Review: Shadow Woman by Linda Howard

Format: E-bookshadowwoman
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Hero: Xavier
Heroine: Lizette Henry
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: January 1, 2013
Started On: January 9, 2013
Finished On: January 15, 2013

I crave for a fix of Linda Howard like an addict craves for a fix of the drug that gives him a high. Dramatic? Yes. But its nothing but the truth. When I discovered books by Linda Howard, quite by chance I must say, I raced through them like a serial killer would race through a field of potential victims. Again, dramatic a description? But again, that is nothing but the truth. Linda Howard is an author I have an utmost admiration for, because she has written so many outstanding books and the recent decline in the popularity of her newer books has just made me sad enough to weep. What keeps the tears at bay is there is always the possibility of re-reading her entire collection when the mood hits, just so I can get my fix of Linda Howard once in a while, an author who has written romance as it should be, too many a time to count.

I decided to give Shadow Woman, Linda Howard’s latest novel a go because the reviews coming in had not been as bad as it had been for her previous two books which I skipped reading altogether. Yes, call me a coward, but I’d rather remember Linda Howard in all her glory than diminish what her stories have meant to me all through the years by reading books that would shed her talent in an unfavorable light. Nevertheless I did read Shadow Woman and I’d have to admit that disappointment did flow through me as the book made a steady decline in rating as I progressed into the story.

The premise of Shadow Woman is an exciting one. Lizette Henry wakes up one morning and discovers that the face in the mirror that is staring back at her is not hers. And the warning bells start ringing, throwing Lizzy into murky waters where she doesn’t know whether she can trust anyone to keep her safe from¬†them whoever they may be. Unknown to Lizzy, or perhaps I should say unknown to Lizzy until that point in time, she has been under constant surveillance, a subject of massive interest to some very powerful people who hold the cards on whether she should continue to live or be terminated because the wealth of information if she were to remember could bring everything tumbling down.

As Lizzy awakens from the deep “slumber” she has been in for the past 3 years,¬†remnants¬†of her past come calling, in the form of flashbacks of memories and thought processes and behavior she’d never have thought herself to be capable of. And in her dreams comes a man she calls as X, the man who makes her hunger for what his touch does to her, for what they together create in those beautifully vivid dreams of the erotic variety.

When all hell breaks loose, it is Xavier who rides to Lizzy’s rescue, the man who has haunted her dreams since her memories started coming back, their past something shrouded in a mystery until Lizzy finds herself confronting that very past that makes her a loose end that needs to be dealt with.

Shadow Woman is a novel that has so much potential to it. What made it all the more heart wrenching to read was the fact that there were echoes of the old Linda Howard in bits and pieces of the story, mostly in the delicious dreams that Lizzy sees of herself and X, entwined in a lover’s embrace that could be called nothing but sensual and off the charts hot. In Xavier I found that Linda’s ability to create mouthwatering heroes that makes my heart beat faster still exists and yes, Xavier is a hero that was delicious in a lot of ways.

What did not work for me in Shadow Woman was the fact that the actual story got bogged down in too much descriptive detail that detracted from the pace and the suspense factor in the novel. I skipped large chunks of the story towards the latter part of the book, just because I wanted to find out the big secret and wanted to know how Xavier and Lizzy fair in the long run.

With enough bits and pieces of the old Linda Howard to entice, Shadow Woman turned out to be a favorable read for me which could have turned out to be an all out fantastic one if not for the details that kept getting in the way.

Recommended for die-hard fans of the author like myself. 

Favorite Quotes

Then she straightened, tossing her hair back, and turned to the mirror – and stared into the face of a stranger.

For a moment they just lay there on the big bed, chest to chest, legs intertwined, hearts pounding. They were eye to eye, and for a moment Lizette felt her breath catch. Good God, he was beautiful! Not pretty, there was nothing pretty about him, but seen with her heart he was … beautiful.

His touch firm, he dragged his fingertips through her cleft, found the soft, damp opening between her legs, and bit her in the curve between her neck and shoulder as at the same time he slid two big fingers deep into her. The heel of his rough palm pressed down hard on her clitoris, sending little lightning shocks all through her.
Her body bucked and shimmied under the triple onslaught. A breathless little cry slipped from her lips and she turned her face against the pillow, fighting to contain the sensation, and the sounds she was making.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | BoB | Kobo

[xrr rating=3.5/5]

Caliber Seal: FAVORABLE READ!

Review: Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann

Format: E-book
Opens with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Troubleshooters, 4
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Hero: Ken “Wild Card” Karmody
Heroine: Savannah Von Hopf
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 27, 2005
Started On: February 18, 2011
Finished On: February 21, 2011

I have always heard good things about Suzanne Brockmann. My first attempt at reading anything by hers was to read her novel Bodyguard which certainly didn’t make me turn away from her books though it didn’t leave much of a lasting impression on me either. However as everyone knows I tend to get a little crazy about jungle-trek themed romances and this one was recommended as such a read, I have now forgotten on which forum. Regardless of the fact that I have never attempted to read the Troubleshooters series before, I bought myself a copy and did manage to read a couple of pages then and never managed to make it past the prologue before I was distracted by some other title that I just HAD to read. And then last week my emotions decided to play the i-am-not-pleased-with-any-of-the-stuff-you-are-reading game & so I decided to pick this one up where I left off, hoping that the magic that had had earned this book rave reviews would work on me and my totally wayward emotions as well.

Book 4 in the Troubleshooter series stars Navy SEAL Ken Karmody, who gets nicknamed as “Wild Card” because of his ability to think out of the box and come out winning however difficult a problem might be. Ken had certainly not led a charming childhood with an emotionally and physically abusive father, which had in the end toughened him up and made Ken determined to do what he wanted in life. Ken is a genius when it comes to computers and whatnot and beneath his tough SEAL facade lies a heart that yearns to love and claim a woman as his forever. His ex-girlfriend Adele had certainly done a number on him with a continuous on and off relationship with Ken which had gone on for around 10 years until Ken had finally seen the light and refused to bend to her every whim which had pretty much ended things on the relationship front.

Savannah Van Hopf couldn’t be any more different from Ken even if she tried. A rich heiress who works as an appellate attorney, Savannah is the granddaughter of the famous Rose Van Hopf who worked as a double agent for the US and the Nazi during World War II. Savannah had always had a huge crush on Ken even though he hadn’t noticed her much, and it is through Adele that Savannah finds out Ken’s address and travels to San Diego to find him and ask his assistance in locating her uncle Alex who had disappeared in Indonesia without a trace.

From the moment Ken comes across the beautiful and utterly feminine Savannah, he is smitten something fierce and before Savannah can muster up the courage to bring up why she is actually in the neighborhood, these two light up the sheets with intense passion and red hot desire that practically leaps out of the very pages. To say that both fall completely in lust and a little bit in love with one another during that night would not be a lie. However with the morning, the truth comes out completely walloping Ken with intense feelings of betrayal which makes him pissed off at Savannah to no end. However, even with all the intense feelings of dislike churning within him for a woman who still has the ability to make him go a little bit weak at the knees, Ken is not willing to let Savannah travel all the way to Indonesia alone to find her uncle.

It is in Indonesia that the real adventure begins when Ken and Savannah are kidnapped by Russian goons at gun point right from the airport itself. Barely managing to escape them, Savannah and Ken are forced to survive in the jungle that grows densely throughout the Parwati island of Indonesia. To survive and¬†outmaneuver everyone who is after them, Savannah and Ken are forced to endure each other’s company which in turn makes each of them discover why they had fallen for each other so hard in such a short span of time.

This book was so frigging good that I believe I have dug myself into a hole from which I won’t be able to escape anytime soon. Since I haven’t read books 1 – 3 in the Troubleshooter series and jumped straight into book 4, I was a bit overwhelmed to say the least when characters kept leaping right into the pages from left and right. However, a couple of chapters in, I was totally captivated by the ease with which Ms. Brockmann makes each and every character count, how she makes them come alive and how effectively she makes each and every one of their stories matter.

What I loved most about Out of Control was the rich banter between Ken and Savannah. Ken has the quirky character of coming out and saying whatever leaps to his mind without thinking much about it and Savannah’s responses to his remarks totally made my day. Ken is sexy, witty, a little bit of a nerd and has such a big heart that you can’t help but fall completely in love with him. The way he seriously asks his friends about women’s ability to have multiple orgasms had me cracking up so hard that I was laughing all throughout that conversation.

And Savannah is not an unforgettable character either. Though she has been brought up by a snotty mother who would rather see her married off to some royalty than see her happy, Savannah is tough beneath her picture perfect exterior and loyal to a fault. And I loved every single thing about her character from the way she interacts with Ken to her vulnerable nature which she strives so hard to hide.

And that takes me to my favorite couple from the series – yes, though I have not read the series in order, I have discovered that I have a strange fascination for Molly and John, whose characters complement each other perfectly. John is totally the kind of alpha male that slightly borders on being gamma, which makes him just the perfect kind of hero to base all my dreams upon. And his reluctant fascination with Molly which ends up being one of the best parts of the story is one worth savoring. Their happily ever after finally comes in book 9 of the series and this alone is the reason why I am determined to make my way through the rest of the books, because I am that much fascinated with their story.

And that brings me to Rose’s character. Her adventures in the form of a memoir which continue throughout the story makes for a fascinating read. Her work as a double agent and the story of how she meets up and falls in love with Mr. Van Hopf who is an Austrian prince adds something delightful to an already 5 star read.

Needless to say, highly recommended for romantic suspense fans because I just flat-out loved this one.

It was only after I sat down to write the review that I saw that this book has received around 7 AAR awards between 2002 and 2007. Definitely deserves them all!

Favorite Quotes

He pulled off his shirt – Savannah helped.
He pulled off her shirt – she helped him with that, too.
God, he loved everything about women, but he especially loved breasts. Savannah was not voluptuous in any sense of the word, but she was so perfectly feminine, he briefly considered weeping with joy at the sight of her, lying there, bare-breasted in his bed. But that would’ve taken way too much time.
Instead he kissed her, caressed her, licked her, touched her. She smelled like his soap, like the chlorine from his pool, like his clean laundry on top of her fancy perfume. She smelled like he’d already, at least partially, claimed her as his own.

“What have you got in there?” he asked. “Maybe we should take a minute and do a quick inventory, see what we’ve got, see if we can somehow lighten our load.” He went through his pockets, pulling everything out and dumping it in a relatively dry spot in front of her. “Knife, keys, wallet, passport, a couple squashed power bars – that’s good, we;re bound to get hungry – and … oops.”
Condoms.
He was carrying around a half a dozen. He stuffed them back into his pocket, but not before she saw them.
He gave her a weak smile. “I just, you know, always carry ’em.”
That was a lie and she knew it.
“If we get bored, we can use them to make balloon animals,” he added.
She was not at all amused.

That caught his (John’s) attention. “If I can’t see you tonight, when can I see you again?”
“You can certainly come to tea, but the tent flaps will be up.” (Molly says)
“I’ll come to tea. But let me rephrase the question – when can I make love to you again?”
“I don’t know. I’ll try to find some other excuse for taking out the boat and —”
“Now,” he said, his breath hot in her ear. “How about right now?”
“I have to get back,” she said, but she sounded far less convincing than she had the first time, particularly when he unzipped her shorts and pushed both them and her panties down to her knees. And then God, he was inside of her, and all she could say was yes.

Rose watched Savannah and Ken slip into an elevator. They were in each other’s arms again before the doors had fully closed.
Her granddaughter was infinitely lucky. Rose knew this firsthand. She’d had a husband who had loved her an eleven, too.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | BooksOnBoard | Kobo

[xrr rating = 5/5]

Caliber Seal: OUTSTANDING READ!

Review: Bodyguard by Suzanne Brockmann

Format: E-book
Read with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Hero: Harry O’Dell
Heroine: Alessandra Lamont
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: February 23, 2004
Started On: September 12, 2010
Finished On: September 13, 2010

My first Suzanne Brockmann certainly entertained me enough that she definitely makes an author of interest from this point forward. Though this by far isn’t the best romantic suspense novel I have read, I certainly enjoyed the different characters that made this book a pretty swell read.

Harry O’Dell, an FBI agent lives like he has got nothing to lose. Working on bringing down organized crime, his job had finally taken its toll on his family when his ex-wife and eldest son Kevin had been killed in a car crash as a result of a shooting that had only meant to be a scare tactic by the mob to scare Harry off his current investigation. Though his son Shaun and Emily the youngest are both alive and need him more than ever, he hands them over to his stepsister Marge who has been taking care of them for the past two years. The pain that he feels whenever he sees Shaun or Emily prevents him from visiting or spending any quality time with either of them. As a result, Shaun is sick and tired of telling his sister Emily that their father’s job in protecting the President is too important to be left alone to come and visit them for any length of time.

Alessandra Lamont is in a shit load of trouble. First her marriage of more than 6 years had come crashing down when her husband Griffin Lamont had traded her in for a newer younger version of a trophy wife. The one thing Alessandra had been darn happy about was the fact that Griffin had given her everything she had asked for, the house and the cars, and only asked for his mother’s azalea bush the one right outside the kitchen door. And then she had found out that the house had been triple mortgaged to the hilt, the cars were all leased and that Griffin had applied for bankruptcy. The next thing Alessandra knows, the police is knocking down her door wanting to know where Griffin was in association with a drug deal that had gone south. And then to top it all off, she had received the news that Griffin had been found hands tied behind his back with two shots to his head, killed in classic gang slaying style. And her troubles had been far from over even then. Alessandra being unable to bear children had set her heart on adopting Jane Doe, a baby she had come across at the Northshore Children’s Hospital where she did fund raising work. Jane had been labeled as not likely to be adopted because she was severely handicapped and had been born with a heart defect. Now with all her finances and stability in shambles around her, the Social Services had turned her down as a potential parent for Jane and that broke her heart more than anything else.

Though Alessandra doesn’t have much of an idea on how her soon to have been ex-husband had met his demise in such a fashion, she has an inkling that it had something to do with Micheal Trotta allegedly hip deep in illegal drug sales, prostitution and graft. Alessandra is more than shaken when she returns home one night after a visit to the hospital to find the whole place trashed with nothing left untouched. And then she receives the bone chilling phone call that requests her to find the money or she is next on the list. It is into this mess that Harry and George Faulkner, Harry’s partner for the past 8 months walks into. Although Harry’s melting brown eyes and rumpled look makes her want to launch herself at him and sob her heart out, Alessandra knows that she cannot rely on anyone to protect her.

Harry when he first lays eyes on Alessandra with her movie star good looks, softly lidded blue eyes, thick blond hair and perfectly proportioned body sends an unwanted arc of red hot need through him for the first time in 4 years. Harry despises himself for the fact that he could crave a woman who looked as warm as the North Pole in freezing temperatures. And to top it off in Harry’s mind she had deserved what had landed in her lap by marrying into the mob for the money and luxuries that life would bring.

When Alessandra is threatened within an inch of her life by none other than Micheal Trotta himself who is livid that Griffin had had the balls to double-cross him and steal a million dollars from him and is ready to make an example out of his wife gives her 48 hours to come up with the missing money. Alessandra barely makes the deadline and thinks she has got away scot free, that is until her house is blown up with the sole intention of killing her.

No matter how much Alessandra protests, she is taken into witness protection though the FBI’s main aim is to use her as bait to lure in Michael Trotta and convict him once and for all, a fact which is kept from Alessandra. Though Harry is prepared to keep himself away from Alessandra no matter how much she tempted him on so many levels, it proves to be harder than he realizes when Harry gets to know the actual woman underneath all the layers that Alessandra had perfected during her marriage to Griffin.

Before long, Michael’s thugs take the bait and Alessandra is livid when she finds out the role that the FBI had made her play unknowingly. Determined to strike out on her own and run away though the threat to her is quite large with the bounty on her head increasing by millions each day, Alessandra nearly does so until Harry convinces her that it would be better all around if he went along with her. Thus, with Alessandra in tow, Harry finds himself making his way to Colorado where his children were, in the hopes of sorting out the court order he had received that Marge wanted to adopt his children.

It is during the last leg of the trip that Harry and Alessandra both give into the obvious desire they have for one another. And it is in Colorado that Harry comes face to face with just how much hurt and anger and resentment that Shaun had stored away the past 2 years, and the fact that his sweet little Emily really had no recollection of who he was whatsoever. And it is Alessandra that stops Harry from giving up on his family, who patiently and stubbornly makes him see reason and in the end to whom Harry turns to when he sees just how much he had been willing to give up for his dead son when his children who were alive deserved so much more from him.

Intensely emotional at times and gripping with action at other moments, this is a book that makes you race through the pages until the very end. The ending which shows life 4 years afterwards for the O’Dells was a heartwarming one which I loved.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | BooksOnBoard | Kobo

[xrr rating=3.75/5]

Caliber Seal: GOOD READ!

Review: Just Friends by Robyn Sisman

Format: E-book
Read with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Hero: Jack Madison
Heroine: Freya Penrose
Sensuality: 2
Date of Publication:  July 30, 2002
Started On: January 12, 2010
Finished On: January 16, 2010

This is the type of book that should be made into a movie. I bet that all those who love a good romantic comedy would adore the story of Jack and Freya.

Freya is a British woman who works in New York at a trendy art dealer shop scouting new talent now and then. Jack Madison is an author who has hit the writer’s block ever since the release of his debut novel which hit the bestselling list. Its been 5 years since he has started on his second novel and he doesn’t seem to ¬†be getting any constructive work done on the novel. Coming from a rich family from Texas, Jack lives on a monthly allowance set aside by his father together with the money he earns from teaching creative writing classes as well as writing reviews of books for newspapers.

Freya and Jack first met each other around the time that they both ventured into living in New York. Each had their own dreams to fulfill and Freya being older than Jack had stuck to being friends given the flambouyant and playboy lifestyle that Jack seems to prefer.

Now in her mid-thirties, Freya seems to be going on the right path with her career on the right course and her live-in boyfriend of five months about to propose to her. Life couldn’t get any better. That is until, instead of the proposal that Freya was both dreading and kind of hoping for with an¬†inevitability, Freya’s boyfriend Micheal, a lawyer who is as serious as Freya is a ball of energy, breaks off their relationship.

Now with no place to live, Freya ends up crashing at Jack’s place regardless of the warnings Cat, her best friend who is a divorce lawyer who has sworn off men seems to dish out. Contrary to the warnings of Cat, proximity doesn’t make Jack and Freya tumble head over heels in love with each other or make Jack pounce on her as a cat would do for a good slab of meat but rather create a situation of animosity between the two friends.

Meanwhile, Cat meets Micheal and these two click from the moment they lay eyes on each other, a situation that Freya is totally unaware of. Freya is busy trying to find someone who would accompany her as her better half to the wedding of her step sister Tash, someone with whom Freya had always had a turbulent relationship with.

In the end, Jack is the one who saves the day and these two head off to Europe, to a place so different from the busy and heady life of New York, and find themselves confronting feelings that they have long since buried before. However, the age factor together with Jack’s betrayal with Tash breaks these two apart till Jack and Freya both do a lot of growing up on their own and finally accept the love they have for each other.

This book is a highly enjoyable chic flick that all those who love a good romantic comedy would no doubt fall in love with.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | AbeBooks | Half.com

[xrr rating=4/5]

Caliber Seal: GREAT READ!

Review: Kiss Me While I Sleep by Linda Howard

Format: Paperback
Read with: Paperback
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Series: John Medina, Book 3
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Hero: Lucas Swain
Heroine: Lily Mansfield
Date of Publication: April 26, 2005
Started On: December 5, 2009
Finished On: December 7, 2009

Lily Mansfield is a woman hell bent on vengeance & revenge against the powerful Nervi organization operated in Paris. Seeking justice for the assassination of her close friends Tina and Averill (both of whom had previously being contract killers themselves)¬†and their adopted daughter Zia who had actually been found abandoned and starving to death, by Lily on one of her jobs to Croatia. Since Lily’s life as a hired killer didn’t provide the most stable environment to raise a little girl, Lily had let her friends adopt Zia, and the three of them had held Zia dearer to them than anything else.

Lily kills Salvatore Nervi, the head of the Nervi organization nearly killing herself in the process and goes into hiding in the one place Salvatore’s son Rodrigo Nervi wouldn’t think of looking for her. But as most powerful organizations in the world, the Nervi organization has their hands in all the important agencies of the world with pretty strong political ties with the richest governments in the world, which makes it quite easy to identify the woman who had deceived Rodrigo’s father and ultimately led to his demise.

The CIA dispatches their agent Lucas Swain to track Lily down and bring her down. With Rodrigo hot on Lily’s trail as well, Lucas befriends Lily & ultimately finds himself intrigued on what had actually lured Lily’s friends Tina and Averill out of their retirement into bombing one of Nervi’s laboratories, which had resulted in the murder of the whole family. Unearthing the secret that the Nervi organization was in fact producing a vaccine to combat a strain of the avian influenza virus that has the capability of¬†human-to-human transmission, whilst mass producing the strain of the virus itself to unleash on the world to reap the benefits in millions of dollars, being the only organization having a vaccine at hand.

Things get interesting when Lily and Swain are hired by the same anonymous person who lured Averill and Tina for the initial attack on the laboratory, to destroy the lab and the scientist who is engineering the virus & the vaccine once and for all. As most of the novels by  this author, this too delivers a superb tale with a splendid cast of characters, with the right mix of intrigue, mystery, passion, love and family politics with a surprising twist at the end of the tale.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Half.com | BooksOnBoard

[xrr rating=4/5]

Caliber Seal: GREAT READ!