Come inside my world where all I do is read and read lots and lots of romance..............................

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

'Hell's Belles' by Jackie Kessler


‘Hell’s Belles’ arrived in the post yesterday afternoon to my absolute delight. I opened the book at 10pm last night and stopped reading at 4.30 this morning. What does that tell you?

Jezebel is a demon on the run. She’s on Hell’s Most Wanted list and there’s a very attractive bounty on her head. So it isn’t any wonder that poor Jezebel is shaking in her hooves. Seeking refuge in the form of a human, she begins work as an exotic dancer (what else would a former Seducer do?) at the strip club ‘Belles‘. Though she dances for scores of men, she’s only thinking about one, the devilishly handsome and sexy Paul, haunted by a former love.

What a great book! For so many reasons.

The most significant being….I absolutely adored Jezebel. Finally, a heroine I could actually like.

I didn’t expect to like Jezebel. She’s a demon-turned-human, and all demons are evil. But what I found was a very endearing heroine, innocent to all the emotions of a human. She’s astounded to discover that as a human she is actually, well, nice. Constantly looking over her shoulder, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery (yes, I know that sounds clich├ęd but it’s true) and I was with her every step of the way cheering her on. It was so easy to empathise with Jezebel. laughed with her, I cried with her (real tears), I was afraid with her. And it’s been so long since I connected with a heroine like that, since I’ve truly verbally encouraged one to overcome all of her obstacles, and boy were there obstacles for Jezebel!

And what about her hero, Paul? Though there is not as much character development with Paul I still really liked his character. He was the perfect tit for Jezebel’s tat. I thought Paul was seriously sexy, and so sweet, and he treated Jezebel so well, just like a lady. I rooted for these two to get together, they’re so different but work so well together. Paul also had the whole ‘haunted past’ thing going on which I’m a sucker for in a hero. The secondary characters in ‘Hell’s Bells’ are so much fun. There’s Jezebel’s sleazy boss, her fellow exotic dancers, her various acquaintances in hell. Sure, most of them are one-dimensional, but that’s always the case with secondary characters, their isn’t time to develop them in one novel. But I loved them anyway.

Besides being able to write wonderful heroines, Kessler also has a great writing style. She kept me entertained throughout ‘Hell’s Belles’ with so much wit and humour that on occasions I almost wet myself with laughter. Her descriptions are hilarious, her pacing is fast, I never once felt the book drag. And that’s no mean feat. There are so many books out there, written by some of today’s well-established authors that I yawn my way through because of the sluggish pace. When I first started ’Hell’s Belles’ I noticed that there was a pattern of inner monologue and my initial reaction was: ‘that is going to get old very quickly’. But by some miracle, it didn’t. Kessler kept it witty, kept it natural, kept it sharp. I loved it.


Kessler’s depiction of hell was fabulous. She was so creative with the whole hell/heaven system. She gave a whole new lease of life to the concept. And it was easy to navigate the underworld. A key factor in this book is that it is not so complicated where you have to really think to figure out the plot. I’m not saying I’m against complex novels, they are often the best books out there. But I was grateful for an easy-to-follow plot, especially as I was reading into the wee hours of the morning.

Also, something that surprised me, and that can also be attributed to Ms.Kessler’s fabulous writing style was that the whole strip joint/exotic dancer thing did not come across as seedy. Sure Roman, the owner, was a slimy bastard but besides that it was just like any other work place. With girls in g-strings.

In terms of this being a romance novel, I don’t think so. Sure, there is romance there and some hot sex but the book really focuses on Jezebel coming to terms with being human and all that can mean. It says ‘Paranormal Romance’ on the cover but I would say it’s more Paranormal Chick-lit.

And there were plenty of twists and turns in the story to keep me locked in.

Down points? None. Yay!

It may not be the most well-written book on the market, it may not have the most developed characters, but it is so much fun and it is so original, please everyone not prejudiced against paranormals, PICK THIS UP HERE!

And thank you Jackie for writing such a great book! I’m already ordering your second!

Rating: 38/50

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Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Lady Of Sin


I picked up ’Lady of Sin’ on a whim in my bookstore, and after reading the back cover blurb I bought it. I am a sucker for anything that has to do with the ‘scandal and intrigue of nineteenth-century England’, and that is where ‘Lady of Sin’ is set. And that is the last time I pick up a book purely because of the setting.

‘Lady of Sin’ is a tale which centres on Charlotte, a leading crusader of women’s rights and the widow of Lord Mardenford. She is seeking to win the notorious courtroom advocate Nathaniel Knightridge to her campaign and secretly hoping that the man will not recognise her as the reckless masked woman who succumbed to his sexual magnetism at a party a month ago.

‘Lady of Sin’ could have been a good book. I tend to enjoy historicals with a roguish hero and a determined, outspoken heroine. I also love the extravagant language used in historicals, and lord knows there’s plenty of that in ‘Lady of Sin’.

As I began to read this book I thought it would be right up my alley, the first chapter held some promise but unfortunately it did not hold out.

The biggest failing for me was the character of Charlotte Mardenford. I found her completely unlikeable and cold. It surprised me that she had the time to think about Nathaniel or anything else as she was so obsessed with championing her campaign. And that got old very very fast. There was also unevenness in her character. It’s very hard to believe that this type of Lady would even know what an orgy is, let alone attend one.

In the first chapter of this book there is undoubtedly some very strong chemistry between Nathaniel and Charlotte. Their banter is filled with underlying sexual tension, and the first love scene which takes place on Nathaniel’s sofa is admittedly quite hot. But then it all disappears. Maybe because by the time they meet again, Charlotte is already making me crack my knuckles.

I suppose the streets of London are correctly depicted as dirty and dark, the class system is very much at the fore as Nathaniel and Charlotte deal with the upper classes’ snobbery towards the poor, and the poverty-stricken children who have to resort to crime to keep them alive. And people not acquainted with women’s struggles for reform in the nineteenth century might find this book interesting from this point of view. But there are other non-fiction books out there that deal with this topic much more efficiently. And it is not the purpose of romance novels to teach history, in my opinion.

The extravagant language I love in historicals was definitely present in ‘Lady of Sin’. But after the first couple of chapters it got on my nerves as I just wanted to get the book finished and the flamboyant language just took longer.

The one and only emotional connection I felt was with poor Nathaniel. I pitied him that he was stuck with Charlotte as his heroine. I found Nathaniel very charming, very sexy. His ‘devil may care’ attitude and his concern for those worse off than him really got me. Although he’s not the most developed character I’ve ever read about, he is the highlight of this book.

I don’t like giving bad reviews, especially bad book reviews as I know authors put an awful lot of effort into their books. But this really was a laboured read for me. I diligently read every word, desperately praying ‘Lady of Sin’ would develop into something great, but by page two-hundred-and-thirty-two I gave up, and skim-read the rest of it, blowing a sigh of relief when it came to an end.

This was my first read from Madeline Hunter, so I don’t want to completely write her off my reading list. I do have another book by her in my TBR stack so hopefully that will be the redeeming factor for Ms.Hunter.

Rating: 16/50

You can buy 'Lady of Sin' here
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Monday, 29 January 2007

'The Holiday'


On Saturday I went to the movies with a friend. The movie which we wanted to see (‘Blood Diamond’) was booked out so we ended up seeing ‘The Holiday’, a festive romantic comedy starring the oh-so-pretty Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz and Jack Black.

The story focuses on Iris and Amanda, two thirty-something women fed up with their lives, looking for escape this holiday season. They participate in a house-swap in the vein of ’Tara Road’ by Maeve Binchy. Amanda flees to the English countryside and Iris heads to Los Angeles to live it up in Amanda’s swanky pad. A romance blossoms between Amanda and Graham (Law) while Iris and Miles (Black) develop a lean-on-me relationship as each try to figure out their love life.

When I got past the fact that I wasn’t going to see the violent seriousness of ‘Blood Diamond’ (bummer) I started to get fired up about ‘The Holiday’. I find Black hilarious (loved ‘School of Rock), I like Diaz’s sense of comic-timing too. I had yet to see a movie starring Winslet that I disliked and as I said above, Law is the ultimate pretty boy.

But this movie did not work for me.

‘Why?’ you ask.

Well for starters, there is absolutely no romantic chemistry in this movie. I would be willing to bet that Jude and Cameron never went out for an after-work drink when shooting this movie. And to be honest I expected this liaison to be the main relationship in ‘The Holiday’. They look good together don’t they? And they come across as people who would get along well together in interviews and the likes but alas, they seemed like strangers throughout the movie.

So what was the main relationship in ‘The Holiday’?

Not Winslet’s relationship with Black, that’s for sure. They spend most of the film desperately in love with other people. For Winslet, it’s her slimy boss Jasper (doesn’t that name say it all) played by Rufus Sewell, and for Black it’s some air-headed model only in it for the money. They come to depend on each other for comfort sharing their trouble over sushi and popcorn.

I found the main relationship in ‘The Holiday’ to be the rapport shared between Iris and the sweet old man living next door to Amanda. The sweet old man is Arthur (Eli Wallach) a washed-up Hollywood director who some big movie people want to award a lifetime achievement honour . Arthur, being an old man, is of course grumpy and doesn’t want any award, but Iris takes over fairy godmother-style as she knows that this award means a lot to Arthur underneath it all. (All together now……………… ‘Awwwwwww’)

The high points of this movie for me? There ain’t many.

My favourite character was Iris, I felt she was the most developed character in ‘The Holiday’. I consider Kate Winslet to be one of the best actresses in the industry at the moment and she did her best with the script. It did irritate me that Iris was so hung up on Jasper when he was such an a**hole, but I think that is true to life. So many women are attracted to men who are bad to them.

I also enjoyed Arthur, sweet old men always get me. But that said he is very one-dimensional, the typical Hollywood sweet old man, grumpy and irritable on the outside but soft as butter on the inside.

And now, onto the bad points.

In short, everything else.

As I already said I didn’t buy Graham and Amanda’s relationship. I think this was because of the lack of chemistry, weak acting on Law’s part and Amanda being completely unlikeable. I just found her too cold, and I could not sympathise with her.

In regards to the California side of things, I wasn’t really into Miles. I hate to say it, but I don’t think Black can do serious acting.

And I didn’t buy into how quickly the relationship between Iris and Miles changed. I mean seriously, you don’t go from being totally in love with someone one day, to flying across the world to spend Christmas with someone else the next.

One thing that really niggled at me throughout ‘The Holiday’ was that there were new born lambs in the English fields. Lambs. In December. But this won’t bother you unless you have a sheep farmer in the family like myself.

And seeing as I saw this on the 27th January, the cheesy Christmas songs drove me crazy, but even if you saw this movie on Christmas Day, I don’t believe you’d leave the theatre feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

Rating: 19/50

Harsh I know, but this really was a dud for me.

But if you don't trust me and think I'm talking out of my arse you can click here and find out all you want to know about The Holiday.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

'Something Naughty'


Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks (January 2, 2007)
Language: English

I was lucky enough to win an ARC of 'Something Naughty' a while ago so I thought the least I could do would be to review it. Judging by the cover I assumed that this would be just like every other erotic romance, full of steaming hot sex and nothing else.

'Something Naughty' is Delilah Dawson's fifth book. It revolves around Tanika Davis, the co-owner of the lingerie and sex toy line ‘Naughty Devil’, and Damon Becker, an executive of Becker Style Business Wear. Damon’s grandmother, matriarch of Becker Style has decided to go into business with ‘Naughty Devil’, a move that conservative Damon is completely against. The conflict between Tanika and Damon in the boardroom quickly becomes sex in the bedroom and other places. What begins as a harmless fling turns into something more, which neither party is ready for.

This book surprised me. For the first few chapters there was a lot of mindless shagging and I thought this would be the case throughout the book. But I was proved wrong. 'Something Naughty' went on to explore the blossoming relationship between Damon and Tanika. Damon wants more than just a few quickies, while Tanika wants the deal to remain just about sex. I enjoyed the humour in the book, the banter between the two main characters. Towards the end, Damon has to deal with a major loss and Tanika is there to help him through it.

What also surprised me was that this book is about a black couple. I was a few chapters in before I realised it, and when I looked at the cover again, sure enough, those gorgeous legs belong to a black woman. Not that it makes a difference what colour the couple is, it’s just that I’d never read an erotic romance focusing on a black couple before. And it was really sexy, probably because some new words were used in sex and banter and that added a newness for me, which I really enjoyed.

When I was first introduced to Tanika, I rolled my eyes thinking “not another one. I thought “oh, yay, another modern chick who only does no-strings-attached sex, wears business suits with stilettos, and drives fast, cold as ice“. These females seem rife in every contemporary romance I read these days, and maybe that is a reflection on today‘s society, but sometimes I would like a break. But I was happy to find that the author delves past the hard exterior into Tanika’s character, as deeply as one can delve in an erotic romance. She lets the reader in on Tanika’s issues with men, her insecurities, her personality. And I really appreciated that. There is one particular scene in ‘Something Naughty‘, after a meaningful session of love-making, where Tanika uses a camera to hide how vulnerable she is feeling. That was probably my favourite scene in the book.

I didn’t feel like I knew Damon as well as Tanika when I finished the book. But that said, I did like him. I found his character very sexy, stuffy in the office, but an animal in the bedroom. And he has a killer body too, which is pretty useful in an erotic romance. I liked that the author showed his relationship with his grandmother, how much he cared about her. It added something to the book.


One thing that really got to me is that the word ‘impaled’ is used in one particular love scene, and that totally threw me. I just hate that word, it’s so ugly. But that’s a personal thing and doesn’t take away from the fact that I really liked this book.

Overall, I think ‘Something Naughty’ is an easy, sexy contemporary designed to keep you reading ‘til the very last page and then to put it on your shelf and totally forget about it.

Rating: 21/30

Buy 'Something Naughty' here and read it on a dateless night with lots of wine.

My Rating System

Okay, I'm trying to figure out a rating system. Because I want to review both movies and books, and a lot of genres, I can't rate everything the same way. I mean what you want in a regency is totally different to what you're looking for in an erotic romance.

So I'm gonna start with my rating system for historical romances, like 'Dark Desires'. This rating system will be used for other romances, but I'll come to that when I review other romances.

Pretty simple really:

Plot-10
Characters-10
Romance, chemistry-10
Language, setting-10
Extras,like humour,different themes,action, originality-10

With erotic romances, I will mark easier on character development and plot, as they are not the most important aspects of erotic romance in my opinion.

Plot-5
Characters-5
Sex scenes, chemistry-10
Language, settings-5
Extras-5

Romance Movies, Romance Adventure Movies, Romantic Comedies etc.

Plot-10
Characters-10
Romance, chemistry-10
Setting-10
Extras l,ike humour for rom coms, adventure, unusual themes etc.

As I go on and review different things I will add to these.

Maria

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Dark Desires Did it For Me


Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Zebra (November 1, 2005)
Language: English
I decided to review Dark Desires first as Eve Silver is a new author and because I actually enjoyed this book, best to start out on a positive note.
Dark Desires is a gothic romance. Set in London, it focuses on Darcie, a young girl who comes to the front step of Dr.Damien Cole, seeking employment. A romance develops between the two when Darcie is elevated from the servant to assistant of the good doctor. But it is not clear to Darcie if Damien is all he appears to be, she is warned to steer clear of him by various people from the butler to her sister.
After reading a series of duds, this was the first romance that I could truly just sink into and I am very grateful to Eve Silver for that. There are quite a few things that I loved in this book. Firstly, I just loved the language. It was so rich and it just transported me back into the past onto the dirty streets of London, where brothels were common, and ladies wore beautiful gowns on a regular basis. One phrase that I loved which I think really caught the Dr.Jekly, Mr.Hyde vibe in this book was ‘His eyes were bleak and cold, his expression chilly as ice-kissed granite’. Isn’t that gorgeous? ‘Ice-kissed granite’.

Throughout the book I really liked the different aspects of Damien’s character. He is very unaware of the people around him, in the sense that he doesn’t seem to notice how his actions might be perceived by others. Damien is involved in plenty of obscure incidents in the book, and he never seems to think that an explanation is needed. I also like the ambiguity of his character. At times he shows so much kindness, and then he can be so cold. We never really know whether he is truly good or not until the end of the book, and you know what, it works. Though some people might have trouble with that since this is a romance novel and there can only really be one ending, can’t there?

Something which I will always remember about this book is the sexual tension between Dr.Damien and Darcie. It was so palpable, that I found it was safer not to read it in public. They struggled to resist their passion for quite a while, the first love scene didn’t occur until about half-way through the book.

But I’m afraid that is where the problem for me lies. After they made love, I lost interest. Not enough to leave the book unfinished. But enough to feel that I wasn’t really bothered if I finished or not. The love scenes were okay, romantic but not out of this world. And after the first love scene the sexual tension seemed to disappear, but I suppose that can be very common in books.

Another problem I had with this book, not a major turn-off, but something that irritated me was that despite all the warnings Darcie still became romantically involved with the doctor. And this little irritation, I think, prevented me from liking Darcie as much as I like Damien. But this is really my problem, because this is a romance novel, and she did resist him for quite a while and the sexual tension between the two was very strong.

And, one more thing that might bother some people is that it is not entirely clear what time period this book is set in. But that didn’t bother me one tiny bit.

For me I think the author’s biggest achievement in Dark Desires is keeping me in suspense about Damien’s true nature. And that suspense kept me reading until the very last page.

Buy this book here and on a very cold, horrible day, read it in front of the fire with a steaming cup of hot chocolate.

Rating: 38/50
Happy reading!
Maria