Monday, February 15, 2010

Review: Cool Hand Hank

Title: Cool Hand Hank
Author: Kathleen Eagle
Genre: Western Romance
My rating (Max 10): 10

There are very few romance authors who tackle the concept of a handicapped hero or heroine living a life as normal as their disability will allow and giving them a love story with a happily-ever-after ending. Kathleen Eagle did just that in her wonderful book, Cool Hand Hank, the last book in a trilogy.

Sally Dexter, along with her sister, Annie, ran a sanctuary for wild horses on their family ranch, the Double D. Known as Mustang Sally, she was obsessive about rescuing wild horses before they became extinct. Sally struggled against her neighbor who hated horses and was trying at every opportunity to sabotage her ranch, the Bureau of Land Management that made difficult demands; but most difficult, Sally struggled against the crippling effects if her incurable disease, Multiple Sclerosis.

Sally was attending her sister Annie's wedding to Zach Beaudry, both of whom we met in book two, One Cowboy, One Christmas. While there, she met Zach's friend, Hank Night Horse, a physician's assistant and farrier who followed the rodeo circuit.

Hank is a full-blooded Lakota Sioux, with a passion for horses, like Sally's, and a fun-loving dog called Phoebe. He serves as the wedding singer and has Sally's full interest before the evening is even half over. She talks him into helping her and her foreman, Hoolie,
run the ranch while Annie and Zach are on their honeymoon.

The attraction and affection between Sally and Hank grows and deepens as they deal with Sally's various challenges. Sally, whose disease is in remission as the story begins, tries very hard to mask her disease's many symptoms. She succeeds until she is in a one-car accident from which Hank rescues her. Afraid he would not want to be around an incurably sick woman, Sally faces Hank with her illness and gains his love and respect for everything she is plus her courage.

Sally and Hank are completely endearing characters. The supporting "cast," including the two irascible dogs, Babe and Phoebe, are characterized so well through dialogue and actions that they are as "real" as are the main characters. The narrative moves smoothly and quickly, taking the reader on an enjoyable and heartwarming journey.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who appreciates a sensitive and kind alpha-male hero and a plucky and loving heroine who join forces to face the challenges of life together.

Book 1: In Care of Sam Beaudry
Book 2: One Cowboy, One Christmas
Book 3: Cool Hand Hank

As always... Thanks for stopping by. Make it a great day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review: Wyoming Solace

Title: Wyoming Solace
Author: Alanna Coca
Genre: Western Romance
My rating (Max 10): 10

I love this book. It is the story of a battered and abused woman, married to a monster, who engineers an escape from her life of horrors.

Mary Elise Stanton, along with her butler and lifelong friend, Daniel Keane, takes the train west from Virginia to Wyoming. Along the way, she drops her first name and married surname and used her middle and maiden name to reinvent herself as Elise Vickerson.

At first, masquerading as a married couple, Elise and Daniel moved into Elise's recently deceased father's ranch the V-Bar. It was their intention to fix up the ranch, sell it and then have Daniel rejoin his real wife back east while Elise advanced west to start a new life alone.

Elise's plans ran into the tough-as-nails neighboring rancher, Cody Campbell who she knew as a young child before her family moved east from the ranch to Virginia for her mother's health when the then Mary was twelve. Cody insisted that his father, Alan, had purchased the V-Bar from Elise's father, Edward, making her plans impossible. Elise, however, didn't believe Cody's ownership assertion and thus the story-long conflict.

The story covers Elise's life during the next several months: her never-ending fear that her husband would find her, her repairs on the V-Bar along with Daniel and the enigmatic handyman, Joe; and the growing love between her and her neighbor, Cody.

The narrative moves quickly, keeping the reader's interest by not dwelling on any event too long, by aptly describing people and places without giving too much detail, and by having a small cast of interesting primary and secondary characters.

This is Ms. Coca's first published book and it was perfect. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys western romances, strong heroines, and tough but loving cowboys.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Secrets of a Duchess

Title: Secrets of a Duchess
Author: Kaitlin O'Riley
Genre: Victorian Romance
My rating (Max 10): 9.85

Ms. O'Riley's debut novel, Secrets of a Duchess, is a beautifully written Victorian romance with rich characterizations and an unusual story line.

Caroline and Emma Armstrong are orphaned with the death of their father and saved from penury by a titled grandmother they never knew. The Dowager Countess of Glenwood takes her granddaughters under her wing, teaches them how to be "ladies", and gives them a Season with hopes of marrying them off. Emma is outgoing, sweet, and pretty and has no trouble attracting beaux. Caroline is beautiful, intelligent, has a winning personality, but she doesn't want to get married and therefore "disguises" herself as a bluestocking.

At the Season's first significant ball, the Maxwell's, Caroline escapes the ballroom to the seclusion of a balcony. There, dressed in white and swathed in moonlight, giving her an ethereal glow, while she tries to figure out how not to attract a husband, she meets Alex Woodward, the Duke of Woodborough, who also doesn't want to get married. Alex is on the balcony hiding from the Maxwell's spoiled daughter, Madeline, who is determined to marry him.

Alex and Caroline have a friendly conversation during which they share their secrets about not wishing to marry and seal their new friendship with a kiss. The kiss ignites a longing in Caroline which she fights and a love in Alex which he embraces.

Alex makes certain the Maxwells know he will not marry their spoiled daughter, Madeline, then
goes in pursuit of Caroline who had instantly won his heart. Alex was determined to marry for love and regardless of her determination not to wed, he was determined to marry Caroline whom he loved and was certain he could make love him.

At the next major ball, the Talbots', Alex waltzed with Caroline twice, becoming the talk of the evening because the duke never danced with anyone once, let alone twice. That established the relationship between Caroline and Alex as far as the ton went. It was at this ball that the question which drove the rest of the narrative was revealed: Caroline Armstrong was hiding something significant enough to prevent her from marrying. From this point, the narrative drops hint after hint about the secret, until the reader is certain she knows what it is. Ms O'Riley, however, does a great job of throwing in a few plot twists to ultimately surprise the reader.

Ms. O'Riley's slow, steady development of the relationship between the hero and heroine, the conflict between Alex, Caroline, and Madeline, and the crescendo of Caroline's secrets drive the narrative and keep the reader interested and speculating about what is to come.

The secondary characters are nicely developed, their physical descriptions detailed enough to give the reader a good mind's-eye image. Physical locations are described thoroughly enough to summon a picture in the reader's imagination, but not so detailed as to be tedious.

The dénouement was nicely woven together, no deus ex machina was utilized to smooth the weave. Instead, the reader was treated to a suspenceful, twisted ending well worth the wait.

Secrets of a Duchess was an enjoyable read. I highly recommend it as one of those must read books that introduces the reader to an author who gives a fresh twist to Victorian Romance.

As always... Thanks for stopping by. Make it a great day!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sex and the Single Earl

Title: Sex and the Single Earl
Author: Vanessa Kelly
Genre: Regency Romance
My rating (Max 10): 9.95

The second in a series, Sex and the Single Earl is a stand-alone book. Its two main characters, along with some secondary characters, are introduced in Ms. Kelly's debut novel, Mastering the Marquess. Her debut novel was a wonderful introduction to a very talented new author, but the proof of how talented Ms. Kelly truly is, is this, her second book. It is even better than her first!

Sophie Stanton is an endearing heroine who loves deeply, feels intensely, is deeply loyal, and has an unshakeable sense of right and wrong. She is devoted to her family, especially her brother Robert, and she, "loves to distraction," Simon St.James, the Ninth Earl of Trask.

Simon is a hero I sometimes loved and sometimes wanted to shake some sense into. As an Earl, Simon was to maintain and care for his family's estates, but Simon was determined to broaden his responsibilities by investing in the woolen industry and becoming its biggest player. He was so ambitious, he often twisted his priorities and took for granted things he shouldn't have, most especially Sophie's love.

Sophie and Simon had known each other most of their lives. Simon always felt extremely protective of Sophie, but he never realized how much he loved her. It took a number of misadventures, some set up by his jealous ex-mistress, from which Sophie needed rescuing, until Simon realized how important she was to him.

A delightful cast of secondary characters, including spinster aunts Jane and Eleanor, brother Robert and his new bride Annabelle, and impoverished Toby and his beautiful sister Becky, move the always-interesting narrative along. The villains are unredeemable, especially Bathsheba the venomous ex-mistress, and add a sociological and historical depth to the story. Ms Kelly has obviously done impressive research.

If you are a romance fan, don't miss this one. If you are a Regency romance lover, you can't miss this one. Ms Kelly reveals and describes the underbelly of English society in a way Regencies never do. She introduces us to two abused and impoverished characters whom I hope she writes about in a book devoted to them. The "tour" of Bath is instructive--I haven't read about it since Austen's Persuasion.

I gave the book an almost perfect rating. If I had two things cleared up, I would have made it a 10:
1. What happened to Jem Taylor and Mrs Delacourt?
3. Did Simon exact any revenge on Lady Randolph?

Place this book on your must-read list. You won't be disappointed.

Even though I know the book would have a Dickensian bent to it, I hope Ms. Kelly writes a sequel to this book, telling the story of Toby and Becky two characters with too much potential to let their story go untold.

As always... Thanks for stopping by. Make it a great day!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A letter to Slade Debolt

Dear Slade Debolt
From the book Shameless
By Gayle Eden

Dear Slade,

I find you to be about the most perfect man I've ever read about. You are extremely handsome, you have a body that makes all women swoon in your wake, and yet it is your personality that is so completely endearing.

Your humility, loyalty, courage, patience, kindness, generosity, understanding, and tender loving nature are unparalleled. That you like animals a lot and have a good sense of humor only serve to make you more perfect. Your intense devotion to your nephew, and your deep ongoing love of your deceased father and brother and your tender love of Casey further make me adore you.

I know you used to be a rodeo bull rider and now you're a horse trainer. Bull riding seems counterintuitive because of your gentle nature. Training horses seems like the perfect fit. I am certain that once you marry Casey and have your personal life settled, your business will grow incredibly fast.

I am a huge fan of yours and wish you and Casey every happiness that you both so richly deserve.

Your fan,

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Title: Shameless
Author: Gayle Eden
Genre: Sensual romance
My rating (Max 10): 9.7

What can I say? I love this book. It is a small book, and I've read it at least four times. I love the hero and heroine and their love story is sweet and straightforward. It's nice to read a story about two people who meet, fall in love and decide to marry without complications.

Casey Roark returned to her home town after a ten year absence. In the time she was gone, she transformed herself from the ugly, overweight girl who had perpetual bad hair and always looked awful to a cute, thin, attractive woman. But she couldn't change the fact that she was painfully shy.

On her first night back, welcoming her to town was a billboard advertising her old high school nemisis for the office of mayor. Casey became so angry, she stopped into the dance hall, picked up a cowboy and had him relieve her of what she considered her last burden: her virginity.

It turns out, she picked up the town's perfect hunk, Slade Debolt who was drop-dead gorgeous both in face and body. As it turned out, Slade didn't do the one-night-stand thing any more than Casey did. But, for some reason, he did with Casey just that time. He treated her well and after the deed was done, as they had agreed, they parted company without knowing each other's names.

Anonymity didn't last long. Slade came into town every Saturday for supplies and caused such an uproar with the female population oogling him, Casey found out who her paramour was almost immediately. Slade was curious about the mysterious redhead and since they lived in a small town, he easily found out who she was.

Slade shadowed Casey for eight months, "bumping" into her, flirting with her, and finding out about her, but she ran away from him at his every attempt to engage in conversation. Finally, the rodeo came to town and gave Slade, a horse trainer who had horae stock in the competitions, the perfect opportunity to coral Casey into going to the event with him. One thing led to another and the imperfect Casey who wanted to be loved for the woman she was, fell in love with Slade who wanted someone to love him for the man that was underneath the perfect packaging.

The language is graphic. If you're sensitive to cursing and detailed descriptions of intimacy, don't read this. However, if you're looking for a romance between two really nice people, this is your book. It's a quick read, but thoroughly enjoyable. I graded it down only because the editing was poor.

As always... Thanks for stopping by. Make it a great day!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mastering the Marquess

BLOG: Mastering the Marquess

Title: Mastering the Marquess
Author: Vanessa Kelly
Genre: Regency romance
My rating (Max 10): 9.5

Ms Kelly has written a wonderfull debut novel, Mastering the Marquess.
It is a Regency period romance which demonstrates her talent as an author as well as her skill at research into the societal workings and mores of the ton and the machinations required to enter a young woman into a Season and secure her debut into polite society. The characterizations are rich, the narrative is quick-paced, interesting, and arresting.

Meredith Burnley and her half-sister Annabel have been orphans for about three years. Meredith has cared for her sister for years, since their mother died. Annabel has been sick and their uncle and cousin, villains both, threaten to put her in an asylum.

To avoid such a fate for her sister, intensely devoted Meredith steals her sister away to Annabel's estranged grandparents in London. It is there, at Stanton House, that Meredith and our hero, Stephen, Marquess of Silverton meet. For them both, it is love at first sight, but the difference in their social status, Stephen's mother, and the villainous Uncle Isaac and cousin Jacob and their machinations keep Meredith and Stephen apart.

There are two romances in this book, the main one is Meredith and Stephen's, and secondarily is Stephen's cousin Robert and Annabel's. Robert and Annabel are immediately drawn to each other and fall in love. Their romance is on course from the beginning.

There are two other characters, Stephen's best friend, Simon, Earl of Trask and Stephen's cousin Sophia who are too wonderful to be left behind in this book. I'm hoping that Ms. Kelly has their story in a follow-up book.

The narrative has heroes, damsels in distress, villains, and a Cinderella-type ending. Though she seems to pack a lot into the book, Ms Kelly has written it so well that all component parts are seamlessly woven together to create an engrossing, pleasing story.

I strongly recommend this book to all Regency Romance fans as well as romance novel junkies like me who appreciate a strong cast of secondary characters, a feisty heroine, a marvelous hero, and a love story to sigh over.

As always... Thanks for stopping by. Make it a great day!