Fanciful Reader

a book blog about romance and more. . .

Category: TBR Challenge

TBR Challenge 2011: Kiss an Angel

The suggested theme for this month’s TBR Challenge was Christmas/Holiday themed-romances. Even though I have several dozen of these in my TBR pile, I chose a book that I happened to finish last week, that was nevertheless languishing in my TBR pile for quite a while.

First, here’s the synopsis from the publisher:

Pretty, flighty Daisy Devreaux can either go to jail or marry the mystery man her father has chosen for her. Arranged marriages don’t happen in the modern world, so how did the irrepressible Daisy find herself in this fix?

Alex Markov, as humorless as he is deadly handsome, has no intention of playing the loving bridegroom to a spoiled little feather-head with champagne tastes. He drags Daisy from her uptown life to a broken down traveling circus and sets out to tame her to his ways.

But this man without a soul has met his match in a woman who’s nothing but heart. Before long, passion will send them flying sky high without a safety net… risking it all in search of a love that will last forever.

The romance between Daisy and Alex was really sweet and had enough angst to make the HEA that much better. The above blurb characterizes Daisy as a spoiled brat, but I found that she showed her toughness from the first day she was thrown into the marriage with Alex and adapted very quickly to her new circumstances—living in a messy trailer and traveling with the circus. What was remarkable about Daisy’s character development was the way she bonded with the menagerie animals, and how she was willing to perform such hard physical labor in order to improve their living conditions.

There was nothing I disliked about the hero, Alex. I can only tell you I’ve lived in Russia and they seem to have a shortage of alpha males. The women, on the other hand, are Amazons—shrewd, smart, strong, and beautiful—probably to make up for the deficiencies in the male population. So most Russian heroes in romance seem a little far-fetched to me.

Can you believe this is the first book by Susan Elizabeth Phillips I’ve ever read? Even though if pressed to rate Kiss an Angel, I’d only give it about 3 stars out of five, I’ll definitely read more of her books.

TBR Challenge 2011: Cold Magic

Cold Magic by Kate Elliott (Book 1 of the Spiritwalker Trilogy)
Orbit, Sept 9, 2010

First, here’s the blurb from the publisher:

It is the dawn of a new age… The Industrial Revolution has begun, factories are springing up across the country, and new technologies are transforming in the cities. But the old ways do not die easy.

“I was not a bard or a djeli or an historian or a scribe and I was certainly not a sage, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t curious…”

Young Cat Barahal thinks she understands the world she lives in and her place in it, but in fact she is merely poised, unaware, on the brink of shattering events. Drawn into a labyrinth of politics involving blood, betrayal and old feuds, she will be forced to make an unexpected and perilous journey in order to discover the truth, not just about her own family but about an ancient secret lying at the heart of her world.

Cat and her cousin Bee are part of this revolution. Young women at college, learning of the science that will shape their future and ignorant of the magics that rule their families. But all of that will change when the Cold Mages come for Cat. New dangers lurk around every corner and hidden threats menace her every move. If blood can’t be trusted, who can you trust?

From one of the genre’s finest writers comes a bold new epic fantasy in which science and magic are locked in a deadly struggle.

I pre-ordered Cold Magic before its release last fall and have wanted to read it for a long time. Though I’m glad I finally finished it, it really wasn’t what I expected. For one, I was expecting more steampunk elements and more romance.

I mention the romance becuase I was reading it for the TBR Challenge hosted by Wendy the Super Librarian, where participants are mainly romance bloggers. This month’s theme was “series catch-up” and Cold Magic is part one of a trilogy.

There was plenty that I liked about the book. The first-person narration is something that always helps me get hooked right away. Cat, the protagonist, and her cousin, Bee, are both complex, likable characters. They’re brave, intelligent female characters who don’t veer at all into “Mary Sue” territory. The world building is very complex. I was especially fascinated with the African and Phoenician societies that populate Europe in this alternate history.

At times the combination of all the different cultures, the political machinations, and the spirit world and magic were almost too complex for me. This is probably why I read mostly romance and not a lot of epic fantasy.

Speaking of romance, there is one very swoonworthy scene at the end, and the relationship between Cat and Andevai, the Cold Mage who is forced to marry her, is one of the things that really kept me reading. Then Cold Magic ends with a total cliffhanger, where one of the pivotal characters in the book is introduced.

For that reason, I’m glad I already have Cold Fire in hand to continue the series. I’m looking forward to reading this and ever more complex paranormal/fantasy romance series!

TBR Challenge 2011: Walk on the Wild Side

This month’s theme for the TBR Challenge hosted by Wendy the Super Librarian is “marriage of convenience.”
I chose Walk on the Wild Side by Natalie Anderson. While the h/h don’t get married in the book there is an accidental pregnancy that to my mind is similar to the “marriage of convenience.”
Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

A fling with sinfully hot champion snowboarder Jack Greene isn’t Kelsi Reid’s normal behavior…but one glimpse of his wicked eyes has Kelsi throwing caution to the deep blue sea (along with her clothes!). After all, who better to go crazy with than a man who deserves a gold medal for his prowess on the slopes and in the bedroom…?

Then Kelsi crashes down with a terrifying bump—of the baby kind. They couldn’t be worse matched—Jack is Mr. Right-Now, while Kelsi craves stability. But it’s hard to keep your feet on the ground once you’ve met the man who turns your world upside down….

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I wouldn’t call it an “opposites attract” story in terms of personality but Jack and Kelsi definitely have incompatible lifestyles to begin with. Kelsi is a quirky character who enjoys wearing exotic color contacts to match her mood and wears long skirts partly to cover her extremely pale skin. Not what I think of as the typical Harlequin Presents heroine! Of course this book is in the HP Extra line which is known for a more modern feel.

Kelsi also has a very unique decorating style, and Jack allows her to have input into the redesign of her apartment when he purchases the whole building after discovering she’s pregnant. Yes, that’s one of those rich alpha-hero grand gestures that seems over the top but works well in Harlequin Presents land.

It was a very sweet story overall and I thought the author did great job of telling the story within a short word count. Though in real life I think babies are not that romantic, I would have liked to see a brief epilogue after Kelsi and Jack are married and have had the baby.

What about you? Do you like epilogues in romance novels, especially those involving babies?

TBR Challenge 2011: Wanton in the West

TBR Challenge 2011–Theme: Western Romance

I have quite a few westerns in my TBR pile and had a hard time deciding what to read for this months challenge. I really wanted to read Color of the Wind by Elizabeth Grayson. I couldn’t get into it because 1) I’m spoiled by my unscented e-reader and my used copy smelled kind of musty and 2) I couldn’t get past the heroine’s name, Ardith. No matter how hard I try I can’t associate Ardith with a woman under 80.

In the end, a novella won out because of lack of time. My excuse this time? It’s my son’s fifth birthday tomorrow (how did that happen?). We’re having a small party with family and a bigger party with his friends after Easter.

That’s it for the top half of the excuse sandwich, now on to the review.

Wanton in the West by Lisa Plumley

Synopsis from the publisher:
Arizona Territory, 1884

Everyone in the small town of Morrow Creek knows that Adeline has been sweet on Clayton Davis for years—and that he still hasn’t proposed! While Adeline reluctantly waits for her man, Clayton is falsely accused of being a thief and the sheriff is hot on his tail. Now Adeline has to do everything in her power to stop him leaving town, even if she has to be positively indecent to make Clayton stay by her side—and in her bed….

Adeline’s best friend, Violet, tries to persuade Clayton to leave town to avoid prosecution for the crime he’s falsely accused of committing. Her theory is that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and that he’ll be motivated to propose to Adeline after spending some time away from her.

Adeline convinces Clayton to stay in her empty farmhouse after he comes across her bathing in the pond and she “accidentally” falls in and they’re both soaking wet. Clayton reveals at this point that he’s been trying to save more money before proposing so that he can support Adeline in luxury and style, and as a humble sawmill worker, this is taking time. At this point I’m totally on his side and don’t understand Adeline’s motivation for trying to seduce him.

After spending a few days in Adeline’s house (much of it in bed) she reveals to Clayton how the whole town had been talking about the fact that he had strung out their courtship so long. Violet and the sheriff show up and they clear up the big misunderstanding.

Wanton in the West seemed like it would work well as a novella because of a few things:
-It’s set in a fictional town, Morrow Creek, that was introduced in previous books
-it’s about an established couple so they don’t have to waste story time getting to know each other

But what didn’t work so well is that I couldn’t sympathize with the heroine and her desire to be married–or sleep with Clayton–or both? I was confused about her motives. Also it involved big misunderstandings that could have been cleared up with a few simple, heartfelt conversations.

This brings me to a drawback of novellas–it’s taken me longer to write this post than it did to read the whole book!

Now tell me, if you read westerns, what is your favorite title and why?

TBR Challenge 2011: The Ice Princess

The Ice Princess (Princes Trilogy, #4)The Ice Princess by Elizabeth Hoyt

Once again, I chose a novella for the TBR Challenge Read. It turned out to be a very satisfying read. The Ice Princess is a little bit longer than other novellas I’ve read recently (about 1300 “locations” vs 900 for Harlequin Historical Undone books) and I think that made all the difference.

Coral Smythe, the heroine, is a madam who first appeared in the book The Raven Prince. Elizabeth Hoyt received many requests to write a story about Coral, which resulted in The Ice Princess.

The brothel where Coral works, Aphrodite’s Grotto, is owned by a cruel man named Jimmy Hyde. He offers Coral’s services for one week to the winner of a card game. Fortunately for Coral, the game is won by an honorable man–Captain Isaac Wargate, a handsome widower who doesn’t even wish to be in a brothel.

The inevitable happens–Isaac goes to Coral’s room to collect his prize. They slowly fall in love and must face challenges to finally be together.

This month’s TBR Challenge them was “ugly ducklings.” I couldn’t find anything in my collection with exactly that theme. There is one instance in The Ice Princess that touches on this theme but I won’t reveal it because it’s sort of a suspenseful moment in the story.

All in all, I enjoyed the story, and look forward to more books by Elizabeth Hoyt (Wicked Intentions and Notorious Pleasures are in my TBR pile).

TBR Challenge 2011: Temptation is the Night

Temptation is the NightTemptation is the Night by Marguerite Kaye

TBR Challenge 2011—Theme: Series Romance

It’s time for the first post of the 2011 TBR Challenge hosted by Wendy at Misadventures of Super Librarian.
I choose a book from the Harlequin Historical Undone line. I sort of cheated by picking such a short book for the first TBR 2011 challenge post. But since I’m still trying to finish Guns, Germs and Steel for my book club I haven’t had a lot of reading time lately.

Setting: England, 1924
It had been love at first sight when Jack Damarell, the Eighth Earl of Crieff, and American artist Lindsey van der Maier met on the steamer to England. Their marriage had been filled with white-hot passion—until Jack’s dark memories of the trenches drove them apart.
Now Lindsey has returned, and Jack has resolved to exorcise her from his heart with one final night of lovemaking to prove that reality couldn’t possibly live up to his memories. But can Jack hold onto his conviction when their sensual encounter exceeds his imagination?

When I first started reading this, I was a little disappointed that the story didn’t take place on board a ship. Can you think of a more romantic setting than a steamship? Also it seems like a transatlantic voyage would be the perfect length of time for the action of a novella to play out. All in all, the chemistry was very good between Lindsey and Jack, though I was confused about their motives at times. The writing style was at times a bit like many people’s negative stereotypes of romance novels. Think old-school Mills and Boon with a lot of sentence fragments. I thought this story suffered the most from filling in a lot of backstory about Lindsey and Jack’s failed marriage. I thought that the ending was perfect and sweet! It would have worked much better as a full-length novel, though.

I loved the 1924 setting and I wish there were more romance novels set in this time period. I’ve followed some discussions like the one on the AAR blog about the lack of post WWI romances. How about you? Which less-common settings would you most like to see?