Kim H. (rubberducky) - Reviews

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Across a Moonlit Sea  (Dante Pirates, Bk 1)
Across a Moonlit Sea (Dante Pirates, Bk 1)
Author: Marsha Canham
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 65
Review Date: 11/14/2007
Helpful Score: 6


Both this book and the sequel - The Iron Rose - are on my top ten most highly recommended historical romances list. I was never much of a fan of pirate romances - especially lady pirate romances. Remember Fern Michaels "Captive" series? Ack!
Unfortunately, that series all too easily comes to mind when I think of any sort of pirate book. The mere mention of "lady pirate books" would have me diving for cover behind the potted palms. After a long hiatus from Historical romance of any sub-genre, I started reading them again just a few years ago, and on the basis of a great review from The Romance Reader, I decided to give Marsha Canham's pirate books a try. It's probably the understatement of the century to say that I'm glad I did.

Isabeau Spence is the daughter of privateer Captain Jonas Spence, and an amazingly gifted ship's pilot and cartographer. When they come across a disabled and sinking ship, they stop to help the injured crew, completely unaware that they, and their ship, have just fallen into the hands of one Simon Dante, the infamous Pirate Wolf. Dante informs Jonas and Isabeau that he means to commandeer their ship to seek revenge on the man who betrayed him to the Spanish.

This book is set during the Elizabethan period - not my favorite period for historical romance, but Ms. Canham handles it deftly, with great (and accurate) attention to historical detail, and that genuinely old-time swashbuckling feel, more than a little reminiscent of an old Errol Flynn film (take your pick). I think this is probably my favorite thing about Canham's writing in general: practically everything she writes has that highly visual cinematic feel to it.
The naval battles are so incredibly descriptive and well-written, you'd almost swear she has survived a few of them herself. And the developing romance between Simon and Isabeau is signature Marsha Canham engrossing and H-O-T.
The secondary characters are, as always, well-written, quirky, funny, very real, and serve to greatly enrich the story overall.

I highly recommend picking up this book (and the sequel), even - especially - if the pirate-themed romances of yesteryear have left you somewhat under-enthused with the prospect of trying more. This series is everything good pirate romances should be, but so frequently aren't; engrossing, evocative, & highly visual.
This woman should be writing screenplays!


After the Kiss
After the Kiss
Author: Karen Ranney
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 75
Review Date: 11/9/2007
Helpful Score: 9


One of Karen Ranney's top 5 & my all-time favorite books, it has a permanent place on my keeper shelf.
Michael has very pressing and practical reasons to make a suitable, successful marriage to a wealthy heiress asap, but he simply can't force himself to give up the woman he loves - no matter the cost. He personifies everything a romance hero should be. Lots of romantic & steamy love scenes, but not the least bit overdone.
Grade: A+
Sensuality Rating: R


Always to Remember
Always to Remember
Author: Lorraine Heath
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 26
Review Date: 6/16/2009


I liked it but I didn't think it was quite as spectacular as some others did. The heroine annoyed me immensely early on, and some parts of the plot seemed pretty thin. Then it all just wraps up ever so neatly:P Nice premise, but I think it lacked something in execution.
Grade: B+
Sensuality Rating: PG-13


Always to Remember (Large Print)
Always to Remember (Large Print)
Author: Lorraine Heath
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 6
Review Date: 6/16/2009


I liked it but I didn't think it was quite as spectacular as some others did. The heroine annoyed me immensely early on, and some parts of the plot seemed pretty thin. Then it all just wraps up ever so neatly:P Nice premise, but I think it lacked something in execution.


Alyx
Alyx
Author: Lolah Burford
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 12/11/2008
Helpful Score: 4


A terrible, disturbing book. If you're looking for a textbook example of a very bad, old school "bodice ripper", look no further. If you're looking for a classic, old school historical romance, skip it and pick up something by Kathleen Woodiwiss. This is one of those books that stays with you in a very negative way, and IMO, gives the romance genre a bad name.
Grade: F
Sensuality Rating: R


And Then He Kissed Her
And Then He Kissed Her
Author: Laura Lee Guhrke
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 12/29/2008
Helpful Score: 1


An absolutely delightful spin on the typical "Miss Jones and the Boss" films from the 50's and 60's, set in the late regency period. Emmaline is the perfect and indispensable secretary to Lord Marlowe, a powerful, womanizing publisher, but is very much taken for granted. When he once again refuses to publish some of her writing & Emmaline finally realizes that he has never actually read any of her work, she walks out on him, and Harry finds himself and his publishing empire in a mess. Determined to win her back, Harry sets out to charm Emmaline into returning to her job, but when he realizes in the process that he's extremely attracted to her, he decides to persuade her to have an affair with him instead...

A very sweet & touching love story. I gave it 5 stars - It's a keeper:)
Sensuality Rating: R


And Then He Kissed Her (Girl-Bachelor, Bk 1)
And Then He Kissed Her (Girl-Bachelor, Bk 1)
Author: Laura Lee Guhrke
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 301
Review Date: 8/18/2008
Helpful Score: 3


An absolutely delightful spin on the typical "Miss Jones and the Boss" films from the 50's and 60's, set in the late regency period. Emmaline is the perfect and indispensable secretary to Lord Marlowe, a powerful, womanizing publisher, but is very much taken for granted. When he once again refuses to publish some of her writing & Emmaline finally realizes that he has never actually read any of her work, she walks out on him, and Harry finds himself and his publishing empire in a mess. Determined to win her back, Harry sets out to charm Emmaline into returning to her job, but when he realizes in the process that he's extremely attracted to her, he decides to persuade her to have an affair with him instead...

A very sweet & touching love story. I gave it 5 stars - It's a keeper:)


Ashes in the Wind
Ashes in the Wind
Author: Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 41
Review Date: 5/15/2009


One of my top two favorites by Woodiwiss. It has all of the grand sweeping splendor of an old skool romance, minus the gratuitous bodice ripping. Alaina is an infinitely strong and determined heroine - one of my all time favorites - and Cole, for all of his idiotic mistakes, still manages to finish the book deserving her; though it got close enough to make me wonder once or twice:P A great, highly recommended old skool historical romance.
Grade: A+
Sensuality Rating: PG-13


Beau Crusoe (Harlequin Historical, No 839)
Beau Crusoe (Harlequin Historical, No 839)
Author: Carla Kelly
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 100
Review Date: 11/26/2008
Helpful Score: 4


I loved it. A very witty, wonderfully written story. I almost couldn't believe it was meant to be a regency. There is so much depth and dimension to this story. I gave it an A+ and have put it on my keeper shelf. I would definitely read it again.


Bewitching (Bewitching and Dreaming, Bk 1)
Bewitching (Bewitching and Dreaming, Bk 1)
Author: Jill Barnett
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 102
Review Date: 11/9/2007
Helpful Score: 4


A very sweet and romantic spin on the "Bewitched" TV series, and a true keeper. The showering rose petal love scenes were to die for. I had a little trouble with forgiving Alec his big moment of stupidity toward the end, but I appreciated the fact that his behavior was completely in character for him. For a very stuffy & conventional man, quite bewildered by the fact that he has unwittingly married a witch, he comes through when it really counts, and the reader is never left doubting that he loves his heroine very deeply.
Grade: A
Sensuality Rating: R


Bound by Your Touch
Bound by Your Touch
Author: Meredith Duran
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 97
Review Date: 7/10/2009
Helpful Score: 2


An emotionally powerful & engrossing effort by Meredith Duran, but it lacks some of the punch, and much of the originality, of Duke of Shadows. Duran is a brilliant, gifted writer, but this book felt somewhat like watching an immensely talented aerialist opt to use a safety net. Where DOS was daring & innovative, Bound by Your Touch felt all too familiar. However, it's almost petty to quibble about something so clearly exceptional, simply because it wasn't what I expected, and this story is certainly head & shoulders above nearly anything comparable. Where it reminded me a great deal of Jo Goodman's If His Kiss is Wicked, it was also clearly superior to it as well.

Grade: A
Sensuality Rating: R


Broken Wing
Broken Wing
Author: Judith James
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 61
Review Date: 2/23/2009
Helpful Score: 5


A beautiful and emotionally charged story, but too wordy. My biggest problem with it was that everything was just slightly overdone. Some of the more emotional scenes lost a little of their impact to melodrama, and there was too much detail in the more mundane aspects of the story, which made much of it very tedious. About the only thing that wasn't overly detailed were the love scenes, which seemed skimpy by comparison. Even so, this was a very good story. Very unique, interesting plot, fully dimensional characters, and lots of emotional turmoil. I think a bit of very judicious editing to trim some of the excess fat, and it would be perfect.
Grade: A-
Sensuality Rating: PG-13


Captive of Sin
Captive of Sin
Author: Anna Campbell
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 89
Review Date: 1/12/2010
Helpful Score: 4


60% above average writing, 40% overblown melodrama. It's a shame, really. This had the potential to be really great, but the prose is so eye-rollingly over the top corny, I could barely read most of it with a straight face. A tortured hero with a martyr complex meets a doormat heroine, and love miraculously, incredibly, conspicuously, conquers ALL. It has some very well-written moments, but there's just not enough substance there to overcome the silly, melodramatic prose.

Grade: C+
Sensuality Rating: R


The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest
The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest
Author: Anatoli Boukreev, G. Weston Dewalt
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 9
Review Date: 1/21/2010


Interesting in the context of another perspective on the 1996 Everest disaster, but it frequently reads like a 255 page disclaimer. If you're interested in understanding what went wrong on Everest in 1996, there are several firsthand accounts - this book included - both written & in film. I suggest looking at all of them that are available to you, with an eye to understanding, rather than to assigning blame.


Conor's Way
Conor's Way
Author: Laura Lee Guhrke
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 15
Review Date: 7/31/2009
Helpful Score: 4


Often prohibitively expensive to purchase from any of the usual online used book sources, Conor's Way is an early effort by Laura Lee Guhrke (her 3rd book, I believe) that stands head & shoulders above the rest. This book is a post-Civil War historical that reminds me of a really good Maggie Osborne novel.

Olivia Maitland is a woman struggling to care for her adopted daughters in the aftermath of the Civil War. Her hired man has recently passed away, and she is in desperate need of a helping hand with the overwhelming responsibilities of caring for her family and her nearly bankrupt & dilapidated plantation. She prays for help, and soon finds it in the form of one Conor Branigan, a prizefighter and aimless drifter, who Olivia finds beaten and unconscious on the side of the road. Olivia drags Conor home and tends to his injuries, but quickly discovers that he's not the sort of man she feels comfortable with having under her roof. He's prone to swearing and violent nightmares, and when Olivia discovers that he's a prizefighter and a gambler, it's the final straw.
Being a Christian do-gooder however, Olivia is reluctant to toss Conor out on his ear before his injuries are fully mended, and thus the stage is set for a sweet and touching cabin romance that has earned a well-deserved spot on my keeper shelf.
Conor is a very tortured hero with an intriguing past, and Olivia a reluctant spinster (her father's possessiveness following the death of Olivia's mother being the root cause of her spinsterhood), who packed away her dreams of love & marriage along with her party dresses, following the war and some of the more brutal hardships of life. They are strongly attracted to each other for reasons that often seem to mystify them both, but Olivia is afraid to ask Conor to stay, and Conor is blatantly terrified of becoming attached to anyone, or allowing himself to want a wife & family.

Without revealing too much of the plot, suffice it to say that Conor has some of the most valid reasons I've ever seen in a romance novel to fear commitment, so his persistent avoidance of settling down came across in a genuine way. Olivia wants Conor, but is unwilling to press the issue, but when they are caught in a compromising position by some nosy townspeople, Conor agrees (very reluctantly) to marry Olivia, rather than walk away knowing that she faces losing custody of her adopted daughters. Of course, this feels contrived but is still a workable conflict. Olivia feels terrible about it, but she's willing to do literally anything to keep her children, and while Conor is initially angry, he doesn't go to unforgivable extremes in his resentment over being trapped into marriage. And as Olivia's friend Sarah so aptly phrases it: "If a man can't afford to pay for the dinner, he shouldn't even be looking at the menu." - or words to that effect.
In short, Conor may be a reluctant hero but he's a standout at delivering when it really counts.
I gave Conor's Way an A+, and highly recommend it... if you're among the fortunate few who can actually manage to lay hands on a copy.
I'm keeping mine - forever; I will definitely read it again.

Sensuality Rating: R


Dangerous Passions (Kingsland, Bk 2)
Dangerous Passions (Kingsland, Bk 2)
Author: Kat Martin
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 63
Review Date: 8/29/2009
Helpful Score: 4


I feel incredibly guilty for saying it, but I enjoyed this book and had it on my keeper shelf for several years - even re-read it again once. Every negative comment I've seen about it, I'd have to admit, has some merit, but I think old-school romance lovers will greatly enjoy it. By my current standards for a good historical romance, it's almost eye-rollingly contrived, and the prose can be downright silly. But think Kathleen Woodiwiss with a bit of a potty mouth, and if that notion appeals, you should definitely give it a try.


Delicious
Delicious
Author: Sherry Thomas
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 150
Review Date: 7/30/2008
Helpful Score: 23


I stayed up all night reading this book, and was totally wiped out by the time I finished it, but I just COULD NOT put it down. A keeper - probably my number 2 favorite for 2008, right behind Duke of Shadows by Meridith Duran. I cried a couple of times, I laughed, and I was as giddy as a kid at the ending. Sherry Thomas outdid herself this time. This is clearly a Cinderella story, but her tiara is a little on the tarnished side. I loved her, though. And the hero is absolutely to die for. He is so restrained in every other aspect of his life, except for when it comes to the heroine. because he's genuinely head over heels in love, he breaks his every rule for her. You can't help but love him.

This book includes a few of the elements that I found problematic with Thomas' first book, Private Arrangements. There's a long separation of ten years, liberal use of flashbacks to provide the backstory, but I generally think this was not as heavy-handed as I found them in the previous book, and the circumstances between the H&H were so different, things like the separation made sense, and I didn't have that same incredulity regarding true love through a long separation. In this case, the heroine left the hero after one night together, and given her connection to him (which he doesn't know about at the time), it was actually pretty noble of her to disappear. And maybe a little selfish of her too, as he wouldn't have been a happy camper when he found out who she was. He carries a torch for her for ten years, though. And the anticipation of them being reunited kept me squirming on the edge of my seat until it finally happens. And talk about sweet & romantic - Prince Charming keeps her galoshes that she leaves behind for 10 years. Cleans them up, wraps them in tissue and puts them in a box (taking them out to occasionally pine over).

It's too hard to explain the separation & why it takes a while for the romance to kick back into high gear when they see each other again without giving spoilers. And I don't want to give any spoilers because this book is so good, you just have to read it for yourself. The flashbacks meshed well with the storyline. Used sparingly for a few chapters, as needed to give you the needed backstory. The secondary romance was well done too - which I also don't want to spoil by giving away any details. It had a strong storyline without being too much of a distraction, and the main characters' HEA sort of depends to some degree on it working out - or at least you have that sense of it at the time. I didn't initially like the heroine of the secondary romance, but came to understand her, and then grew to like her as the story evolved.

Anyway, I VERY highly recommend getting this one, even if you end up buying it new. It's well worth it. It's going on my keeper shelf - forever. I will definitely read it again.
Grade: A+
Sensuality Rating: R


Devil in Winter (Wallflowers, Bk 3)
Devil in Winter (Wallflowers, Bk 3)
Author: Lisa Kleypas
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 807
Review Date: 8/13/2007
Helpful Score: 17


One of Kleypas' best, in my opinion. Definitely the best in this particular series. A very touching, sexy, and credible story of two people who should be completely wrong for each other, yet somehow manage to prove that opposites really do attract - and for very good reason.
Grade: A+
Sensuality Rating: R


The Devil Wears Tartan
The Devil Wears Tartan
Author: Karen Ranney
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 107
Review Date: 10/2/2008
Helpful Score: 7


I was very pleased with this book, mostly because her last two weren't very good, and I love some of her older stuff. I saw flashes of her former brilliance in this one though. I can't say that it's perfect however. The ending is probably a little contrived, but the love scenes are simply to die for. It has a very gothic feel to it too, which was sort of a nice change of pace from most of the newer historicals out lately, and I loved the romance - VERY steamy & sweet. Overall, I'd grade it at about an A-, and it would be A+ if the ending hadn't seemed a little rushed & just a bit contrived. Other than that, I highly recommend it. I just hope this one means Karen Ranney is back to her old standard. I was getting a little concerned after Autumn in Scotland and The Scottish Companion:P Glad to say, this one was a vast improvement.


Don't Tempt Me (Fallen Women, Bk 3)
Don't Tempt Me (Fallen Women, Bk 3)
Author: Loretta Chase
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 178
Review Date: 7/12/2009
Helpful Score: 13


Loretta Chase is back, and announcing her presence with authority, with Don't Tempt Me, a "Spunky English girl overcomes impossible odds and outsmarts heathen villains" story, and so much more. Chase is one of my all time favorite romance writers, yet I had found her 2008 release: Your Scandalous Ways unfortunately lackluster, so while I was awaiting this release with baited breath, I have to admit to being a tad nervous as well. Thankfully, that concern has proven to be unfounded, and I can happily declare myself to be completely enchanted with this story. I take it as a good sign when a writer can have you nearly doubled over and howling with laughter by Chapter Two.
Don't Tempt Me is hilarious, touching, and thoroughly delightful, if not technically perfect. It has a few minor flaws - chiefly, her choice of villains and his motivations were slightly cartoonish for my taste; I found this fellow a little too conveniently maniacal to be truly realistic, and in a story that was mostly character driven, this conflict felt slightly out of place. Nonetheless, this book will be taking a place in my keeper collection, and I will definitely be reading it again. Everything I have come to love & anticipate in Chase's writing is present & accounted for here. Rich detail in her characters & setting, her signature comedic genius and subtle wit. If I had any other quibbles with it, I'd say the love scenes weren't as detailed as I would have liked, but the sexual tension between the H&H is definitely tangible and goes a long way toward cranking up the heat.

Grade: A-
Sensuality Rating: R


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