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What the Duke Desires by Sabrina Jeffries


"Forgive me, madam, it appears that you and I got off on the wrong foot."
"You got off on the wrong foot. I merely watched you shove it into your mouth."
Insert a fist-pump here because that was a Score! for Lisette Bonnaud, bastard of a duke and spitfire all of her own making. I honestly didn't expect to enjoy What the Duke Desires so bleeding much, but it was such an irresistibly charming read that it proved impossible to shake my head in reproof of all the obvious inaccuracies to the time period. Heck, I'm not a historian so for all I know certain phrasing may have been invented around this time. Anyway, once I finished sniffing, I realized how sensational a time I was having reading as Maximillian Cale, Duke of Lyons, and Lisette warily danced around the intoxicating combination of hard-held secrets and blatant sexual attraction.

In truth, we've all seen this story dance a million different ways to the same tune—a rich and powerful man with heart-rending secrets meets the woman who sees herself lacking in some way but breathes fire nonetheless. And when the two characters meet either really great or really terrible things are written to happen. This, in What the Duke Desires, was the case of really great. Jeffries spent a lot of time fine-tuning both Max and Lisette's personalities, down to the littlest flaw to make sure we saw everything by the end, making their slow pull to each other not only powerfully attractive but impressively convincing. Not to mention sweet.

"You're so pretty," he murmured as she struggled with his boots. He ran his hand over her curls, tangling his fingers in them. "Your hair is like... it's like... I dunno. Something black and shiny."
She smothered a smile. Apparently when the duke was jug-bitten, he became somewhat inarticulate. "Like beetles, perhaps?" she joked.
"Right, beetles." He blinked, then scowled. "Not beetles. Don't be daft." He'd filled both hands with her hair and was smoothing it and caressing it. "Something prettier."

Too often in such sexy circumstances are the adorable and cute forgotten in the thick of all the tension. Tender moments in between aside, I loved finding Max in particular so damn adorable, and loved it even more when Lisette noticed also. Made me feel truly attuned to her while admiring him. I don't know if I'm making much sense here, but Jeffries won me with her characterization over everything else is my meaning.

He was watching her now, his gaze hooded. "All the same, no one will ever believe that you and I are brother and sister. We sound too different, look too different." His voice dropped to a rough thrum. "And I can assure you, I will never be able to treat you like a sister."
That got her dander up again. "Because I'm too far beneath you?"
"Because you're too beautiful." When she stiffened, he added ruefully, "I can't pretend I don't notice. And last time I checked, brothers weren't supposed to notice such things about their sisters."

Beyond them, however, was more than enough to keep me entertained, especially when it brought the two tangled together in confusion, awkwardness, and frustrating (for them) situations. It's an adventure of sorts and a mystery that, while not terribly complex, held enough shocking concluding details to bear weight on the characters and, therefore, me. From start to finish, I couldn't bear to be interrupted.

Oh, what a satisfying bout this was. What a Duke Desires contained everything I desire to read—adventure, mystery, well-developed characters, and a downright lovely romance. Gossips, cruel villains and their henchmen, equally overbearing and overprotective brothers, a tinge of political figures and other assorted mentions. What a Duke Desires is delightfully quick to read, causing surprise in how little time it took to finish. A fan of romance blossoming in bizarre situations and fast-paced reading will adore this first book in The Duke's Men series. I can't wait to continue!

Ebook / 417 pgs / June 18th 2013 / Pocket Books / Goodreads / $7.99

My copy was purchased from Barnes & Noble as a NookBook.

What did I rate What a Duke Desires?
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Shadow Spell by Nora Roberts


"This is what we are," Brannaugh said, still glowing from the shock of energy. "This is what we have. The nights grow longer now. The dark conquers light. But he will not conquer us."
Oh, would you believe how much this pains me? Writing this out, spelling out my feelings this way, a way that doesn't make Nora Roberts sound like the god of romance and storytelling and romantic storytelling I know her to be. She's fueled my dreams of love and fulfillment since I was a girl of preadolescence and I still firmly believe she is a queen among authors. But even royalty have an off day, I suppose.

To be fair, I knew that beyond the first book, Dark Witch, I was going to have a tough time. There was something so specific and individualized about the way I loved Iona and her story that I knew it wouldn't translate the same throughout the series. And it didn't help that these characters whom I knew would arise from the role of secondary to primary characters failed to win me. It was the love of Iona and the promise of her future with Boyle that drew me away from my doubt and trapped me into really liking the Dark Witch after the rich opening chapters.

Without her intense draw, it's too easy to see how dull I find the rest of the story beginning with Shadow Spell. Because the remaining characters felt like a gloomy day that left me begging for the sunshine that was Iona and because most of the plot is made up of uneventful, boring dinner conversations of supposed strategy instead of actual action, I found myself yawning and flipping quickly through the pages--so quickly, in fact, that the words could only be skimmed. Barely.

In truth, this read felt more like a DNF sitting since I can't recall over a quarter of the book, just a blur of words as I hastened to reach the ending I desperately wanted. Wanted not due to real worry or excitement for the conclusion, but due to eagerness in actually finding one at last. Folks, it's a sad day when I'm begging for a new Nora Roberts book to end so that I can chuck it aside.

I will be checking out the final book, just to see how that final couple stops prolonging the torture of not being together and to convince myself that it was just this installment that bothered and not the whole story idea. And let's face it: I'm always excited for a New Nora no matter what, even when I'm disappointed by the last.

Paperback / 319 pgs / March 25th 2014 / Berkeley Penguin / Goodreads / $17.00

My copy was purchased on Amazon.com.

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Written In Red by Anne Bishop


"Get this into your head, Meg Corbyn. We don't let humans live in our part of the world because we like you. We let you live here because you can be useful, and you've invented things we like having. If it wasn't for that, you'd all be nothing but meat. Which is something you should remember.
Perhaps this day of exasperating consumerism isn't the most suitable day to talk about my time spent with Written In Red but I've been waiting for days to harp on its magnificence, so you'll just have to pardon me.

I started this tale of gripping world-building and heartwarming characters on March 9th... and I just finished it this past Thursday at 2:13am. So you can imagine how creative my frustration-born snarls were this past month at every bold intruder seeking to thwart my slow yet heady race to the elusive finish line. All kinds of distractions crept into my days so that every time I was forced to put the book down, I'd turn a little more of my frustration onto the read instead of blaming my goshdamn life. To the point where I suddenly began to dread re-immersing myself only to have the story remind me how misguided my misery truly was.

You see, in the abstract and technical sense Written In Red shouldn't have appealed to me in the least. I like whimsy and beauty in my writing, less intimidating page length in my book, and a little more obvious romance among my characters because obviously I'm an easily intimidated fanciful hussy like that. So when I was faced with practical, straightforward writing, a whopping 450+ pages, and a smidgen of romance, I expected to find myself printing a return label at the end of this very long, unattractive tunnel.

Instead I'm gazing at it reverently, utterly content with the story I was met with. A story in which I discovered a winding love for a female protagonist who somehow balances kindness, ignorance, and spine without irritating or disenchanting me, for a slew of secondary characters who steadily grew on me in spite of, or maybe because of, their scope, and a world built upon layer after fascinating layer that I got to explore thoroughly. It isn't everyday you can enjoy all those qualities in such a long book and still come out beautifully moved and wholly entertained.

And it all began with the mention of an H.L.D.N.A sign (Human Law Does Not Apply).

"I talked to the members of the Business Association and we all agree that while the woman in the wanted poster bears a strong resemblance to our Liason, they are not the same person."
Monty opened his mouth to disagree, then realized there was no point. Wolfgard knew perfectly well that Meg Corbyn was the woman on the wanted poster.
"We have, of course, taken precautions. Meg Corbyn is now residing in the Green Complex, where safe access is only possible by prior arrangement. I live there. So does Vladimir Sanguinati and Henry Beargard."
Message understood. No one who tried to reach Meg Corbyn when she was asleep or otherwise vulnerable would survive.
Then his face took on a feral look that was terrible to see on an otherwise human face. "Human law doesn't apply in the Courtyard, Lieutenant. No matter what anyone else thinks, Meg Corbyn is ours now--and we protect our own. You make sure you send that message back to whoever made the poster."

Now the Grandfather of the Sanguinatti wishes for Meg the sweetblood to be treated with care. She had thought of the evergreens instead of summer green when she gifted a scarf to Winter, who wears it happily. She remembers library requests and old movie deliveries and treats for the ponies who deliver the mail. She both irritates and calms Simon Wolfgard, coaxes his nephew away from his fear and trauma, and gives the Coyote, the Crows, and the Hawks entertainment every morning. Eating Tess's meals and indulging Jenni the Crow who likes the shiny things and enjoying Henry the Bear's music. It's all the things she thoughtfully does for the various inhuman creatures that surround her that bridge the connection between the two coexisting species whom had never fully understood one another before and now had a better chance of doing so.

Meg is the gateway to trust and respect on both sides, and maybe even affection. Witnessing this slow progression of change is entrancing and amazingly inspiring. It's happy, even among all the viciousness that does and must play out to maintain order. Normal and queer, brave and shy, innocent and tough, Meg makes me want to jump straight into Murder of Crows even after this tormenting month. Because she's the heart of this story, and everyone the heart touches comes alive on the page.

And if I hadn't already committed to reading Anne Bishop's Black Jewels this would've sealed the deal. But my commitment was made when I bought the omnibus for the trilogy several months ago, so I'll just settle for saying that reading this made me want to start quicker than anticipated.

Massmarket Paperback / 487 pgs / March 5th 2013 / Roc Penguin / Goodreads / $7.99

My copy was purchased from Amazon.com.

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Remnants by Lisa T. Bergren


The elder likened the Hour of our Call to a tidal pull, the first birthing pangs of a pregnant mother... but to me it felt like a scream building inside. Excitement and glory, swirling in a ball within my chest. Electrifying. Mobilizing.
Did I really say I was going to post this review three days ago? Has it really been a month already since my last post? I'm clearly just so damn absentminded I should be responsible for little else. That's why I keep rejecting your blog tour invites and review requests, people, and not because it pleases me... much (but there would be no confusion if more read a certain web page). Anyway, I did make an exception to my current policy for one of the few authors I would bend over backward because I wanted to be a part of her latest book's outbreak into blogging society. Have I done a good job with keeping up? I could've done better, I freely admit. But the point is I'm more or less ready to talk about my feelings on the matter.

I'm going to be upfront and say I am pretty darn disappointed with Remnants/Season of Wonder and... just why did I think I wanted to be honest upfront? It's painful to say even that much when I utterly adore Lisa T. Bergren, as a person and an author. I feel guilty, even knowing I don't owe the lovely Lisa an unqualified happy response to what I read. However, whether this wasn't my cup of tea or that I found it strangely lacking, the overwhelming conclusion is that I didn't enjoy this book nearly as much as I'd hoped.

A promising first few chapters combined with my enthusiasm to have something else of the author of the River of Time novels cross my lap made it ease to delve into this new world filled with new characters in what looked to be an engaging and exciting story. I was intrigued by these warriors of God fighting for the remnants of a world that wasn't my world but felt eerily familiar.

But the foundation of what is built for us doesn't hold strong for very long.

It took me little to no time to realize that while I snickered at the humor that wanted to be there and tried to love the potential of a long-brewing romance between the main characters, I didn't see, didn't feel, and ultimately didn't care. It became difficult to keep my attention firmly pressed to the pages when I was so distant from these people trying to rally together to save the world, a world that provoked a few questions, yes, then promptly lost my interest as did most everything else.

It's an interesting book, for all it's needlessly overwhelming length, but that's all it amounted to in the end. It wasn't gripping or immersive or any of the other fun words I like to use to describe the state a book put me into. And so I may retain a mild curiosity for the next book in the series, but nothing more.

Hardcover / 414 pgs / April 8th 2014 / Blink / Goodreads / $15.99

My copy was sent to me as an ARC for the Remnants blog tour.

What did I rate Season of Wonder?
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Remnants Blog Tour: INSPIRATION BEHIND THE LOCALE

In the first book of the new futuristic dystopian series from author Lisa T. Bergren, the chosen remnants must work to redirect humanity’s course.

The year is 2095. Gifted teens known as Remnants have been chosen and trained to act as humanity’s last hope to rectify the horrors that are now part of everyday life.

The Community has trained these teens as warriors and assigned them Knights of the Last Order as protectors. Together, they are a force that will be difficult to bring down.

But the Sons of Sheol, of course, are determined to do just that. As the Remnants begin their mission to course-correct humanity by saving and protecting key individuals, their enemies move to stop them, placing the entire world in peril.

Bestselling author Lisa T. Bergren presents the first book in her new YA futuristic dystopian series—The Remnants Novels—fitting in with the current dystopian trend in the marketplace.


For the monastery that appears in the novel as “Wadi Qelt,” and Keallach’s winter palace, I actually used a monastery in a canyon of the same name in Israel. There, you descend from a hot, dry desert floor, down into a cool, red-and-gold rocky canyon with a river that flows along the bottom. They use aqueducts to funnel water elsewhere. And at the bottom, farther along the canyon, is an amazing monastery that smells of beeswax and with frescoes covered with a layer of soot from centuries of candles burning.

Merchants hang out at the top, wanting to sell you jewelry or a ride on a camel. More hang out at the bottom with burros, offering to let you ride to the top. The walls are riddled with caves and ladders, used by monks in seclusion—something I used in my book, Remnants, too.

While Keallach’s winter palace is far more contemporary—complete with a landscaped pool and building with individual balconies—the inspiration was everything I saw and experienced in that idyllic canyon in Israel.

Be sure to write down this STOP #11 LAUNCH TOUR CLUE: All that

Collect all the clues and fill out Lisa’s Rafflecopter form on her launch tour post at LisaBergren.com at the end of April and you could win either a Kindle Fire HDX ($229) or iPod Touch ($229)!



What’s your favorite desert locale? Share it in the comments!

And look forward to my review in tomorrow's post!

Waiting On Wednesday April Edition: Dorothy Must Die & To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Ah, when was the last time I did a WoW post? I used to love doing these every week, before I complicated matters here and tried to tweak things. Whatever happened to just having fun with this? Well, that's just what I'm going to try to get back to.

I love this meme because it helps me narrow down and sort through my bookish desires. By prioritizing certain releases, I have a nice list of things I want to read next. And if there's one thing I love doing it's gotta be list-making.

Dorothy Must Die was an easy choice, the first book to come to mind when I thought on releases I desperately wanted. At first, it was really all about a title like that. I don't think there's anyone who can resist that title, and let's not forget to mention that cover. Hence all the buzz I'm sure.

Then you've got a supremely unique twist on the classic story, one whose anniversary hits this year, and I'm all anxious excited for what this undoubtedly inventive tale will bring.

Plus, I've already begun the prequel and it's so gooood.

Now try as I might, it has never been the perfect time to start Jenny Han's previous triogy. Every summer I start to reach for it and then lose the urge on the way. I guess it's because the premise never really captured me, and the only reason I want to read it is due to the amount of love there is for the books.

But this time around, well, this is EXACTLY my kind of premise. There's going to be all kinds of character growth and everything, yes, but I just love the idea of a main character finding herself bombarded by old crushes, ones who may have actually felt something back.

It's going to be so emotional and will do all kinds of things to my heart, and I can't WAIT.

*insert world-weary sigh* I hate waiting, don't you?

What I've Been Reading: Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs & Concealed In Death by J.D. Robb

Every time winter hedges into spring, this incredible and inexplicable urge to binge read consumes my every thought, targets my resistance with all the power of a hive of bees swarming an intruder. Nothing I do, unless directly related to soothing this craving, holds any meaning. This leaves me backed in a corner, but I'm only half-reluctant. There's another part of me, the well-buried (or not) masochistic half, that is all but bouncing with glee over the idea of investing myself in a new world, a new set of characters. But not just any novel will do to quench this very specific thirst, no.

I must read a long-spanning series. Nothing else will do.

The unfortunate side effect of this decision is that my lust to begin a new series doesn't exclude the perilously ongoing ones. Which very often leads to a lot of heartache and personal frustration which, funnily enough, I cannot usually afford during Februarytime for one reason or another.

And yet every year, I can anticipate this event the way I do Thanksgiving or Christmas. I must admit, half the fun is rifling and rooting through my TBR for the perfect choice, a selection that embodies equal parts deeply entrenched curiosity and a match to my current mood.

This year's choice felt somewhat random, but I couldn't imagine myself coming to any other conclusion. The Mercy Thompson series had always sort of lurked in the back of my mind, its fans taunting me with their enthusiasm and keen anticipation for each installment. Plus it hits many of my soft spots--supernatural abundance, an urban setting, a little sci-fi fantasy action topped off by a very SHIP-worthy paranormal romance. That an upcoming sequel was due out less than a month than when I wanted to begin was just the perfect sign.

And while I wouldn't say it's one of my absolute favorite series, it's super enjoyable and well-worth the time I spent indulging in such a yummy pageturner.

Essentially the series is about a woman living in a city ripe with catastrophe in the supernatural community to which she, incidentally, is a member. Within each sequel, the chinks in some aspect of that community--whether it be among the vampires, werewolves, or the fey who technically started this whole mess--are mercilessly and oftentimes unexpectedly exploited. This woman, Mercedes Thompson, walker raised by werewolves, grumpy mechanic, has an expansive circle of friends and allies, all of whom reluctantly recruit her against some foe or other as they slowly recognize her strengths among foolishly perceived weaknesses.

And that's ultimately why I enjoy these books so much. She's not so high up on the pecking order of supernatural creatures and so consistently underestimated that it's a sincere pleasure to watch her systematically squash the doubts aimed against her. She's a badass, another of my soft spots, without being inconsistent with it or grossly arrogant. It's that solid belief in herself and her vast capabilities that keeps me chained to the sidelines, cheering for all my fangirly heart is worth.

So, yeah. I'm counting the hours down 'til March 11th, when I'll be reunited with my latest girl-crush and crew.

Speaking of reunions, I recently got my trembling hands on the latest In Death novel. Trembling because I am an addict when it comes to this series--I've hardly made a secret of it. In fact, the In Death series had been last year's binge-fest--all, what was it? Thirty-four or so books at the time? Something like that. I spent every day of February and well into March reading all the available books and hooked since then doesn't even BEGIN to cover all the bases.

It felt so wonderful to be transported back to homey surroundings--futuristic New York and all it's foul glory, Castle Roarke where our cherished primary cast live, NYPSD headquarters, and so much more. And out of all areas the murder mysteries of each plot can fall into, this time was steeped in the sad end of the spectrum.

There is always a kind of thrill, for it can't be called fun when you're dealing with murder crimes so real it hurts, that goes along with unraveling the mystery alongside Eve Dallas, main character, primary investigator, homocide lieutenant. Concealed In Death was no different. It was a painful, thrilling, suspenseful, heartwarming ride that I hope I never have to get off of as we move forward.

Argh. September of 2014 seems like a long time to wonder and wait...

Upcoming: A look into Remnants by Lisa T. Bergren, a wrap-up for what was dubbed Fantasy February and perhaps a TBR if I'm still so inclined, and a comparison of Game of Thrones in TV and in the book. Get some sleep so you can stay tuned.