Book Review: The SEAL’s Valentine, by Laura Marie Altom

The SEAL's ValentineThe SEAL’s Valentine by Laura Marie Altom

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The moment off-duty navy SEAL Tristan Bartoni meets feisty yet vulnerable Brynn Langtoine, he’s a goner. He sure didn’t have plans to be attracted to a recently widowed pregnant woman who is already mother to a troubled, grieving young son. Nope, the struggling SEAL came home to Ruin Bayou, Louisiana, to finally deal with his haunting past decisions-not to start a new relationship. 

Brynn has enough problems without her hormones going crazy whenever Tristan is near. Her son, Cayden, constantly lashes out at her. Her baby will be fatherless. So…what does Tristan think he’s doing, making her life even more topsy-turvy than it already is? 

But when it comes to putting her heart on the line, who could be more trustworthy than a Navy SEAL?

My knowledge of the US military and its different branches is scant, reliant as it is on films and television dramas (i.e. Generation Kill, etc.), so I can’t really speak to that side of things. Fortunately, as it is a romance, I don’t have to. 😉

I found both main characters to be interesting, and their wounds and backstories were compelling. Brynn’s more than Tristan’s though, to be honest, as somehow I would expect a military guy often away might have marital troubles.

Truth be told, I picked up this book because I wanted a love story. And it delivered. It was easy to root for Brynn and Tristan, and I loved how their relationship grew, and how the author made sure that Brynn’s son was a strong part of the narrative. It’s a good, romantic read, especially to get you in the mood for Valentine’s Day.

(copy provided by Netgalley).

View all my reviews

Book Review: Cowboy With a Cause, by Carla Cassidy

Cowboy with a CauseCowboy with a Cause by Carla Cassidy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“I’d apologize for kissing you, but I’m not all that sorry.” 

Dancer Melanie Brooks had escaped small-town Oklahoma, giving up the country for Broadway’s bright lights. Yet after her mother’s funeral called her back, her own health issues forced her to stay. Now her tenant, too-hot-for-his-own-good Adam Benson, is giving her a reason to dance again. But has a killer set his sights on her, too? 

Adam knows a little something about fresh starts. As for his beautiful neighbor, he doesn’t see a wheelchair-he sees a woman who understands. But as the heat grows between them, he can’t avoid the feeling that more than her big-city past haunts her-and that danger has been lurking, waiting to strike….

Melanie is a heroine I can really get behind, a woman of strength and vulnerability, and fully 3-dimensional. I also appreciate reading about a physically disabled heroine, as it’s a refreshing change from the majority of books. I was reminded somewhat of the character of Stephanie in the film ‘Rust & Bone’, as both women are quite suddenly disabled and have to adjust to their new circumstances.

The hero, Adam, was interesting as well, though I did not find his character quite as compelling. However, he’s a good match for Melanie, and doesn’t coddle her or assume she can’t succeed because she’s in a wheelchair.

As for the mystery — it worked for me. I never want to say too much about the puzzle to be solved in suspense fiction because I’d hate to inadvertently give away a clue. However, I will say that I had to debate with myself, and I didn’t figure out the solution until the reveal.

This is a good romantic read, with just the right balance of love and mystery.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Colton, Rodeo Cowboy, by CJ Carmichael

Colton: Rodeo CowboyColton: Rodeo Cowboy by C.J. Carmichael

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I only started reading American Romance books late last year, and though I still haven’t read many, I love them for their strong yet wounded cowboys and their sensitive yet headstrong women. And maybe it’s because I’m a city girl, but there seems to be a certain old-fashioned, down home feel to these stories.

Colton is back to the family ranch after another rodeo, and he’s butting heads with his brother Ace, and feeling dissatisfied with life. He runs into Leah, a woman with whom he’d had a childhood friendship, and suddenly his feelings of friendship turn into something more. Leah feels similarly about him, but she’s wary of another relationship after just having been through a divorce. Plus, she has two kids, and they’ve already been through a lot of upheaval.

Leah’s feelings for Colton grow, but when he tells her a secret he’s never told another living soul, she challenges him to decide how he wants his life to be. And Colton has to come to terms with his secret before he can let love into his life.

This is a great read. I highly recommend it.

RWA 2011, Part 1: The Conference

The idea of dropping $2K+ on a one-week writers conference for the Romance Writers of America had me feeling queasy, but as I’d decided back in January, I certainly wasn’t going back. I landed at Newark on Monday, June 27th, and the whirlwind began.

The view from the 39th floor.

The hotel was smack-dab in the middle of Times Square, which made for a slightly crazy experience. I’m one of those people who likes to go out to get away from the crush, but to go out meant stepping into the chaos that is Times Square (except in the middle of the night, which I didn’t do during this trip.) Handy to most everything, but sometimes I wished for closer proximity to Central Park, or at least a site in the more northerly end of Manhattan.

The conference itself was spread over 3-4 floors, connected by escalators illuminated with golden bulbs, and a computerised elevator system where you’d input your floor and be given a letter (which corresponded to a particular elevator) to attend. That took a bit of getting used to, and on Friday evening, the demand for elevators (and the slowness of getting one) made me wonder if we were going to be late for the RITAs.

View from the Rooftop Patio & Lounge during the Nelson Literary Agency party.

My goals for the conference were simple: meet up with Twitter/online friends, pitch to an agent, and take in some workshops. I did all three. My favourite was the Nelson Literary Agency party on Tuesday night. Hosted at the Rooftop Patio & Lounge on 5th Avenue and 27 Street, I was finally able to meet the very excellent Sara Megibow, Sarah Skilton, Miranda Kenneally, Roni Loren, Steve Vera, Kristin Nelson, Anita Mumm, and Lindsay Mergens, and RT’s Andrew Shaffer. A better bunch of people I could never hope to meet. (And if you’re wondering, I didn’t list Tiffany Reisz because we were roomies at the hotel, and I’d met her already.)

The scheduled luncheons and the opening session were enjoyable. The opening session had a panel of writers: Steve Berry, Diana Gabaldon, and Tess Gerritsen. I’d read most of Diana’s work but none by the other two, so I now have 2 books in my TBR stack. Luncheon #1 had Madeline Hunter as the keynote, and luncheon #2 was Sherrilyn Kenyon. Both were great to listen to. You’ll have to forgive my lack of detail, but all were dynamic and fascinating.

I didn’t get in nearly as many workshops as I’d optimistically plotted out on my RWA agenda. The constant barrage of people and broken sleeping patterns had me hitting the snooze button in the morning or retreating to my room after a luncheon to regain my equilibrium. Still, I managed to take in a few.

My favourite (and most useful) workshop was the Pitch Witch session by Carrie Lofty (author of ‘Portrait of Seduction’, which I reviewed.) She had four points for making the pitch that had me rewriting the entirety of my pitch. It came in handy for my Friday morning appointment, though I was caught off guard by some of the other questions the agent had for me. However, it was my first pitch ever, so I think I did well. My goal there was to do the pitch and get the experience.

I also learned that THE PARIS GAME (my current manuscript) does not have enough romance or erotica in it to be classified as either. Though I don’t tend to take genre specifications very seriously, being at the conference and hearing a publishing perspective made me realise that this book should really be classified as straight-out noir. And thus, not in the least suited to any of the romance sub-genres. What does this mean? Just that I’ll be more precise in my future pitching and querying (and I shall be starting querying agents this month). I’ll be looking for those who rep a broader variety of work, where I can expand my imagination and do noir one book, erotica or romance the next, and so forth.

So, where does this leave me? Recovering from the travel and pondering my next moves. It was definitely worthwhile to attend and hopefully I’ll be able to do it again.

Book Review: The Creed Legacy

The Creed Legacy, by Linda Lael Miller. (website)

This is the third (and final?) book in LLM’s Creed series, and it features Brody Creed, the twin of Conner (in Creed’s Honor) and cousin of Steven (in A Creed in Stone Creek). But Brody is different from Conner and Steven. He’s never stopped moving, and in the last few years has had little contact with his family. But now he’s back in Lonesome Bend, attempting to settle down. He buys land and becomes a part of the community, but something is missing. His friend and occasional bed-partner Jolene isn’t to his taste anymore, but there’s no one that he could fall in love with. Or so he thinks.

Carolyn Simmons has finally been able to settle down: after years of being a house-sitter for wealthy folks in and around Lonesome Bend, she has a place of her own. She’s partnered with Conner’s wife Tricia to open up a store and art gallery, and she’s living in Natty’s apartment with Winston the cat. She’s always had a thing for Brody, and now that he’s back in town, the old memories resurface.

As would be expected, the two knock heads, each being rather stubborn. The blossoming interest and tension between them was fantastic. As this is a romance novel, one expects an HEA (‘happily ever after’), but the story is in the journey. Carolyn and Brody are each figuring out the ups and downs of finally putting down roots. Carolyn’s past has as much heartache as Brody’s, but they both have to learn to put the past behind them.

As interesting as their journey was, my favourite part of the book was finally learning about what made Brody tick. Why he’d left home, why he’d stayed away, and what his deep dark secrets entailed. None of which I shall mention here. You’ll have to read the book. It’s being released on June 28, 2011.

Book Review: Creed’s Honor

Creed’s Honor by Linda Lael Miller. (website)

I devoured A Creed in Stone Creek, so when I saw that there was another Creed book being released, I couldn’t resist. This novel follows Steven Creed’s cousin, Conner, in the town of Lonesome Bend, Colorado. He’s stayed close to home, working the ranch for his uncle and being the dependable one, unlike his twin. He thought he had just about everything he needed, until he met Tricia McCall.

Tricia was trying to sell her family’s land, a dilapidated old drive-inn movie theatre and a lodge, with little success. All she wanted was to sell up and go back to the city. But fate has a way of changing things… especially once she re-introduces herself to Conner Creed.

Overall I found the book good, but it started a bit slow. I had to urge myself to continue, knowing that it would get better. Something about A Creed in Stone Creek snagged me straight away, but Creed’s Honor took a chapter or two. However, patience paid off. Other readers might not have that same problem – sometimes I’m just not in the mood for certain types of books.

My interest lay not only in seeing if Tricia and Conner would make it, but also whether Conner and his twin brother Brody would put aside their differences. (In the earlier book, the two had a dust-up, and there had been bad blood for years.) This subplot has kept my attention throughout both books, but especially in Creed’s Honor. I can hardly wait for the third book, The Creed Legacy, to find out more about Brody.

I’d highly recommend this book to all readers of Linda Lael Miller’s. I’ve never picked up a book of hers that I haven’t enjoyed, and that’s saying a lot. (I can’t think of any other author, at least not at the moment, where I could make that same statement.) Go and pick it up! (and while you’re there, pick up A Creed in Stone Creek too!)

Old Harlequin romance novels.

Picked up a few old Harlequin romances at work today. (They were sitting forlornly in the lunchroom, ignored and dusty.) I am rather amused by the titles and the covers. Both are Mills & Boon reprints. Did early HQN establish themselves by getting North American rights to Mills & Boon novels?

Trying to get away from a "problem" man in London, Maggie took a job as receptionist in a luxury hotel in Jersey. But the first person she met was a man who was even more of a problem, a rebel who laughed at everything she thought important. Could she ignore him?

Not quite sure what they’re going for here. No pirates in the traditional sense, at least not from the blurb (or the cover, for that matter.) And since when were pirates ‘darling’? I could see ‘daring’, but ‘darling’ is a bit odd.

Lynn loved Keith Donnelly and disliked Brett Paterson. But unfortunately she found herself trapped into the position of having to work for Brett, who was responsible for everything that had gone wrong for Keith.

Dreadful back cover blurb. Who starts a sentence with ‘But unfortunately…’?

These two books will be my bedtime reading for the next night or two. I can hardly wait. 🙂