Requested ARC Review: The Return of the Rebel by Jennifer Faye

Format: E-bookthereturnoftherebel
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Jax Monroe
Heroine: Cleo Sinclair
Sensuality: 2.9
Date of Publication: July 1, 2014
Started On: June 30, 2014
Finished On: July 1, 2014

Cleo Sinclair is in for the surprise of her lifetime when her newly promoted position brings her face to face with her one time childhood crush Jax Monroe. Any hope that Cleo would be immune to the man Jax had become is crushed from the minute his very presence sets her senses on high alert, even when on Jax’s part the feelings do not seem to be reciprocated.

Jax might want to be indifferent where Cleo is concerned but the childhood memories of both of them together had always stayed with him. Having always been off limits, Jax’s mind would like to continue thinking along the same lines where Cloe is concerned but her beauty and kindness even back then doesn’t make things any easier.

A little bit of danger and mayhem sets the ball rolling and sets the course for the journey of discovery that both Cleo and Jax take towards finding the love of their lives in each other. Low on sensuality, The Return of the Rebel is recommended for those readers who likes “clean” romances with a dollop of an ex-bad boy hero!

Purchase Links: Amazon | Book Depo | B&N | Kobo | HQ

goodread

ARC Review: The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan

Format: E-bookthecountessconspiracy
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Brothers Sinister, #3
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Sebastian Malheur
Heroine: Violet Marie Waterfield
Sensuality: 2.9
Date of Publication: December 16, 2013
Started On: December 22, 2013
Finished On: December 24, 2013

Why do books that you have been anticipating for so much so that you stalk the author’s website on regular basis just to find out whether the release date of the book you are coveting for has drawn any nearer always tends to disappoint you the most? The Countess Conspiracy has been THE book that I have been waiting for ever since I read and fell in love with The Duchess War, the first book in the Brothers Sinister series. Each book had drawn out my fascination with Sebastian, the rake with the scandalous scientific theories that had society in titters. And then there was Violet, the countess of Cambury who seemed to be the object of Sebastian’s affection, and oh how I used to rub my hands in glee waiting for the day that Sebastian would fall flat on his face with want, desire and need for Violet.

Instead of the storyline that I had been rooting for, Courtney veered the story in a direction totally unexpected; even that I could have worked with if not for the fact that both Sebastian and Violet’s characters did a complete about turn that had me dumbfounded to say the least. The Countess Conspiracy is based on the fact that Violet had been living a lie for the past couple of years, making use of Sebastian to hide who she really is, until Sebastian puts his foot down and tells Violet in no uncertain terms that continuing as they had been would be an impossibility for him.

Violet though feels that keen sense of loss from losing her closest friend, the only person in the world who sees her for who she is and understands her, doesn’t know what to do in the face of all that emotion. If not for Sebastian who kept on doggedly coming after her, steady in his determination to win over the affections of the woman he has loved more than half of his life, I bet Violet would just have continued on as she is, thinking, that just like everyone else, Sebastian too had had his fill of her.

As one reviewer on Goodreads pointed out, as a pioneer of science, Violet totally earns 5 stars and beyond. As a romance hero, she somehow fell flat and didn’t stir much of an interest in me. In all the other books in which I encountered Violet’s character, never did I come to see her as someone who is prickly, indifferent and cold. But that is exactly what Violet thinks herself to be and the image that she tries to live up to, always expecting that when it comes to her, no one would truly understand or love her the way she is. There is a psychological factor to it all of course, behind how Violet actually turns out to be the way she is.

Sebastian turned out to be the biggest surprise in one aspect because he used to be the character that completely stirred things up, always said the very thing that would rouse wicked thoughts and brought every scene he stepped into life. But his character is not what it was portrayed to be then, perhaps that was what Courtney was going for when she made him into the patient man who would wait by Violet’s side, even if it takes forever for her to look up and notice him, really notice him for all that he is.

The note tucked at the end of the story was a moving one, one of the main reasons that I believe Courtney wrote this story as it is. She wanted to give a voice to all those women who had been shunned by society for being more intelligent than men, she wanted to give women silenced eons ago who had to hide behind men who took credit for their work a voice because simply put it just wasn’t acceptable for a woman to think and come up with complex theories that could change the world. And in that regard, Courtney did a stupendous job at the cost of the romantic elements in the story which left me totally unmoved which turned out to be the most heartbreaking aspect of it all.

But perhaps, fans of romances featuring tender, patient heroes would fall in love with Sebastian and Violet’s love story. Though The Countess Conspiracy did not work for me, I still look forward to the next book and hopefully it will fulfill me and my thirst for a good romance along with a great storyline altogether in one. Recommended for fans of the series!

Favorite Quotes

“Sebastian,” she whispered.
“At your service.”
She kissed him. She’d kissed him once before in fury and anguish. But this was different. This was a kiss that came from every ventricle of her heart, every last valve. All four chambers of her heart pumped for him. And it was a damned good thing he didn’t know what she was thinking, or he’d realize that she had gone mad.

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

[xrr rating = 3/5]

Caliber SEAL: SATISFACTORY READ!

Requested ARC Review: Snowbound With The Soldier by Jennifer Faye

snowboundwiththesoldier

Format: E-book
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Hero: Jason Smith
Heroine: Kara Jameson
Sensuality: 2
Date of Publication: October 1, 2013
Started On: September 29, 2013
Finished On: October 5, 2013

Jason Smith returns to his hometown of Pleasant Valley as a scarred man, willing to do whatever it takes to put his family legacy that happens to be the Greene Summit Resort to rights. What he doesn’t count on is to find out that Kara Jameson, the woman he had broken off their engagement with seven years back happens to be none other than the go-to person when it comes to handling things at the resort. And on top of that, the ferocious sexual attraction that had been between them that comes zinging back to life not to be denied is not something he contended on dealing with.

Kara still hasn’t forgotten the way Jason had walked away without a second glance. The way he had broken her heart which had eventually led to the conception of her beautiful daughter Samantha and the hard years that had followed plus the sacrifices that she had made along the way. Its not easy for Kara to trust Jason once more and to put her heart and that of her daughter Samantha’s on the line while the past still continues to haunt both of them over the way things had ended.

While Snowbound with the Solder started out on an upbeat note, I found that the story waned a bit towards the middle and managed to lose its wow factor towards the end. At the beginning the sizzling tension between Jason and Kara was alive, something that I felt every time I turned the pages. But towards the middle the story lost its focus on that aspect and moved towards the familial bit where Jason wins over the heart of the adorable Samantha and in the process manages to rekindle the love that had never been totally lost when it had come to Kara and him.

The secret that Jason holds close to his heart, the bitterness of it all which had led him to break off his engagement and enlist in the military was one that touched me. I don’t know what I would have done under the circumstances but I felt my heart go out to him on the burden that Jason had carried on his shoulders all throughout the years, obliterating whatever happy memories that he had had of his childhood. It takes a lot for Jason to forgive and move on and that was one aspect of the story that I liked.

I wanted to see more of Kara and Jason in terms of their emotional intimacy being built up enough for Kara to trust him once again. Jason does go for the grand gesture towards the end but somehow I felt that there was something missing when it comes to the couple in question. I also would have dearly loved to see the dreams Jason had for his resort materialize but the story ended right before any of that could happen.

All in all I would say not a bad read but this story could have turned out into a wonderful one if closure had come to all facets of the story that unfolded.

Final Verdict: A scarred ex-military hero who returns to his hometown to find that when it comes to love, sometimes people do get second chances.

Purchase Links: Amazon | BookDepo | B&N | Harlequin

[xrr rating= 2.75/5]

Caliber SEAL: AVERAGE READ!

Requested Review: The Restoration by Janet White

Format: E-booktherestoration
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Hero: Andrew Somerset
Heroine: Laura Hampton
Sensuality: 2
Date of Publication: April 2013
Started On: July 9, 2013
Finished On: July 9, 2013

Andrew Somerset is an intriguing mix of the past and the present. Revealing who he is would be ruining the story for interested readers.

Laura Hampton is the grieving widow who needs to get away from everything that reminds her of her beloved husband for a much needed timeout from all the grief that is weighing her down after his death.

When Laura’s husband dies a tragic death and she needs to get away, Laura’s well meaning friends offer her the use of their vacation cabin in Asheville. There she finds herself stumbling across an unkempt cemetery which somehow calls out to her to restore it to its original beauty. And when Andrew Somerset crosses her path and intrigues her on more than one level, what follows is a journey that tests the limits of Laura’s endurance and the love that unfurls deep inside of her for a man who is as appealing as he is mysterious.

The Restoration has a contemporary setting and is told from Laura’s point of view in first person. Story has a paranormal edge to it.

One of the things that struck me the most about The Restoration was the compelling writing style that urged me to keep reading this little number in one sitting. There were confusing bits where Laura’s wayward and uncontrollable emotions made everything that was happening surreal but then again it also touched on a subject that few people would like to talk about. The appropriate length of mourning and why society should dictate & judge upon it is a question that sprang to my mind as the story progressed.

The love that exists and comes to life between Laura and Andrew is one that just happens; there is no reason or rhyme to it. And the struggles they go through are real, just like any other couple who passionately love each other with the added burden of the secrets that Andrew holds close to his chest. Though sometimes Laura tended to confuse me with her at times ‘childish’ tantrums, The Restoration proved to be a good read that kept me reading, just to discover what would be the end result of a love that seemed doomed right from the beginning.

Recommended for fans of unusual romances and romances with a bittersweet edge to them.

Final Verdict: With a bittersweet edge to it, The Restoration is definitely a page-turner.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

[xrr rating=3.75/5]

Caliber SEAL: GOOD READ!

Requested Review: What She Doesn’t Know by Lina Gardiner

Format: E-book
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Sloan Brockway
Heroine: Raven Delacoeur
Sensuality: 2.9
Date of Publication: January 29, 2012
Started On: March 27, 2012
Finished On: March 28, 2012

Raven Delacoeur makes her way to an isolated island in the bay of Fundy on the east coast of Canada to find out whether the rumors that her dead husband has surfaced and is living on the island could be true. It has been a year since her husband Barry had tried to kill her and died in the process and Raven would rather forget the lies and deceit than to poke her head into a hornet’s nest. But she cannot help herself from making her way towards an island that is surrounded by fog, where menace and evil seems to prick and poke at her from the minute she sets her foot on the island.

Sloan Brockway is working on a tight schedule to recover an ancient artifact in order to keep it falling into the hands of people like his cousins. The worst thing possible that could happen to him turns into reality when Raven turns up at his doorstep and Sloan is landed with the battle of his lifetime trying to juggle everything and keeping Sloan safe from the men who are relentless in their need to see the entire Delacoeur family buried six feet under.

Raven suffers from an immense loss in her memory owing to the death of her parents eight years earlier. The block in her memory hinders her every effort to find the truth that hovers so close by and yet seems to be unattainable no matter how hard she tries. Trust becomes difficult for someone like Raven who has been betrayed in the worst manner possible by the man who should have protected her at all costs and Raven has a hard time understanding what drives Sloan and whether what he keeps on telling her is the truth.

Before the story is through, Raven goes through a quest for the truth and comes up with more than she bargained for, the secrets that lurks in Sloan’s eyes ones that tends to drive her crazy enough to pursue what is hidden from her with a vengeance that both shocks and thrills her at the same time. Sloan operates on the procedure that if Raven were ever to find the truth behind his association with the men who ruined her life she would never be able to look beyond the surface to see a man who has loved and yearned for her for far too long.

What She Doesn’t Know reads more like an adventurous thriller than a romantic suspense novel. I found myself disappointed by the lack of heat or any sort of passion or connection between Raven and Sloan apart from their joint efforts in searching for a treasure that seems to create a lot of havoc in both their lives. I don’t need a lot of explicitly detailed sexual content in my novels to satisfy my thirst for romance, but both Sloan and Raven seemed too focused on other stuff to really forge a believable connection between them.

On the other hand, I loved the thrill of the chase so to say in the novel and the descriptions of the island that made the setting for the story come alive. But the story seemed to end on a sort of a cliffhanger conclusion where yes Sloan and Raven both express their love for each other but once again the adventure aspect of the story seemed to overshadow the “need” that they both should have for each other if their love for one another is as important to both of them as they proclaim it to be.

Not a bad read if you are the type to be satisfied with your romance without that passionate connection between the hero and the heroine and if you love the treasure seeking kind of thrillers you would love Lina Gardner’s What She Doesn’t Know.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Smashwords

[xrr rating=3.75/5]

Caliber Seal: GOOD READ!

ARC Review: Breathe Again by Bonnie R. Paulson

Format: E-book
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Carina Press
Series: Standalone
Hero: Brodan Steele
Heroine: Maggie Lachlan
Sensuality: 2.9
Date of Publication: August 22, 2011
Started On: August 16, 2011
Finished On: August 16, 2011

Breathe Again by Bonnie R. Paulson is a contemporary romance set to release on the 22nd of this month from Carina Press. This is a story that deals with a lot of grief, a widow who hasn’t allowed herself time to properly grieve for a loss that has her questioning each and every relationship in her life, making her reject overtures made by her friends and loved ones because pity is intolerable in the face of what she has experienced. Told in the first person from Maggie’s point of view, Breathe Again describes how Maggie finds friendship and ultimately the strength to move on from her past and embrace a love that blossoms in the the most unlikely circumstances. Maggie has been struggling with the death of her husband Dean for the past ten months. A radiologist who immerses herself in her work to keep the dark memories at bay, Maggie suddenly finds herself taking a forced vacation of two weeks from work making her wonder whether she would be able to handle all that time alone by herself. Rescue comes from an unlikely friendship that is forged between Maggie and the charming, fun and easygoing Ryan Stewart and his taciturn older brother Brodan Steele who seems to rub her emotions in a wrong way. This unlikely threesome somehow cross all the hurdles and form a close knitted group even with Brodan trying to keep Maggie at arm’s length, trying his damndest to ignore the spark that continues to dance between them.It is this relationship that acts as a starting point for healing that begins the torturous process of letting go of Maggie’s painful past amidst facing the truth about Ryan and the toll his waning health takes on his older brother who refuses to step away from his side. 

For me, there are a couple of things worthy of being mentioned about the story. I found the grieving aspect of the story to be a unique one which held my undivided attention as Maggie undergoes a lot of pain and feelings of insecurity as to why her husband had opted to leave her the way he had. It certainly would not be easy for anyone to get over a death like Dean’s, especially given the fact that Maggie never allows herself to grieve properly for a loss that continues to haunt and taunt her even ten months on.

Ryan’s attitude towards life, even when his life was filled with so much uncertainty was an aspect of the story that  made me think about all the things in life that one ought to be thankful for. Its a fact that we humans rarely take the time to do that, much less appreciate each given day as it comes. 

Now for the things that didn’t work for me in the story. The sexual tension that was built up right from the very start between Brodan and Maggie never fully materialized even towards the end of the story. I felt as if I had been cheated out of a vital aspect of their relationship and that a door had been slammed shut in my face even before I fully knew what it was that I wanted when it came to their reluctant relationship. I could definitely understand Brodan’s reasoning when it came to avoiding any sort of realtionship with Maggie apart from being friends because of Ryan. But to be able to say no to what Brodan and Maggie both obviously wanted from each other just didn’t sit that well with me.

Because the story was told only from Maggie’s point of view, I felt cheated out of ever getting to experience how it is Brodan feels throughout the story. The sexual tension aspect of a novel works brilliantly if and when the hero’s tortured thoughts are also included as part of the developing relationship between the hero and heroine which this one lacked. Though overall I did like Maggie’s thoughts and at times her self depreciating humor, I would have loved it if Brodan’s thoughts and feelings and his point of view had been included in the story.

Towards the end, I just felt that there was too much grief and very little happiness in this story. For someone who likes happy endings, the somber mood of the story throughout with very little lightness somehow detracted a bit from my enjoyment factor. Though there is a happily ever after in the making for Brodan and Maggie, I just never felt that glow that comes from being satisfied when the hero and heroine finally seal their life together towards the end.

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

[xrr rating=3/5]

Caliber Seal: SATISFACTORY READ!

Review: The Fourth Child by C.J. Carmichael

Format: Paperback
Read with: Paperback
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: 9 Months Later, #23
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Kirk Ridgeway
Heroine: Claire Elizabeth Adams
Sensuality: 2.9
Date of Publication: May 1, 2000
Started On: May 17, 2011
Finished On: May 17, 2011

I have been in a kind of restless place lately wanting to get my hands on something unusual to read. I started with 2 books yesterday which I gave up reading after around half way through because the stories somehow didn’t end up being what I was looking for. And so not to give up on my quest to find something different, I turned to this little number in my TBR pile, a paperback I acquired a couple of weeks back because of its unusual theme.

The Fourth Child delves into a topic that we come across rarely in romance novels. Because lets face it, no one wants to read about infidelity that involves either the hero or heroine, wanting our time out from the real world to be as picture perfect as possible. This book begins into the twelfth year of marriage between Kirk and Claire, whose life seems to be just about perfect to someone viewing it from the other side.

Well into her 30’s, Claire is the mother of three beautiful daughters with the news of a fourth child on the way when mere ten minutes later her husband Kirk drops the bombshell that he is in love with someone else. Kirk’s involvement with Janice begins innocently enough until six months later Kirk is forced to admit that their seemingly innocent get togethers have certainly turned into something of the more intimate variety which has Kirk questioning himself on whether he is ready to give up Claire and his girls for a few moments of guilty pleasure.

Claire feels as if her whole world is crashing down right in front of her upon receiving Kirk’s admission of his feelings towards another woman. Betrayal, anger, jealousy and a whole riot of emotions swirl through Claire making her want  to curl up into a ball and vent out all the emotions that seems to be suffocating her. And when Kirk tells her that he wants a shot at making things work in their marriage, though Claire is clearly hesitant to agree to it, she finds herself embarking on unchartered waters trying to find the right path on which they could both heal and learn to find the love that had drawn them together in the first place.

This was an interesting piece of work because it takes the reader through a journey of discovery between two people who earlier had found reasons to tie the holy knot of matrimony, who had embarked on a life together and made a home together to suddenly find out that they have been drifting apart for the last couple of months. The jolt that wakes them up, hurtful as it may be serves to be the point where both Kirk and Claire have to  try to work things out, not only for the sake of their children but for themselves as well.

Though Kirk was the one to stray from his vows, I found myself admiring him because he had the guts to come out with the truth and let his wife know before things had proceeded to a point of no return. The challenges that Kirk and Claire face separately and together as they work things out all seem to be well thought out, with Claire and Kirk both facing some hard truths about themselves before they can finally reach a place where they are able to move forward and not look back. A well rounded tale that is certainly different from your average romance, a tale of family life, friendships that help you through the toughest times and a story of love and second chances that certainly had me racing towards the finish line without giving up – just to see how things turned out in the end.

Recommended for readers like myself who want something a little bit different in their world of romance now and then.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Abe Books

[xrr rating=3.75/5]

Caliber Seal: GOOD READ!