QQ REVIEWS: Mix of Six from Ashley, Butcher, Kane, Holly, Hoyt, and Winfree

Friday, August 14, 2009 1:00
Posted in category Review

puppyduck.jpgI know you’ve all been saying to yourself, “Self, I have not read any scintillating content from Shannon C. lately. Does she not love us anymore?

To which the answer is, no. I’ve just been behind on reviewing, and I’ve been kind of underwhelmed by a lot of the romances I’ve picked up.

Still, I did want to post something so you’d know I hadn’t fallen off the face of the planet, so here’s a series of Quick Quack Reviews, covering the stuff I’ve been reading.

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Book CoverShannon C’s Quick Quack review of The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures, Book 1) by Jennifer Ashley
Historical Romance released by Leisure Books 28 Apr 09



The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie is one of the few books I’ve read this year in which I felt the hype was even a little justified. The titular Lord Ian MacKenzie has Asperger syndrome, which makes him blunt, socially awkward, and unable to look people in the face. He is drawn to Beth Ackerley, a young widow recently freed from her obligations as a companion to a shrew of an old lady.

Beth is equally drawn to Ian, and soon she’s falling for him.There’s a lot to like here. Ian is a fascinating character, as are the rest of his family. But, surprisingly, I actually liked Beth. Romance heroines are hard to portray well, and I’m rarely pleased with them. But Beth was confident without being brash, knew what she wanted in life, and was interesting in her own right as something other than a foil for Ian.

There is a mystery that doesn’t entirely work for me, and the way in which a feud one character has with the MacKenzies is resolved in a way that didn’t work for me, since it felt a bit too schmaltzy. But this is a unique romance, and I strongly recommend it to fans of historical romance.

Grade: B+

Summary:
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The year is 1881. Meet the Mackenzie family–rich, powerful, dangerous, eccentric. A lady couldn’t be seen with them without ruin. Rumors surround them–of tragic violence, of their mistresses, of their dark appetites, of scandals that set England and Scotland abuzz.
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The youngest brother, Ian, known as the Mad Mackenzie, spent most of his young life in an asylum, and everyone agrees he is decidedly odd. He’s also hard and handsome and has a penchant for Ming pottery and beautiful women.
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Beth Ackerley, widow, has recently come into a fortune. She has decided that she wants no more drama in her life. She was raised in drama–an alcoholic father who drove them into the workhouse, a frail mother she had to nurse until her death, a fussy old lady she became constant companion to. No, she wants to take her money and find peace, to travel, to learn art, to sit back and fondly remember her brief but happy marriage to her late husband.
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And then Ian Mackenzie decides he wants her.
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Read an excerpt here.

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Book CoverShannon C’s Quick Quack review of Burning Alive (The Sentinel Wars, Book 1) by Shannon K. Butcher
Urban Fantasy released by Onyx 5 May 09



Burning Alive by Shannon K. Butcher isn’t the kind of story I generally go for. It’s one of an increasingly annoying trend of books featuring groups of paranormal alpha men so manly even Chuck Norris would be forced to back down in shame. These guys, of course, fight supernatural creatures, which for some reason nobody ever notices.

As per usual, Drake, our studly manly hero is paired with a woman with all the flavor of wet Kleenex. Helen is good and sweet and gentle, and doesn’t appear to do anything with her life except take her elderly friend Miss Mabel out to dinner. Oh and she’s afraid of fire, having seen a vision of herself burning to death while a man who, coincidentally, looks like our hero, Drake, watches with a smile.

Drake discovers by accident that when he touches Helen, the constant pain he’s endured all his life dissipates, so he basically kidnaps her and throws her into the paranormal world.The setup for this book is so incredibly cheesy, but I can’t help it. I like stuff like this, in moderation. There’s something about a man being literally unable to keep his hands off the object of his desire that gets me every time. But even without my personal biases, I’m not sure I’d recommend this one.

The setup will ring familiar to many paranormal readers, and I really don’t know how many books featuring dull heroines and exaggeratedly alpha men we need. Also, the book is set in the vicinity of where I live, and so there were a few geographical mistakes that wouldn’t detract from the story that I noticed.

Grade: C

Summary:
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There are worse ways to die…
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They are the Sentinels. Three races descended from ancient guardians of mankind, each possessing unique abilities in their battle to protect humanity against their eternal foes–the Synestryn. Now, one warrior must fight his own desire if he is to discover the power that lies within his one true love…
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For too long, Helen Day has been haunted by visions of her own death, surrounded by flames as a dark-haired man watches her burn. So when she sees the man of her nightmares staring at her across a diner, she attempts to flee–and ends up in the man’s arms. There, she awakens a force more powerful and enticing than she could ever imagine.
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The instant the Theronai warrior Drake touches Helen, the anguish he has borne for years fades away. He is determined to know why this beautiful, fearful woman has such power over him. The answer lies in his very blood–and in Helen’s as well. For together, they may become more than lovers–they may become a weapon of light that could tip the balance of the war–and save Drake’s people…
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Read an excerpt here.

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Book CoverShannon C’s Quick Quack review of Tomorrow by Samantha Kane
Science Fiction Romance released by Ellora’s Cave 22 Apr 09



Tomorrow by Samantha Kane is Ms. Kane’s first foray into science fiction romance. Samantha Kane’s historicals are favorites of mine for their depth of characterization and the fact that she’s one of the few authors that can convince me that any group of two men and one woman belong together. Unfortunately, this story of a bounty hunter, a rebel princess and a space pirate didn’t work at all for me. I think i was first turned off by the names.

Our heroine is Cerise, and one of her men is named Tie. Tie? I dunno, a guy named after an article of men’s clothing is just not doing it for me.The story does have its moments, but there wasn’t really anything unique in the world Ms. Kane is using, and her characters lacked the depth I’ve come to expect. The story also suffered from what felt like an overabundance of sex scenes. Yes, I know this is an erotic romance, but still… Even for that subgenre, there are still times when enough is enough. I’m not sure this is a series I’m going to continue, though if Ms. Kane writes any more historicals, I will buy them right up.

Grade: D+

Summary:
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A Hunters for Hire book.
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What if a beautiful rebel princess, on the run from an evil government, fell in love with the pirate who rescued her and with the bounty hunter who captured her? And what if the pirate and the bounty hunter used to be lovers?
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Princess Cerise Chessienne has the power to enslave men with sex. She’s never used it—until now.
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Regan is the most feared pirate in the galaxy, renowned for two things—his temper and his loyalty to the princess.
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When bounty hunter Tie captures Cerise, he gives in to his desires. Now the two are addicted to sex with each other. Then Cerise leads Tie to his long-lost lover Regan, and Tie realizes that tomorrow—the day he starts his life over—has arrived.
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The Amalgamation wants to execute all three of them. So what are a beautiful princess, a pirate and a philosophical bounty hunter to do? Have amazing sex, of course. And somehow lead the rebellion while avoiding capture.
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Read an excerpt here.

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Book CoverShannon C’s Quick Quack review of Strange Attractions by Emma Holly
Erotic Romance published by Berkley 1 Nov 05



Strange Attractions by Emma Holly, on the other hand, gets the balance of eroticism and romance much better. Charity is invited to stay with eccentric physicist BG Grantham and his long-time friend, Eric. In exchange for playing sexual games with the two men, Charity will receive a full scholarship to attend college.

The setup sounds kind of hokey, but in this book, it really works. Ms. Holly creates three-dimensional characters in our three protagonists, and she does a great job of developing the characters during sex. I also liked that this was very much a story of Charity’s self-actualization. I liked the fact that Charity is much more empowered by the end, something that seems all too rare in the romance I’ve read.

Grade: B+

Summary:
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Determined not to repeat her mother’s mistakes, high-school dropout and unrepentant heartbreaker Charity Wills is eager to get an education any way she can. When she’s offered a chance to go to college for free, she jumps at it. There’s just one little catch.
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She must travel to the estate of B.G. Grantham, a reclusive physicist who likes to play sex games as exotic as the particles he studies. B.G. is obsessed with the unattainable: the meaning of life, the mysteries of desire, and the thrill of being refused the one thing he craves. Charity has more than enough spirit to provide a challenge-especial with Eric Berne, her sexy “keeper,” to lend a hand . . .
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Read an excerpt here.

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Book CoverShannon C’s Quick Quack review of To Beguile a Beast (Legend of the Four Soldiers, Book 3) by Elizabeth Hoyt
Historical romance released by Grand Central 19 May 09



To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt is the third book in Hoyt’s Legends of the Four Soldiers series. The first two books were quite entertaining, and I see why Hoyt is well-thought-of in the romance community, because she can write well. This third book, however, is my least favorite in the series. It follows Helen Fitzwilliam, the mistress of a powerful duke, who has fled with her children to the highlands of Scotland, to the castle of Sir Alister Monroe, a scarred war veteran.

What follows is a standard beauty and the beast romance, which follows the conventions of such a story in a predictable way. The predictability doesn’t make for a bad story, but it does make for a less than satisfying one, and I wish the mystery plot had been dragged forward a bit more. This isn’t a bad book, however, and Ms. Hoyt is a talented writer.

Grade C+

Summary:
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CAN A WOUNDED BEAST . . .
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Reclusive Sir Alistair Munroe has hidden in his castle ever since returning from the Colonies, scarred inside and out. But when a mysterious beauty arrives at his door, the passions he’s kept suppressed for years begin to awaken.
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TRUST A BEAUTY WITH A PAST . . .
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Running from past mistakes has taken legendary beauty Helen Fitzwilliam from the luxury of the ton to a crumbling Scottish castle . . . and a job as a housekeeper. Yet Helen is determined to start a new life and she won’t let dust-or a beast of a man-scare her away.
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TO TAME HIS MOST SECRET DESIRES?
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Beneath Helen’s beautiful façade, Alistair finds a courageous and sensual woman. A woman who doesn’t back away from his surliness-or his scars. But just as he begins to believe in true love, Helen’s secret past threatens to tear them apart. Now both Beast and Beauty must fight for the one thing neither believed they could ever find–a happy ever after.
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Read an excerpt here.

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Book CoverShannon C’s Quick Quack review of Truth and Consequences (Hearts of the South, Book 1) by Linda Winfree
Romantic Suspense published by Samhain Publishing 29 Apr 08

Truth and Consequences is the first in Linda Winfree’s Hearts of the South series, which comes highly recommended by many readers. I have to agree with them. Ms. Winfree manages to pack a lot into a rather short novel, and the romance between Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Kathleen and troubled and poor town bad boy Jason is well-executed. We also get to glimpse many of the people whose lives orbit around the main couple. I never felt overwhelmed by the number of characters, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of them.

Grade B+ 

Summary:

When deceit and desire collide, the results can be deadly…
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Book One of the Hearts of the South series.
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For undercover FBI agent Jason Harding, coming face to face with the grown-up version of his adolescent dreams is a nightmare. Kathleen Palmer sees him as a despicably corrupt small-town law officer and a murder suspect. Trapped in a web of his own making, he must see his mission through to the end and bring down the crooked cops who’ve run Haynes County for decades. To do so, he must betray the only family he’s ever known and fight his growing love for Kathleen, a relationship that could get one, or both of them, killed.
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Determined to uncover the truth, Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Kathleen struggles with her attraction to the one person who’s awakened her since she buried her heart and emotions in her son’s tiny grave. Listening to her heart could destroy all she has left in life-her career and reputation. When the truth about Jason’s identity surfaces, they both face unimaginable consequences: Jason may lose his life and Kathleen the man she loves.
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Warning, this title contains the following: explicit sex, violence.
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Read an excerpt here.

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