, and because of her skills and resources, she has the power to get vengeance. That's the question of the novel, along with the mystery and romance. Wyatt's question is what will he do as a cop if she goes too far?
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The Secret Swan

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I thought instead of raving about this on every which page of GoodReads, I should just review the book and give the poor masses a break. At least part of the reason that I was taken with The Secret Swan may be because I had somewhat low expectations. This is not my first Shana Abé. I loved her cunning dragon earls in her Drákon novels-- but I just don't like medieval romance. The heroes always come off as stupid brutes trying to learn Middle English. Swan was a pleasant surprise. There's no Middle English. No "Zounds!" or "thee" or "Come here, wench!" I don't care if you're Shakespeare reincarnated. Middle English will never be sexy. Abé uses something closer to modern English in dialogue and the same elegant language and succinct exposition -no bloating- we've come to expect from her, rife with imagery:"He was dressed as the rest of the young men around him were, in fine tunics and colorful hose, each wearing the heraldry of the lord they served. He blended in well with them. Were it not for just one stray beam of sunlight sliding along the floor, she might not have noticed him at all.But the sunlight was there, slanting down from a window high above, and at just the moment when she glanced his way he took a half-step into the light, jostled by a friend, the two of them laughing softly together.She felt as if she had stepped, unsuspecting, into a vat of honeyed nectar, thick and sweet, filling her, suspending her even as she died within it. A blissful death—or an excruciating life—to gaze upon him, to bear witness to this beauty disguised as an ordinary squire. Amiranth had never before seen such dark splendor, such grace in a boy."As she gets older, Amiranth still waxes poetic about her knight, but she starts to notice his man's figure and dangerous eyes, after Tristan has returned from war a changed man. Needless to say, Abé's carefully manipulated and emphasized details leave the reader breathless throughout the novel.I particularly liked the realism in the story. Amiranth grows up besotted with Tristan Geraint, sneaking glances at him whenever she can, carefully dropping hints to her guardians that she wouldn't mind a marriage to a certain knight-- but Tristan is like any other young man, in fact, perhaps more shallow, and their arranged marriage is like many, distant and barely tolerated. Though he is polite, Tristan is far more interested in war than his young, mousy bride, who has never been as pretty as her cousin, and leaves her at the earliest opportunity.Then he comes back. Dun, dun, DUHHHHHN. There are no soap opera reunions, however. No shrieking or shouting matches. The the melancholy tone (hence, my comparison to Private Arrangements), tension and angst between Amiranth and Tristan is subtle and stretches throughout the novel. Amiranth holds herself apart from the husband she no longer trusts to love and care for her, and Tristan must win her back in small strides and demonstrations, gradually. These two were developed very well, especially Tristan who is a complex amalgam of the knight he was and the man stranded in a war prison for eight years, by turns haunted and gallant. I thought Abé's characterization of him was much more in-depth and realistic than many romances. He is scary at times, just as a man at odds with the world might be.Amiranth herself is quite clever for a romance heroine (save for the fact she keeps Tristan at a distance for so long; no one's perfect). I was grateful that she wasn't another romance heroine wearing trousers. Her strength was her resourcefulness, e.g. she is a convincing actress where it benefits the hero, hides incriminating evidence, etc., at a time when her survival was not always guaranteed.I think this would appeal to readers looking for a subtle romance and not afraid to see their heroes' mistakes, regret and reconciliation. Oh, and fans of dark heroes. >:D Hehehe.
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Deadly Sexy

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Deadly Sexy is another romance suspense title from Beverly Jenkins and takes place at the same time as Dangerous/Sexy. Either can be read first, but it's inevitable one will compare the two books.First, Deadly Sexy is a little more plausible than Dangerous. A sports agent getting caught up in some bad business is always more believable than a super secret government agent with super dogs, especially the way Jenkins tells it, with the suspense taking a clear second place to the romance.In fact, I really liked the romance. "JT" is believable as the strong, competent, smart sports agent. The author clearly knows her sports. Never a Too-Stupid-To-Live moment from her and no dramatic Big Understandings either. Though neither is really looking to enter the dating scene when they meet, JT and Reese, or Jeese as I like to call them, are very down to earth and intelligent people. They know a good thing when they see one, and the feelings between them are a good thing. How could JT fail to love Reese, tall and toned in his silk shirts and his "mahogany" voice? Reese the Fine, as JT aptly names him, is shrewd, capable and strong enough to admire an independent woman. His responses to JT's requests to give her space were reminiscent of a modern Westley: "As you wish." You see, our boy Reese also moonlights as a knight in shining armor. He's not really a trucker (I know, I was disappointed too). He's an ex-cop from Detroit turned part owner in a multimillion dollar company -who needs the DPD when your brother is a genius inventor?- and he wants to court our heroine the old-fashioned way. Needless to say, this was a surprise. I haven't even seen real, true-blue courtships in historical romance. It was sweet coming from this modern man (and his very modern courtship, if you know what I mean- rated R for one or two scenes.)At this point, we could be watching an episode of The Game, complete with the chatty girlfriend and a modern, sensual romance, but then the suspense arc takes a more active role and the villain becomes (PG-13) violent. While this was plotted and executed well -Reese's usurping the local detective's investigation aside- I felt this could have been told more efficiently. The last third of the book dragged and was a little predictable with the hero and heroine essentially sitting ducks for the villain's attacks because they're engaged in scene after brief, perfunctory scene of repetitive lovemaking. On the side, JT becomes acquainted with Reese's family, but I wish that Jenkins had devoted more attention to one or the other element, either JT and Reese's relationship or meeting and exploring his family in depth, as real people rather than the Super Smart Brady Bunch of Four. Instead, both elements came across halfhearted.I would also like more internal dialogue throughout. The characters have their introspective moments when they're apart and perhaps this style is easy to read, but we're kept at a distance with this kind of surface narration. We're never really inside the characters' heads. I felt this was considerably improved from Dangerous/Sexy, however, where the exposition was littered with rote, my-accountant-wrote-this summation. "Then the hero received a call that the case was solved and he was happy." At any rate the novel only degrades near the end. The first half, which we'll call Contemporary, I really enjoyed, and the suspense wasn't bad. 3.5 stars, I think I'm done with Jenkins. I'm ready to move on.
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Sexy/Dangerous

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Sexy/Dangerous is my first read from Beverly Jenkins, but the book's called Sexy and Dangerous. I mean, what more could you ask for? LOL. ;) Incidentally, the book's two main purposes fall nicely into these two categories.Sexy: The first half of the book, while interspersed with behind-the-scenes moments with the villain, was spent exploring the relationship between brilliant researcher Dr. Adam Gary, who is developing an energy source that will put oil moguls out of work, and his bodyguard of the moment, Maxine. We learn about their characters and backgrounds and the author gives them ample time to develop a convincing relationship. There's no rush here, but there are no manufactured contrivances to keep them apart either. They don't like each other initially, and that's obstacle enough. This is believable because the good doctor is the Grinch when he's on the job (he is), barking at anyone who disturbs his work, and Max is not exactly romanced. Can you tell she's a woman of her own mind? They get to know each other living in the same house, however, (Oscar the Grouch has a softer side after all) and when they do finally give into their growing feelings-- well, we learn "Doc" Gary has other talents too, LOL. And stamina. o.O Damn. Doc likes to please. Dangerous: The peace has to end sometime. Just when I was wondering if this was a suspense novel, the bad guys show up. This is when the book becomes an action flick, complete with rocket-launching Escalades, exploding car chases, and gunfights. If you can suspend belief about all the unlikely technology (well, she is working for a secret agency hired by the government), then you'll enjoy this part. I've seen enough Hollywood I got over this quickly, and the story moves on rapidly at any rate. Just like the movies, there's a pretty satisfying conclusion. I was a little annoyed by the last obstacle for the couple to breach, i.e. a relationship obstacle. This was a case of the "strong female heroine has to prove she's doing something for herself and not because the hero told her to," but as this is a real flaw (the characters are very real, especially the actually-gentle-despite-their-introduction hero), I excused it. Max is pretty cool otherwise, even though she talks to her dogs like people, LOL. And they meet a gentleman thug on the way. How many suspense couples do that, hm? LOL.Now, I have to comment on the writing style though. The author was very fond of using articles before subjects, e.g. "leaving a very annoyed Max to chase after," "so the irate Adam found her," etc. That needs to go. She also has a tendency to write run-on sentences that interrupt the flow of the telling. So that I read a neverending sentence and find myself losing the thread of the story. "So Max did such and such, with that such and such, which was the reason she had learned such and such..." Wait, what were we talking about? Her style is also a little distant. You definitely get the feeling you're the third person. You see from the narrator's perspective-- that's all that's allowed, LOL. Not a lot of internal dialogue. On the other hand, her pacing is even and her writing is not florid, which is nice for a change. It's not bloated with adjectives or archaic word use. It's simple.The dialogue also made up for the style (and the somewhat stereotypical plot), for me. All in all, this book was enjoyable for the characters (they're the expected heroes but fashioned differently) and their interactions. It's good for those rainy days, especially if you like those hero-takes-all action flicks. Not particularly dark (apart from a racist villain who is rather villainous in the final conflict). Good read. I'll probably pick up another when I'm in the mood for a basic romance suspense.
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