Review: Forever Your Earl by Eva Leigh + Giveaway

Review: Forever Your Earl by Eva Leigh + GiveawayForever Your Earl (The Wicked Quills of London, #1) by Eva Leigh
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical romance, regency romance
Series: Wicked Quills of London #1
Pages: 384
Published by Avon on September 29th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Eleanor Hawke loves a good scandal. And readers of her successful gossip rag live for the exploits of her favorite subject: Daniel Balfour, the notorious Earl of Ashford. So when the earl himself marches into her office one day and invites her to experience his illicit pursuits firsthand, Eleanor is stunned. Gambling hells, phaeton races, masquerades…What more could a scandal writer want than a secret look into the life of this devilishly handsome rake?
Daniel has secrets and if The Hawk’s Eye gets wind of them, a man’s life could be at stake. And what better way to distract a gossip than by feeding her the scandal she desperately craves? But Daniel never expected the sharp mind and biting wit of the beautiful writer, and their desire for each other threatens even his best laid plans.
But when Eleanor learns the truth of his deception, Daniel will do anything to prove a romance between a commoner and an earl could really last forever.

My Review:

Forever Your Earl is a terrific start to a rather unconventional Regency romance series. And it is all the better for that wide streak of unconventionality.

Eva Leigh is the pen name that Zoe Archer is using for this historical romance series. The romances that Zoe writes under her real name have fairly large helpings of action/adventure and sometimes even alternate or science fictional worlds mixed in with the romance. And I especially love her Blades of the Rose, 8th Wing and Ether Chronicles series for those elements.

In her first outing as Eva Leigh, the element that sets this story apart from more traditional Regency romances is her heroine and the attitude reversal between the hero and heroine.

Eleanor Hawke is a woman in a man’s world. Even more important, she is a woman making her way independently in a world where women are usually relegated to roles as either drudges or ornaments, as the heroine calls it. Eleanor is neither. She owns her own business, admittedly a slightly unconventional one. Eleanor, as E. Hawke, publishes a scandal-sheet newspaper. She is also one of her own investigative reporters and the editor. But the business is Eleanor’s from beginning to end, she owns it, she runs it, she lives and dies with it every day the miracle occurs and an issue goes to press. It’s her life and her livelihood in an era when women weren’t supposed to have either.

She is also neither a virgin nor a prude. She lives her life by her terms, and has no intentions of marrying. And, unusual for her time and place, she knows perfectly well how to prevent pregnancy and disease when she chooses to take a lover. She’s not profligate, and she is discreet. But it is her life and she lives it on her own terms.

Daniel Balfour, the Earl of Ashwood, is one of The Hawke’s Eye’s most frequent targets. He is a rake and a reprobate, but also a rich and titled man. He seemingly has everything he wants or needs, but has begun to find his life in pursuit of pleasure dull and empty. His best friend has disappeared into the stews of London, suffering from what we would label PTSD, after his return from the Napoleonic Wars.

Daniel used to envy his friend for getting to be aa Army officer, but now all he wants is to find the haunted man and bring him home. Jonathan is the heir to a dukedom, and the scandal if his current situation is discovered will threaten his family’s standing, especially as it concerns the marriageability of his sister Catherine. He’s the one in trouble, but with society as it is, she is the one who will pay the price if he isn’t found.

Daniel needs The Hawke’s Eye to stop focusing its gaze upon his activities, so that he can hunt for his friend in secret. He expects to bribe, bully or cow a man, but instead finds that E. Hawke is a woman who attracts him. Not just because she is beautiful, but because she shines with a purpose and a passion for living that he has found lacking in himself.

They come to an agreement. He will let her accompany him into the revels of the aristocracy, into places that she, either as a woman or as a middle-class plebe, would never get to go. In return, she will write articles about their escapades, leaving his identity a mystery. He thinks that by controlling what she sees, he can keep her focus away from his search. With the added bonus that everyone else in the ton will be too busy watching those very public activities to look too deeply into his private ones.

What neither of them expects is that they will be drawn to each other like a magnet and iron filings. Or that in the process of falling in love, they will reveal to each other secrets that they never meant to share.

But no matter how much they come to love each other, there is no future for an aristo and a plebe. If they defy convention and marry, they will be ostracized and their children will be cut from society. In the end, the social opprobrium will kill their love and their marriage. It’s happened before. It’s inevitable that it will happen to them.

Or is it?

Escape Rating B: There are two parts to this story. The first part is the developing relationship between Eleanor and Daniel. They have a long way to go from respected adversaries to cautious friends to lovers. The second part is Daniel’s search for his friend.

While that relationship is growing, Daniel is forced to put his search for his friend into the background, because he is afraid to expose the secret to someone he initially sees as a snooping, untrustworthy journalist. It is Eleanor’s job to ferret out secrets just like the one that Daniel is keeping.

But the closer they become, the harder it is to hide their true selves from each other, including the truth about why Daniel was willing to expose his life in the first place.

The most interesting aspect of the first part of their story is the way that Eleanor thinks. When she dresses as a man to attend a gaming hell, she doesn’t just change her clothes, she observes who she is and what she is, and what it means to be a man striding boldly through the world instead of a woman who has been trained since birth to take up as little space as possible. As she voices her thoughts, it makes Daniel examine himself as well, and what it means to be a man. He also is forced to think about how privileged he is and how different life is for women, not because it is natural as he originally believed, but because they have been trained to act a certain way.

Throughout their relationship, Eleanor is often the one who thinks, while Daniel is the one who acts. She is more coolly analytical, while he rushes in with his emotions on display and sometimes his fists swinging wildly. She is also much more realistic about their relationship than he is, because she is the one who will pay the price for it.

One of the questions that has dogged me after reading this book is a question of just how realistic or anachronistic Daniel and especially Eleanor are. He shows much more feeling from the outset than the alpha heroes we usually see in Regency and historical romance. And she owns her own business and acts like a businesswoman, albeit one who is aware of the restrictions on women’s behavior, even when she consciously sets those restrictions aside.

The way that her situation is setup, Eleanor feels just barely plausible. Not terribly likely, but plausible. It’s enough to allow the willing suspension of disbelief to sweep the reader into the story. Her attitudes come out of her situation in a way that holds the reader in the story. Or at least, this reader.

In that second part of the story, Daniel’s search for his friend, now with Eleanor’s assistance, adds that touch of action and adventure that is the hallmark of this author’s romance. At the same time, it also adds a bit to that unconventionality. We are all to aware of PTSD today, but the question of what Daniel and Eleanor’s contemporaries would have thought about Jonathan’s condition was probably more than a bit different. But Daniel’s unconventional empathy is part of his charm.

If you like your romances with a bit of adventure and a big dollop of unconventionality along with your pursuit of a happily ever after, Forever Your Earl is the lovely opening to what looks to be a terrific series.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

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Review: Dangerous Seduction by Zoë Archer

Dangerous Seduction by Zoe ArcherFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, paperback, mass market paperback
Genre: historical romance
Series: Nemesis, Unlimited, #2
Length: 385 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Date Released: November 26, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Alyce Carr has no time for the strange man in her little Cornwall village, no matter how breathtakingly handsome he is. Life in Trewyn doesn’t allow for much fun—the managers of the copper mine barely provide the miners and their families with enough food. Outsiders are suspect and flirts are unimaginable, but Simon Sharpe is as keen as his name…and Alyce can’t ignore him for long.

As the founder of Nemesis, Unlimited, Simon Addison-Shawe is well accustomed to disguise and deceit. Yet he’s not prepared for Alyce’s dogged defense of her people and the injustices the copper mine has dealt them. With Alyce’s help he can change the fate of an entire town, and convincing her to join him is only part of the thrill. Together, they ignite a desire in each other much too powerful to deny. But at what cost?

My Review:

I want more Alyce. Probably Simon agrees with me, but the heroine of Dangerous Seduction, Alyce Carr, was awesome on so many levels I don’t know where to begin.

Not that the hero was bad, either, but Simon is merely terrific, where Alyce is practically a superheroine.

Someone in the remote Cornish mining village of Trewyn has written an anonymous letter to Nemesis, Unlimited outlining all of the many and varied abuses visited on the community by the owners of the Wheal Prosperity mine. Yes, the name comes across as supremely ironic, because the mineworkers are anything but prosperous.

Working for Wheal Prosperity has become the closest equivalent to chattel slavery available in the U.K. The company pays only in scrip, which is only usable at the company store. Which of course inflates its prices and sells spoiled goods. The owners borrowed the whole concept from the American West, and it was just as horrible there, too.

The scrip is not transferable into cash. No one can ever save up any money to get away, because there is no real money. And Trewyn is 10 miles from the nearest town, so there’s nowhere to go, and no one to notice.

Until Nemesis brings Simon to their door. Simon Addison-Shawe may be an aristocrat, but that’s not what this job needs. So Simon fakes his way in as a machinist. The mine needs engineers to keep the pumps working, and Simon gets the job. On his very first day, he meets Alyce Carr, a woman from as different a background as possible from the drawing rooms his family inhabits.

Bal maidens in traditional protective clothing, 1890
Bal maidens in traditional protective clothing, 1890

Alyce is a bal-maiden. She’s one of the women who swing a heavy hammer to break up the chunks of ore into small enough pieces to be usable. She’s physically strong, and mentally self-reliant. Also completely defiant, when Simon meets her, she’s arguing with the managers about the rancid butter in the store.

Alyce hasn’t been cowed or bowed by conditions at the mine since the new ownership took over ten years ago. She’s an unacknowledged leader of the community, but she doesn’t know it. Only Simon sees how people look to her to settle their disputes and answer their concerns.

He needs an ally who knows the community. He’s fascinated by this woman who doesn’t hide her strength of mind or body, unlike all the useless twits he meets in society.

Alyce doesn’t trust this stranger who starts out defying the corrupt constabulary, and invites himself home to dinner with her and her brother and sister-in-law. When Simon reveals what he’s really up to, she’s more distrustful, and more intrigued by the possibility of finally righting the village’s wrongs.

Alyce is all in with Simon’s plans to outfox the mine owners, to the point of risking her life, but she’s less certain of risking her heart to a man who can’t stay in the place she feels bound. And Simon loves Alyce, but he’s been taught that duty, in his case his duty with Nemesis, comes before everything he might want.

Escape Rating A: The beginning is just a tiny bit slow, because absolutely everything in Trewyn is so grim that it weighs the story down. Once Simon and Alyce start taking the fight to the managers (the butter run is marvelous) the story becomes an absolute page-turner.

Simon finds himself by becoming a mining machinist. Not because Trewyn is a great place to live (it isn’t) but because he doesn’t just immerse himself in his role, but he expands himself into it. Everyone in Trewyn is living their life as best as they can, and in spite of the hardships, there is a tremendous amount of love and friendship. Simon the machinist is able to be closer to his true self, playing a part, than he is in the drawing rooms and sporting clubs that are supposed to be his natural habitat.

Alyce finds herself, too. Not just because she has found a man strong enough in himself to love her as she is, and not need her to pretend to be less, but also because Simon makes her stretch to reach new ideas and new goals. He needs a true partner, and she’s always needed someone who wanted everything she had to give. Nemesis needs everything and more, if she’s to help defraud the owners and defend the town.

Their love story absolutely glows. Both of them have always put duty and responsibility before anything else, and they believe that what they have found together is something that they can’t keep, but can’t resist while it lasts, no matter how much it’s going to hurt.

They work hard for their HEA, and it’s awesome.

wicked temptation by zoe archerI have enjoyed the entire Nemesis, Unlimited series (Sweet Revenge, reviewed here and Winter’s Heat, here) but I adored Dangerous Seduction so much, that I couldn’t wait to dive into the next book in the series, Wicked Temptation. I hope I can tempt you to take a look at my joint review with E_Bookpushers today over at The Book Pushers.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Winter’s Heat by Zoe Archer

Winter's Heat by Zoe ArcherFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Nemesis, Unlimited, #1.5
Length: 100 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Date Released: October 22, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

An auxiliary Nemesis agent and a former client go undercover as servants at a country estate during the Christmas season to expose corruption among London society’s powerful elite. Michael and Ada never thought they would again be working side by side in the pursuit of justice. Now that they’re on a case together, the attraction they had once shared flares to life, making a dangerous assignment even more unpredictable. Can they take the heat?

My Review:

Yes, I know this is supposed to be a Christmas book. Think of it as icy-hot. The descriptions of the weather in England in December should make you feel a little bit cooler as the weather outside moves to summer.

And the romance is more than enough to make any reader think very warm thoughts!

Winter’s Heat is a bit of a second-chance-at-love story, mixed with shades of both Downton Abbey and Leverage.

Sweet Revenge by Zoë ArcherThe explanation of what Nemesis Unlimited does is contained in book 1 in this series, Sweet Revenge (reviewed here). They provide justice for people who can’t otherwise get it from the courts. A lot of their clientele comes from the “service grapevine”. In Winter’s Heat, the case is to find a way to make a nasty pair of aristocrats pay for the way they turned an orphanage into a children’s workhouse, and then managed to slither out of any criminal charges with all the profits.

To provide them with their just desserts, Nemesis sends out two agents with experience in service in a country house (shades of Downton) to infiltrate the upper crust family Christmas. Everyone is certain that there is a way to make them pay, but it will need investigation and courage to find it.

The agents don’t just have experience in service, they have experience with each other. Six months previous, Ada was the servant who sent in an anonymous request to Nemesis in return for justice for a friend. And Michael was the agent sent to help her. They weren’t supposed to fall for each other. And when they did, Michael wasn’t supposed to disappear without a trace for six months.

She thinks that he was just using her as a dalliance. He knows he was stuck on a mission where revealing his whereabouts might have meant his life. But that doesn’t erase Ada’s feelings of abandonment.

She does not fall into his arms when he shows up as the agent in charge of her new assignment. Not even after he manages to tell her where he’s been. Michael has a lot of fences to mend.

And they have a case to crack. Ada is working for Nemesis on just this one case, to pay them back for the help they gave her friend. But the more involved she gets with the investigation, the more she realizes that righting wrongs and ferreting out evil is exactly what she was meant to do–with or without Michael’s assistance.

But working together on the case, and sneaking around just to communicate, adds yet another layer to their working partnership, and their desire for each other.

Escape Rating B: Winter’s Heat is a short and sweet addition to the Nemesis, Unlimited series. The story is focused on Michael and Ada’s investigation, rather than on the workings of Nemesis in general. The two of them are undercover at a large country house, and do all the investigating together. They’re pretty cut off from any of the resources of the agency.

Complicating matters are both their prior relationship and that they are operating undercover as part of a group of temporary hires in service. The work rules don’t allow them to be caught fraternizing, so even a simple private conversation is fraught with tension. Their prior relationship only makes things more difficult; Ada wants to help with the case, but she isn’t sure that she can trust Michael, no matter how much she still might be attracted to him.

One of the great things about the way that their relationship evolves is that Michael lets Ada discover just how capable she is; he makes some vague attempts at protecting her, but gives those up relatively quickly. He needs her as a full-fledged partner, and lets her grow into her role. Even at the beginning, he explains that he is the agent in charge because he is more experienced, not because she isn’t capable. As she definitely proves herself to be.

Their relationship is one of significant romantic and sexual tension, strung out until they snap. They can’t be caught, and yet they can’t stop. It’s delicious.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Sweet Revenge by Zoë Archer

Sweet Revenge by Zoë ArcherFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, paperback, mass market paperback, audiobook
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Nemesis, Unlimited, #1
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Date Released: June 4, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

When Jack Dalton escapes from Dunmoor Prison, he has only one thing in mind—finding the nobleman who murdered his sister and making him pay. But when he reaches the inn where the Lord Rockley is rumored to be staying, three well-dressed strangers are there to meet him instead. And the pretty blonde is aiming a pistol right at his head …

Joining Nemesis, Unlimited has made Eva Warrick much more than the well-mannered lady she appears to be—one who can shoot, fight, and outsmart any man in the quest to right the injustices so often suffered by the innocent. She’s not afraid of the burly escaped convict, but she is startled by their shared attraction. She and her partners need Jack’s help to get to Rockley, but Eva finds she wants Jack for scandalous reasons all her own…

My Review:

I love Zoë Archer, but I had this on my ereader and lost track of the entire series. Then I volunteered to be part of a joint review of the third book in the series at The Book Pushers, thinking that I would be inspired to read books 1 and 2. (Also book 1.5)

Sweet Revenge is the first book in Archer’s Nemesis, Unlimited series, and it showcases her trademark storytelling of a strong woman and a desperate man dealing with adventurous and dangerous times.

One of the things I enjoy about her historical romances is that she gets close enough to our time that all the roles are recognizable, and that there is some technology for making things reasonable, and that her female characters have plenty of fight in them to make sure that they are recognized as being every bit as capable as their male colleagues, even though that equality wasn’t common in society.

But then, her heroines usually aren’t operating in “polite” society, and that is certainly the case with Eva Warrick and Nemesis, Unlimited.

First, think of Nemesis, Unlimited as a Victorian-era Leverage. Just like the crew in the late TV show, Nemesis, Unlimited exists to provide justice for average people against the rich, privileged and titled who think they are (and sometimes really are) above the rule of law.

So this first story has to both introduce the concept, and provide an avenue for the romance of the main characters, while obtaining a certain kind of justice for a class of people who otherwise have no recourse.

Lord Rockley is the epitome of the evil aristocracy who can buy, threaten or cajole their way out of any trouble, even murder, as long as he doesn’t prey on his own class. Rockley’s speciality is sadistic sex with women who will lose their reputation if they complain about his treatment of them.

Jack Dalton used to be one of Rockley’s bodyguards, until Rockley killed Dalton’s sister. To add the proverbial insult to the all-too-real injury, Rockley framed Dalton for theft and murder to get him out of the way. Dalton has only one goal, revenge on Rockley.

Nemesis, Unlimited also wants Rockley’s head for his threats and abuse against their current client. So when Dalton escapes from prison, with a little help from Nemesis, the two join forces. Dalton knows enough about Rockley to help Nemesis ensnare him in a little plot of their own. They just have to convince Dalton that setting Rockley up for a treason conviction is better than murdering him with his bare hands.

It’s Eva Warrick who is finally able to convince Dalton that revenge is a dish best served cold by believing that he is more than just a dumb bruiser. Meanwhile Dalton convinces Eva that she can be as hot as she wants with him, and still be the Nemesis agent that she needs to be.

It’s amazing how sexy a lot of mutual respect can lead to.

Escape Rating B: The plot against Rockley was a bit convoluted, but the introduction of this band of vengeance minded operatives was absolutely tons of fun. And it’s a great idea for a series, because there was so much of a chasm between conditions for the rich and treatment for the rest. Ordinary people need Nemesis to step in for them.

Both Eva and Dalton are interesting characters because they are capable of so much more than they believe themselves to be. Jack has always seen himself as a stupid thug, and Eva has cut off any possibility of a personal life because she believes she can’t tell anyone about her secret life in Nemesis.

Eva believes correctly that Jack is actually a smart man, and she values him for his brains as well as his brawn (also his body, but that’s not how she wins him). She respects his intelligence, and he finally comes to respect himself for it. Likewise, Jack not only already knows Eva’s secret life, but proves over and over again that he can both be trusted with it and that he understands her need to continue with Nemesis.

It’s too bad that they have to nearly give up on each other before they figure out that what they feel is really love, on both sides. But if you enjoyed Archer’s Blades of the Rose series, you’ll love Nemesis.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Once More with Feeling: The Best Ebook Romances of 2013

LJ 2013 Best BooksIn spite of what the opening paragraph of the article at Library Journal says, this is actually the third year that I’ve been asked to choose the Best Ebook Romances of the Year for Library Journal.

Just check the archives, if you’re terribly curious, here are the links to the 2011 and 2012 lists. This is one of the most fun things I get to do all year that can be more or less labeled as work, even though, as what I call reverse full-disclosure, Library Journal does not pay for the writing of this particular article or for the book reviewing I do for them.

Creating this list is always personal for me. These are books or series that I read or am in the middle of. They are the books that I gave either A ratings or 4.5 or 5 star ratings to, depending on where I did the review. Or in a few cases, B+ reviews of books I absolutely couldn’t get out of my head.

The first year, I was told to list 5 books. Last year, 5-ish. This year, my editor said 10 from the start. I think she figured out that I cheat and list series. I did again this year and went over the limit.

skies of gold by zoe archerArcher, Zoë. Skies of Gold. Avon Impulse. (Ether Chronicles, Bk. 5). ebk. ISBN 9780062241443. STEAMPUNK ROMANCE (4.5 star review)

The first four books in the Ether Chronicles (Skies of Fire, Night of Fire, Skies of Steel, Night of Steel) were on my 2012 list for good reason; this series is simply awesome steampunk worldbuilding. Also we have all the story possibilities inherent in a world war, but with airships and “ether” power. While Skies of Gold is a more than worthy successor to the first four books in the series, it is unfortunately the last book in the series. If you love steampunk romance, you’ll be enthralled. And then sad that it’s over.

forged in blood 1 by Lindsay BurokerBuroker, Lindsay. Forged in Blood I. ebk. ISBN 9781301493357. Forged in Blood II. ebk. ISBN 9781301349876. ea. vol: Lindsay Buroker. (Emperor’s Edge). FANTASY ROMANCE
I’ve adored the first five volumes of The Emperor’s Edge series (The Emperor’s Edge, Dark Currents, Deadly Games, Conspiracy, Blood and Betrayal) so much that I haven’t wanted to see it end. So I’ll confess that I put the entire series on the list even though only the last two books were published in 2013, and I’ve been saving reading the ending for a treat for myself. LJ was slightly puristic about things and only put the 2013 titles as the main entry on the list. The Emperor’s Edge is Epic Fantasy with a touch of Steampunk. The primary story isn’t a romance, but, and it’s a truly lovely but, there is a romantic subplot. Or maybe that’s sub-subplot. Our heroine convinces the best assassin not to kill her, and keeps on convincing him to help her, even though everyone tells her he’s just a heartless killing machine. Of course he’s not. Well, not completely.

[Bittersweet Blood by Nina Croft]Croft, Nina. Bittersweet Blood. Entangled. (Order, Bk. 1). ebk. ISBN 9781622669592. PARANORMAL ROMANCE (A- Review)
What a difference just a few days makes! At the time I wrote the article, I was just about to read the second book in Croft’s Order series, Bittersweet Magic (B+ Review). I didn’t want to jinx things by listing it, but I shouldn’t have worried. What’s so much fun about this paranormal romance series is that the standard definitions don’t really apply; the vampires maintain the Order of the Shadow Accords on Earth to prevent the Fae and the Demons from repeating their use of Earth as the battleground in the long-running Fae/Demon war. The contemporary fallout seems to be over the descendants of the Fae Juliet and the Demon Romeo of that war. But Demons are immortal, so Romeo isn’t dead. But his half blood daughter is ground zero for armageddon, and only the vampires can protect her. Make that one vampire with a personal “stake” in the result. The world-building in this just keeps getting better, and the love stories more complex.

black dog blues by rhys fordFord, Rhys. Black Dog Blues. Coffee Squirrel. (Kai Gracen, Bk. 1). ebk. ISBN 9781301668625. M/M PARANORMAL ROMANCE (4.5 Star Review)
This is a dark and gritty post-apocalyptic urban fantasy much more than it is a paranormal romance. There are several characters in this story who care a great deal for the elfin Kai Gracen, but Kai doesn’t even like himself enough to be ready for more than friendship with anyone else. He’ll get there, but he isn’t there yet. The story drops us into Kai’s world as it is; we know what he knows. We don’t know why or how the sidhe suddenly merged with what used to be our normal, just that Kai has to endure whatever crap gets thrown his way. It’s the person who emerges from the endurance that makes the story. That and dodging the dragons mating over the Mojave Desert.

Take What You Want by Jeanette GreyGrey, Jeanette. Take What You Want. Samhain. ebk. ISBN 9781619213746.
NEW ADULT ROMANCE (A- Review)
Ignore the New Adult label. Take What You Want is an absolutely marvelous contemporary romance that just so happens to be about two people in college. Ellen can’t go away for Spring Break, so she takes a vacation from herself. Just for a few days, she tries to be someone a bit different; instead of being shy and retreating into her books, Ellen buys sexy clothes on sale, goes to a townie bar and picks up the hottest guy in the place. She pretends to be “New Ellen” for just one night. Josh thinks no-strings-attached sex with a girl that he’s had a crush on since freshman year is a fantastic idea, but he knows exactly who she is. Ellen really doesn’t recognize him without his glasses. The next night is where pretense starts butting up against reality, because he wants to turn their one-night-stand into something more and New Ellen and regular Ellen have a difficult time deciding the difference between what they should want and what they do want.

armies of heaven by jane kindredKindred, Jane. The Armies of Heaven. Entangled. (House of Arkhangel’sk). ebk. ISBN 9781620611067. FANTASY ROMANCE (4.5 star review)
The fall of the House of Arkangel’sk is a deliciously complicated blend of the historic fall of the Russian Imperial House of Romanov with Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen with more than few tablespoons of the deviance, decadence and twisted political machinations of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart. There is love to be found, but the path to reach it leads through dark places, and our preconceived notions of good and evil, right and wrong, do not apply in Kindred’s Courts of Heaven. The best man in the entire series is a demon, although he would never think of himself as good. The biggest fool is a certainly an angel, and he would definitely label himself as such. The series begins with The Fallen Queen (4.5 star review) and continues with The Midnight Court (A Review) before the conclusion in The Armies of Heaven. Prepare to be enthralled.

how to misbehave by ruthie knoxKnox, Ruthie. How To Misbehave. ebk. ISBN 9780345545305. (4 star review)
Knox, Ruthie. Along Came Trouble. ebk. ISBN 9780345541611. (5 star review)
Knox, Ruthie. Flirting with Disaster. ebk. ISBN 9780345541703. (A- Review)
Knox, Ruthie. Making It Last. ebk. ISBN 9780345549297.
ea. vol: Loveswept: Random. (Camelot). 4-vol. set. ebk. ISBN 9780804180436. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
This small town romance series set in central Ohio is all about the Clark siblings, Amber, Katie and Caleb. Knox specializes in contemporary romances where real people solve very real problems while going through major life experiences. The tension in her stories comes from the kind of situations that cause stress in ordinary life; trying to reinvent yourself, trying to maintain a marriage, dealing with grief, not dealing with grief, returning home, being part of the sandwich generation, financial stress. The difference is that Knox makes her characters people that we all identify with and lets them have a fantastically steamy romance while they resolve their problems. Her stories pull at your heartstrings and make you smile. Every single time.

case of the displaced detective omnibus edition by stephanie osbornOsborn, Stephanie. The Case of the Displaced Detective Omnibus. Twilight Times. SF ROMANCE
I adore Sherlock Holmes re-imaginings, with the exception of the whatever-it-is that Guy Ritchie birthed with Robert Downey Jr. (who should stick to Iron Man). But I seriously digress. I read, and reviewed, Stephanie Osborn’s Case of the Displaced Detective somewhat in its originally published parts: The Arrival (A- Review), At Speed (B+ Review) and The Case of the Cosmological Killer (B Review). In the case of Stephanie Osborn’s continuing opus, I very much admire her concept of a Holmes who is not quite our Holmes and has an excuse for being so. She has used theories of quantum physics to create not just a possible universe where Holmes would have been a flesh-and-blood person, but to create causality that would bring that person into our 21st century. He is not quite the “thinking machine” of Conan Doyle’s fiction because he is not supposed to be, and that opens up a world of possibilities. Real human beings, after all, feel real emotions as they solve mysteries. Sometimes they even fall in love.

The Story Guy by Mary Ann RiversRivers, Mary Ann. The Story Guy. Loveswept: Random. ebk. ISBN 9780345548740. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE (A- Review)
There was only one thing wrong with this story. It was too short, and at the time it was written, it was the only thing available by Mary Ann Rivers. The story is absolutely awesome, I wanted more by this author, and there just wasn’t anything else, yet.
What’s a “story guy”? A story guy is someone who may or may not be long-term relationship material, but who will, sometime in the future after the heartache is over, make a terrific story. Librarian Carrie West answers a personal ad from a very hot guy for one hour of kissing in the park every week. The answers to the questions about why this unattached and gorgeous man is willing to settle for so little for himself, and to make sure that no one is able to get attached to him, make for one marvelous and nearly heartbreaking love story. (And if you fall in love with The Story Guy you’ll probably also love Ruthie Knox’ Big Boy.)

Anything for You book coverScott, Jessica. Anything for You. Loveswept: Random. (Coming Home, Bk. 2.5). ebk. ISBN 9781301165766. (A+ Review)
Scott, Jessica. I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Forever Yours: Grand Central. (Coming Home, Bk. 2.6). ebk. ISBN 9781455554249. (A Review) MILITARY ROMANCE
Jessica Scott’s Coming Home series, which began in 2011’s Because of You (A Review) and continued in 2012 with Until There Was You (A- Review), is a military romance series that gets to the heart of what it means to love someone who serves in the military, because author Scott is herself a career army officer and is married to a career NCO. So instead of writing about the glory of the battlefield, she writes about the toll that deployments take on a family with inside knowledge of what it’s like to wonder if someone is coming home, and how hard it is to wait and worry. She’s able to convey the emotional cost to a soldier with a career-ending injury, not just because his body is messed-up, but because he’s lost his purpose and he’s worried about the people he’s left behind. If you want to read a military romance with real heart, read Jessica Scott.

That’s it for this list. The specific requirements for the Library Journal list were that they all had to be ebooks, either ebook-only or ebook-first, or ebook-mostly. In some cases, there is a print available on demand, but the ebook looks like the primary format, or it did at the time. Also, for this list, there had to be a romance in the story. Yes, a couple of times you have to be looking for the romance, it’s not the primary plot. But there had to at least be a romantic element.

I used to be able to put this list in preference order, but it’s gotten too big. And there’s kind of an apples/bananas problem. How do you compare a steampunk romance to a paranormal romance when they are both at the top of their respective trees?

I will do a “best of the year” list next week (which includes a few contributions from my friend Cass!) These type of lists are loads of fun. It’s great to look back and see what I’ve read and which books stick in the mind by the end of the year.

Review: Skies of Gold by Zoe Archer

Skies of Gold by Zoe ArcherFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Series: The Ether Chronicles, #5
Genre: Steampunk Romance
Release Date: August 6, 2013
Number of pages: 352 pages
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK)

Two Lonely Hearts . . .

Kalindi MacNeil survived the devastating enemy airship attack that obliterated Liverpool, but even her engineering skills can’t seem to repair her broken heart. Seeking to put her life back together, Kali retreats to a desolate, deserted island—only to discover she’s not alone. Captain Fletcher Adams, an elite man/machine hybrid, a Man O’ War, crashed his battle-damaged airship into the island after the destruction of Liverpool, never expecting to survive the wreck. But survive he did.

One Desire . . .

Believing he is nothing but a living weapon, Fletcher is wary of his newfound companion—a pretty, damaged, but determined young woman. Together they are stranded on the island, and it is only a matter of time until desire gets the best of them both. Soon Kali and Fletcher each find that they may be just what the other needed. But a danger from beyond the island puts them to the test. Will it rip them apart or bond their hearts forever?

My Thoughts:

I just discovered that this is the last book in Archer and Rossi’s Ether Chronicles and I am completely bummed. Call me a very sad panda.

skies of fire by zoe archerEven though this is the final book in the Ether Chronicles, a reader could start with this one, and then decide that they loved the worldbuilding so much that they wanted to start at the very beginning, Skies of Fire (reviewed at Reading Reality). Yes, I know, I’m fangirling a bit now. Sue me. (Please, don’t.)

The series is alternate history steampunk world war, with Britain and the U.S. fighting against the Hapsburgs and the Russians in a Victorian era with aether-powered airships. What makes the series fascinating is that they really do show the world-spanning scope of the war, so the books are not just set in England, but also in America and even North Africa.

And, the discovery of a metal called telumium (yes, I know, it’s this world’s version of unobtanium, but it makes things fun) has created a fantastic steampunk version of the bionic man; Man-O-Wars. They are a combination of airship captain and airship centaur, without the body-blending. Well sort/kinda. Read and find out for yourself.

Skies of Gold has a bit of the Tarzan/Jane myth, only if both Tarzan and Jane remember their “civilized” roots and want to escape from them. Also if Jane is a female MacGyver. (I started to say a prettier MacGyver, but that depends on the eye of the beholder, and, well, nevermind.)

In this case, Tarzan and Jane, make that Fletcher and Kali, both have terrible cases of survivor’s guilt, and in a grand case of coincidence, (there are no such things as coincidences, of course) from the same battle. She was severely wounded when the enemy bombed Liverpool, and his ship crashed after routing the enemy from their bombing of Liverpool.

They’ve also both survived heartbreak when their former lovers couldn’t see past the changes that war had made in their outward appearance. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. They find themselves, and each other, on a remote Scottish island where they each planned to be alone.

When they are discovered by an enemy, they have to return to the world they both left behind in order to save an unsuspecting friend from a trap. They’ve already saved each other.

Verdict: This series is a treat for those of us who love steampunk romance. I’m very glad that if the Ether Chronicles had to end, they finished with a full-length novel, and one as good as Skies of Gold.

Kali and Fletcher are interesting people, and are different types of main characters. Not just because they both have survivor’s guilt, but also because neither of them quite fits their stereotypes. Fletcher isn’t completely alpha, and Kali is both disabled and a minority in addition to being a professional woman. She’s on the island to be independent, and he’s there to be dead. They both have PTSD and they pull each other out of it.

The relationship they develop builds slowly and carefully, and that’s the way it should be. There’s nothing instantaneous here except wariness.

The villain arrives as a bit of demon ex machina at the end, but I was having way too much fun to care. He served his purpose as a means of bringing the story to its (and his) ending.

I’m just damned sorry the ride is over.

4-one-half-stars

I give  Skies of Gold by Zoë Archer 4 ½ aether-powered stars!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

A Labor of Love: Picking the Best Ebook Romances of 2012

It looks like an annual tradition. Well, I’ve done it two years in a row, so I’m hopeful.

One of the pleasures of being a book reviewer and a librarian is that I review ebooks for Library Journal, one of the trade publications that serves, well, of course, libraries. For the past not quite year and a half, Library Journal has been doing their damnedest to bridge the gap between the sheer number of ebook romances being published and the desire to get some reviews into libraries’ regular workflow. Ebooks are a hot topic in libraries all the way around, but figuring out how the library should spend limited dollars is still not easy.

I applaud the effort, and I’m very proud to be a part of it. In sort of a reverse of full-disclosure, no, I’m not paid to say this. I’m not paid for my reviews at LJ. It really is a labor of love. Sort of like book blogging.

The Library Journal Best Ebook Romances of 2012 column was published last week. With a much better picture of me and everything. It still looks cool. (Even my mom was impressed). But LJ always has to alphabetize everything. Librarians do that. My original list went this way:

Knox, Ruthie. About Last Night. Loveswept: Random. eISBN: 9780345535160. EPUB $2.99. Contemporary Romance

About Last Night was my starred review in LJ all the way back in April, and I never forgot it. Ruthie Knox’s contemporary romance is funny and charming (also gloriously hot) about a bad girl trying to be good and a good man who needs to let his bad side out to play a little more often than his straight-laced upper crust family can tolerate. Cath, the good-bad girl, also has one of those dream jobs, assistant to a curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Knox had me at “hand-knitted straight jacket”. Knox writes a terrific “sex into love” romance that will make readers laugh out loud. And finish in one sitting.

Vane, Victora. The Devil DeVere series: #1 A Wild Night’s Bride, #2 The Virgin Huntress, #3 The Devil You Know, #4 The Devil’s Match. Breathless Press. EPUB $3.49 each Historical Romance

The Devil DeVere series is a variation of the Rake’s Progress, or the Rake’s Reformation, except that is doesn’t start with said Rake as the main character. A device that was amazingly clever on Vane’s part and allowed her to circle in on DeVere without revealing too much initially. In the first two books, he’s the puppetmaster, re-arranging his friends’ lives. But in the background the reader catches hints that there’s more to him than the debauched reprobate we see. By the time we find out his story, we’re invested. The series is erotic and sexy and sometimes the reader wants to shake various characters until their teeth rattle, but it is absolutely marvelous. This one should be read with bonbons. And a fan!

Archer, Zoe and Rosso, Nico. The Ether Chronicles: #1 Skies of Fire (eISBN 9780062109149), #3 Skies of Steel (eISBN 9780062109156) by Zoe Archer, #2 Night of Fire (eISBN 9780062201089); #4 Night of Steel (eISBN 9780062201102)by Nico Rosso. Avon Impulse. EPUB $1.99 each Steampunk Romance

A world war, in the years just before we fought ours, but different. Because this world war uses a metal named telumium, and a fuel made from soya called tetrol. But oddly enough, some of the same players as “our” world war. So typical of steampunk, familiar, yet not. Airships, but also air-bikes, air-trikes, and air-horses. Air-horses! And something that’s unique to this steampunk world, the Man O’War, which is definitely not a horse, but a cyborg controlling an airship, and seemingly vice-versa.  But because we have a world war, we have spies, and secret ops, and all the romantic suspense possibilities that go along with that. Because it’s a “world” war, also all the options for world-spanning action. So far it’s been military operations in Europe, town-killers and ether-powered cowboys in the U.S. West, and rogues bringing “modern” technology to the Middle Eastern tribes. Indiana Jones had nothing on that one.

Pape, Cindy Spencer. Moonlight & Mechanicals. (Gaslight Chronicles, Bk. 4). 176 pages. eISBN 9781426894527. EPUB $4.99. Steampunk Romance

Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles (Steam & Sorcery, Photographs & Phantoms, Kilts & Kraken) are set in a steampunk world that deviates from ours at two key points; Charles Babbage’s difference engine was built (and worked!) and the Knights of the Round Table were not only real, but their descendants are still defending the monarchy, and by extension the realm, in this alternate Victorian England. In Moonlight & Mechanicals, we have possibility the ultimate steampunk romance, between a werewolf police detective and a female engineer who grew up fighting vampires. The detective, is, of course, a member of the Knights. And the heroine has had a crush on him ever since he saved her life. He just believes that he isn’t capable of being a family man. She’s just planning to tinker with him until she proves different. And they save the Queen!

Heldt, John A. The Mine (Northwest Passage Bk. 1) John A. Heldt Publisher. 290 pages. EPUB $0.99 TIME TRAVEL ROMANCE

The Mine is one of those stories that sneaks up on you and sweeps you off your feet. It reminded me a lot of Jack Finney’s classic Time and Again, in its sense of a man falling in love, not just with a woman, but also with a time, a place, and a way of life. Joel Smith starts the story as a cocky boy/man on a last adventure before college graduation. He bumps his head in an abandoned mine and wakes up in 1941, in America’s last golden summer before Pearl Harbor. He’s afraid to change things, but he has to find a way to survive in a world he only knows from history books and baseball statistics. Thinking he can’t go back, he falls in love and makes a life. Then he discovers that he can go back, and is faced with a terrible dilemma. He can leave behind all that he has come to love, or stay, knowing that if he does he may change history. This one haunts.

As usual, I started out by picking five, and snuck my way into choosing eleven! Way to go! And since you could say that Spencer Pape’s entire Gaslight Chronicles are included, a case could be made for calling this list fourteen. But who’s counting?

The fun part of creating this list is looking back at everything I reviewed for the year, at Reading Reality, at Book Lovers Inc., and at Library Journal. The difficult part was not being able to include anything that wasn’t at least sort of a love story, and that wasn’t an ebook, or primarily an ebook (there are print versions of Archer and Rosso’s Ether Chronicles, but most people will get the ebooks).

I’m just going to have to do a less restrictive “best of the year” list in December.

Review: Lady X’s Cowboy by Zoe Archer

Format Read: ebook provided by the author
Number of Pages: 322 pages
Release Date: September 7, 2012
Publisher: Zoe Archer
Genre: Historical Romance
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Author’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

The Lady Olivia Xavier, the cowboy who came to her rescue out of the foggy London dusk could have stepped straight from one of her favorite dime novels. But when she was thrown into his arms, his solid chest and strong embrace assured her he was very real indeed. She needed a helping hand to save her late husband’s brewery from an ambitions rival, and even though she couldn’t understand half of the American’s curious expressions, something in his gentle touch told Olivia she could trust this stranger from the untamed west.

My Thoughts:

This was originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

Lady X’s Cowboy begins with the lady in question reading a dime novel about the wild American west. Those novels are Olivia Xavier’s means of escape, not so much from the running of her late husband’s brewery, but from the supposedly high-minded, and certainly high-handed, opinions of the so-called right-thinking people who are just certain that they know what’s best for her.

After all, women aren’t intended to be managing businesses in 19th century London. Her late husband may have left her the business, but she’s supposed to have found someone else to run it for her, or sold it. Olivia should not be running it herself. Ladies don’t run businesses. Not even ladies whose husband’s titles are only a couple of generations old.

But Olivia not only runs Greywell’s, she’s damned good at it. And she enjoys the responsibility. She can’t go back to being just an ornament at society parties, or just a do-gooder at charities. She knows those things are empty.

So when George Pryce starts threatening her business, she tries to get the law to help her. But George’s family is old money, and no one will help her.

Until one night she steps out of Greywell’s, and into one of her dime novels. There, on the London streets, the hard men who threaten her get beaten down by a real, honest-to-goodness, Western cowboy. Complete with Stetson.

Will Coffin, born and raised in the West, simply couldn’t let a bunch of scoundrels rough up a woman. Any woman. Let alone a lady. And Olivia Xavier is a lady to Will, whether she has a title or not.

They need each other. Olivia needs Will, not just to keep Pryce’s men at bay, but to organize her own workers against the men of privilege. Will needs Olivia to help him on his quest. He came to London in search of his roots, and she can help him find them.

But the more time they spend together, the more they realize that they just need each other, as partners. As someone who sees them as they really are, and not as what society preconceives them to be.

But when Will finds out who his parents came from, it seems that society’s dictates just might rule the day after all.

Verdict: What made Lady X’s Cowboy so much fun was that the story worked on two levels. First, it is a terrific historic romance. Olivia and Will make a great couple, partly because they are so unexpected. They shouldn’t work, even before Will finds out where his parents’ came from. But they do. They grow towards a partnership. Some of that is because Olivia is unconventional; her widowhood allows her to break free of many of the strictures usually placed around women. And Will expects a woman to be more than London society allows because of his background. There are no parlors on the frontier. Everyone has to pull their own weight.

But their relationship develops gradually, out of their friendship and business partnership. It’s fun to watch and based on mutual respect and admiration and very, very hot.

The other aspect was that every assumption that everyone has about everything turns out to be wrong. From the very beginning, Olivia thinks certain things about Will because of the dime-novels she reads, and they’re all wrong. Society thinks certain things about her that are all wrong. Everyone’s expectations of everybody get stood on their head, over and over.

I am very happy to give Lady X’s Cowboy 5 bright shiny stars!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Skies of Steel by Zoe Archer

Format read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, Mass Market paperback
Genre: steampunk romance
Series: The Ether Chronicles #3
Length: 100 pages
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Date Released: October 9, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance

In the world of The Ether Chronicles, the Mechanical War rages on, and appearances are almost always deceiving . . . 

The prim professor
Daphne Carlisle may be a scholar, but she’s far more comfortable out in the field than lost in a stack of books. Still, when her parents are kidnapped by a notorious warlord, she knows she’ll need more than quick thinking if she is to reach them in time. Daphne’s only hope for getting across enemy territory is an airship powered and navigated by Mikhail Denisov, a rogue Man O’ War who is as seductive as he is untrustworthy.

The jaded mercenary
Mikhail will do anything for the right price, and he’s certain he has this mission—and Daphne—figured out: a simple job and a beautiful but sheltered Englishwoman. But as they traverse the skies above the Mediterranean and Arabia, Mikhail learns the fight ahead is anything but simple, and his lovely passenger is not entirely what she seems. The only thing Mikhail is certain of is their shared desire—both unexpected and dangerous.

The Mechanical War is a damn big war. If the first “world war” were fought, just a bit earlier, and with “ether” instead of guns and tanks (and still a few horses), would you get something like the war that Archer and Rosso have envisioned in their Ether Chronicles?

In this third glimpse into their fascinating construct of man/machines, airships and ether-powered horses (after Skies of Fire (review) and Night of Fire (review)) we see a totally different place and perspective. Skies of Fire showed the good guys (the Brits) and the perspective of those who serve her. Night of Fire switched to the Western U.S., but again, showed us folks wearing uniforms and/or badges fighting the good fight.

Skies of Steel gives us rebels. Han Solo as a bionic rebel and completely mercenary Man O’War helping a female Indiana Jones to ransom her parents from the desert warlord who kidnapped them.

Let  me explain…in this steampunk universe, the process that makes a man into a Man O’War, a man/machine, infuses his body with the metal telumium, and permanently bonds him to his airship. And absolutely vice-versa. So when Mikhail Mikhailovich Denisov goes rogue from the Russian fleet, his airship goes with him. He’s not the only rogue Man O’War, but governments don’t like to talk about their rogues. (Mikhail is also the man with the mohawk on the cover of the book. He likes the style. Really.)

Daphne Carlisle is an anthropologist who prefers studying cultures in the field to the academy. She may look like a simple academic, but she’s anything but. She’s equally deadly with a gun, or a deception.

Daphne deceives Mikhail over and over. Only one thing remains true. She will say, or do, absolutely anything, even the seemingly impossible, to save her parents. After the first lie is revealed, he should abandon her, take his ship, and leave. There is no profit in this fool’s venture for a mercenary.

But he stays and helps her anyway. With all her deceits, with all her tricks, Daphne has done one true thing. She has kept him from being bored and lonely. Her true quest to rescue her parents challenges him to find his own true heart, if it still exists.

After all, what mercenary would keep going on a job with no profit? Unless he’s pursuing something completely different?

Escape Rating B+: The terrific part of all the books in this series so far have been the two leads, and Mikhail and Daphne are no exceptions. They are fantastic. Mikhail’s increasing ennui, his boredom, his heartbreak at the loss of his family and purpose in life, while still feeling oh so responsible for his ship and crew is intense. He can’t let anyone down, but he’s already let himself down, and he’s not sure what he’s living for.

Daphne is desperate and courageous in her desperation. She doesn’t fit into the academic life, she belongs in the field. She’s so capable! She never needs to be rescued, what she needs is a partner.

The rescue of Daphne’s parents, all the different tasks Daphne and Mikhail had to perform, that was fantastic. (It also would have made an awesome video game!) You could feel them knitting together as a team.

But what did bother me a bit was the insta-connection in the beginning of the story. We never do find out why. They fall into instant rapport with each other. The other stories in this series were “second-chance at love” scenarios, where this one seemed to take the insta-connection as a short cut. (Maybe it’s the Han and Indy thing. He fell in love with himself after all!)

But I still raced through the book and can’t wait for the next one in the series, Nights of Steel. Next month.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 10-7-12

Today has been a very sleepy Sunday. It would have been a terrific day to curl up with the cats and just let the day segue from the morning nap to the afternoon nap. And for all I got accomplished today I probably would have been better off if I had!

Two things I did manage to get done, with a little help from my friend Rafflecopter, was to pick the winners for recent giveaways.

Joy Flynn won the paperback copy of Carol Tibaldi’s Roaring 20s suspense thriller, Willow Pond. And the one that everyone was drooling over, Suzanne Selfor’s Chocolate Giveaway was won by Jennifer Stewart Shaw.

Let’s take a look at the wrap-up of this week’s posts:

Ebook Review Central Featured Titles from Carina Press for August 2012: #1 Men of Smithfield: Mark and Tony by L.B. Gregg, #2 The Guardian of Bastet by Jacqueline M. Battisti, #3 Planning for Love (Aisle Bound #1) by Christi Barth
B+ Review: Better Than Chocolate by Sheila Roberts + Interview
Celebrate the Freedom to Read! (Banned Books Week)
B+ Review: Operation Endgame (When the Mission Ends #1) by Christi Snow + Interview
A+ Review: Local Custom (Liaden Universe #4) by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Last week is over. So what’s coming up this week?

There’s a Monday holiday (admittedly a minor one) so there’s no Ebook Review Central this week. Instead, I’ll be reviewing Zoë Archer’s Skies of Steel, the third book in the steampunk romance series The Ether Chronicles, that Zoë is co-authoring with Nico Rosso. I enjoyed the first two books in the series, and this was my treat to myself.

On Tuesday, my guest will be T. K. Anthony, the author of Forge, the first book of the Thrall Web series. If the phrase “Thrall Web” isn’t a hint, Forge is science fiction romance, a genre that is near and dear to my heart. I couldn’t resist this title. I’ll have an interview with T.K. as well as a review of Forge.

And Wednesday my guest will be my fellow SFR Brigade member Diane Dooley, to give us a peek into the science fiction world of her books Blue Galaxy (see review) and her latest Blue Nebula. Diane will be giving away copies of her books, as well as answering a few questions. I’ll have a review of Blue Nebula, too.

Thursday we’ll leave the future, science fictional or steampunk, to return to the contemporary world of Lori Foster’s latest romantic suspense novel, Run the Risk. Lori’s tour will be stopping at Reading Reality for an interview with Lori, as well as a review of the book and a giveaway.

It’s going to be another busy week! I also have two pretty intense historical fiction reviews that will be posted this week at Book Lovers Inc: Before Versailles by Karleen Koen and C.C. Humphreys’ A Place Called Armageddon.

And next week is shaping up to have a theme all its own! Courtney Cole’s Of Blood and Bone,  Louisa Bacio’s A Date with Death, and Sheila Stewart’s The Naughty Angel–all in the same week. Followed by the Wicked Romances Blog Hop. Sounds positively, well, wicked! And a perfect lead-in for the Halloween season.

Weren’t we just talking about chocolate?