The Measure of Katie Calloway by Serena Miller

  • The Measure of Katie Calloway by Serena B. MillerTitle:  The Measure of Katie Calloway
  • Author: Serena Miller
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical, Inspirational
  • Publisher:  Fleming H. Revell Company, October 2011
  • Source: Amazon, $9.68
  • Length: 316 pages
  • Trope(s): Trust Issues, Guilt Issues, Very Convenient Coincidences, Beta Hero, Damsel in Distress
  • Quick blurb: Wife fleeing abusive husband finds sanctuary – physical and spiritual – in a Michigan lumber camp.
  • Quick review: Miller is a relatively new inspie author, and I think this is a good effort – but not quite award-worthy.
  • Grade: B-

The Lord of rain and sky and earth and fire had heard the prayers of the women and children and rough loggers and had chosen to save them.

This RITA-nominated inspie had a fantastic setting and compelling characters, but between the Info-Dumping and the Very Convenient Coincidences, most of my notes and highlights were of the “oh, really?” variety.

I was also bothered by passages like these:

…She found herself almost envious of her own former slaves. They were now free, but there would be no war fought to emancipate her.

…She soon found out that most plantation wives were as trapped as the slaves who served them.

Read the full review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books >>

Cheap is Good, Free is Better

I’m going to try to make this a recurring feature, because I have a kajillion freebies and 99-centers in my stupidly overwhelming TBR queue.

These are all Kindle books, but none are Amazon-only. Images link to Goodreads.

*~*~* FREE *~*~*

If It Ain't Love by Tamara Allen

If It Ain’t Love by Tamara Allen
M/M romance set in Depression-era New York City.
EVERYONE should read this because it’s FLAWLESS.

Beautiful Mess by Lucy V. Morgan

Beautiful Mess by Lucy V. Morgan
Goofy housemates help jilted heroine rebound.
This is UTTERLY HILARIOUS and RIDICULOUSLY SEXY.

Still Life with Murder by P.B. Ryan

Still Life with Murder by P.B. Ryan
First in the Gilded Age/Nell Sweeney
historical mystery series, with a
kick-ass governess/detective heroine
and one of the best flawed heroes ever.
AND…the other books are only $3.99.

Maid for Love by Marie Force

Maid for Love by Marie Force
First in the McCarthys of Gansett Island series
– this is my favorite because of the chemistry
between the hero and reluctant heroine.

Safe With Me by Shaina Richmond

Safe With Me: The Beginning by Shaina Richmond
First installment of a serial erotic romance –
the complete series is available for only $4.99.
READ THIS because is it SEXY AS ALL HELL
and the writing will SUCK YOU IN.

Collision Course by K.A. Mitchell

Collision Course by K.A. Mitchell
M/M romance with a truly memorable couple.
This is my favorite K.A. Mitchell.

Georgiana Darcy's Diary by Anna Elliott

Georgiana Darcy’s Diary by Anna Elliott
My second-favorite Austen spin-off.
Trust me, this is really enjoyable.

Pole Star by Josephine Myles

Pole Star by Josephine Myles
Fun novella about a stripper who
finds love in the emergency room.

The Wary Widow by Jerrica Knight-Catania

The Wary Widow by Jerrica Knight-Catania
I’ve enjoyed all her books, and this is my
favorite – even though it has twin-switching.

Intentions of the Earl by Rose Gordon

Intentions of the Earl by Rose Gordon
This isn’t my favorite by Rose Gordon,
but it’s a good kick-off to the better sequels.

*~*~* 99 cents *~*~*

The 51st Thursday by Mercy Celeste

The 51st Thursday by Mercy Celeste
This M/M romance is STEAMY – and not just
because the heroes are trapped by a hurricane.

The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan
*~* SWOON *~*

Once Upon a Winter's Eve by Tessa Dare

Once Upon a Winter’s Eve by Tessa Dare
I have MAJOR author crush on Tessa Dare.
And she JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER.

The Hanover Square Affair by Ashley Gardner

The Hanover Square Affair by Ashley Gardner
First in the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series
by the author also known as Jennifer Ashley.
Wounded war hero becomes a reluctant investigator
– great secondary characters and a kick-ass
love interest who appears in a later book.
This first one isn’t my favorite, but the damn
series JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER.
AND…the other books are only $2.99 or less.

The Temporary Earl by Blair Bancroft

The Temporary Earl by Blair Bancroft
Really good Regency with a non-titled
hero and a smart-ass heroine.

Second Son of a Duke by Gwen Hayes

Second Son of a Duke by Gwen Hayes
Hayes is a noted YA author, but I
wish she would write more like this.

The Lesson Plan by Jackie Barbosa

The Lesson Plan by Jackie Barbosa
Holy CRAP, this novella is SMO. KING. HOT.
I’ve read this at least five times.

Her Sudden Groom by Rose Gordon

Her Sudden Groom by Rose Gordon
My favorite by this author because of
the deliciously nerdy and clueless hero.

First Impressions by Josephine Myles

First Impressions by Josephine Myles
Yeah, that author crush thing again,
because she makes the “strangers
on a train” trope work like magic.

Storming the Castle by Eloisa James

Storming the Castle by Eloisa James
I wish all her books were as romantic
and tightly written as this.

One-Quote Review: Complete Faith by Sue Brown

  • Complete Faith by Sue BrownTitle: Complete Faith
  • Author: Sue Brown
  • Series: Morning Report, Book 2
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, M/M
  • Publisher: Dreamspinner Press, April 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($5.38 ebook)
  • Length: 240 pages
  • Trope(s): Coming Out, Cowboys, Virgin
  • Quick blurb: Preacher inspires young ranch hand to come out of the closet.
  • Quick review: Not a lot of emotional depth considering the race and religion themes.
  • Grade: C

The pastor of St. Mark’s was a walking wet dream as far as Tommy was concerned: smooth chocolate skin that fascinated him, and huge dark eyes that seemed to know everything there was to know about him.

I LOVED that one of the heroes was a gay black preacher, but the characters and storytelling seemed really simplistic and superficial, and even the sex was perfunctory. I was expecting a lot more emotion, both romantically and spiritually – Marie Sexton’s Between Sinners and Saints set my expectations, and Complete Faith just felt completely lackluster in comparison.

The Sheikh’s Redemption by Olivia Gates

  • The Sheikh's Redemption by Olivia GatesTitle: The Sheikh’s Redemption
  • Author: Olivia Gates
  • Category/Series: Desire; Desert Nights, Book 1
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Harlequin, June 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 192 pages
  • Trope(s): Alpha Male, Twins, Misogyny, Reunited, Revenge, Big Misunderstandings, I Hate You Except When We Kiss
  • Quick blurb: I assume the hero grovels for forgiveness at some point, but I didn’t get that far.
  • Quick review: I am sooooo not the right audience for this kind of book.
  • Grade: DNF

His face had been carved with lines of untrammeled power and ruthlessness. He’d become a god of virility and sensuality, hewn from the essence of both. As harsh as the desert’s terrain, as menacing at its nights. And as brutally, searingly, freezingly magnificent.

Once again, I really tried, but I just couldn’t do it. Asshole prince is an asshole who causes the heroine’s supposedly brilliant brains to melt and leak out of her various orifices. I liked the hero’s jealous twin (“Mother always loved you best!”) much better.

I bought an Intrigue sheikh book a few months ago that I’m hoping is more my style – the princely hero awakens from a COMA on a RANCH and has to protect his SECRET UNBORN BABY when SHOTS RING OUT even though he has AMNESIA. How can that NOT be brilliant??? Stay tuned!

Season for Love by Marie Force

  • Season for Love by Marie ForceTitle: Season for Love
  • Author: Marie Force
  • Series: The McCarthys of Gansett Island, Book 6
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: HTJB, Inc., June 2012
  • Source: Amazon, $3.99 ebook
  • Length: 296 pages
  • Trope(s): Small Town, Rebound, Tragic Past, Pregnant Heroine
  • Quick blurb: Musician with Tragic Past and wanderlust falls for pregnant lady who’s not divorced yet.
  • Quick review: Disappointing, but I’m not ready to give up on this series yet.
  • Grade: C-

I feel so guilty giving this only C-, but it just didn’t work for me. I’m so guilt-ridden that this review is more than a little rambling and more than a little spoilery….

I loved the main characters of the previous books in the Gansett Island series, but their completely sappy anecdotes in this book just interrupted the flow of the story and completely threw me out of my reading trance several times.

Anyone who hasn’t read the other books in the series will have NO clue who these people are, and it’s a waste of exposition to give us their backstories. Readers like me who have devoured the previous books already know that McCarthys & Friends have the most romantic, sex-filled marriages ever, and one book for each couple is enough.

And then we get more Tiffany and Blaine. And now Carolina and Seamus. And now Dan and Kara. And soon Jenny and whoever (probably Adam). It’s just too many couples to care about, and I don’t want to have to choose which chapters to skip.

I’m also getting very frustrated with the continuing emphasis on the “Let’s Rebound Into A New Relationship With No Downtime Whatsoever!” theme. Janey. Sydney. Laura. Tiffany. I think the tourist brochures for Gansett Island must have a tagline like “Where Fabulous Single Men Appear Out Of Nowhere Whenever A Damsel In Distress Needs One.”

Laura and Owen actually do discuss “she can’t live without a man” (a thought planted by the Evil Ex-Husband), but it’s quickly glossed over and forgotten. As a divorced single parent, I get *really* tetchy reading romances that ignore the struggle for self-esteem and self-sufficiency or treat it as an afterthought.

I’m also confused about Jenny the Lighthouse Keeper. We get an entire chapter of her sob story at the beginning, and then she’s reduced to cameo appearances in two throwaway scenes. I know it’s setting her up for her own storyline, but why include the tragic backstory here? And a “Tell Us Your Life Story” essay question might be believable for a college application, but not for a job.

I’m not ready to give up on this series yet, but I hope the next installment features more relationship building and less soap opera.

More Harlequin Categories: Intrigue, Special Edition and American Romance

In which I reference an Alfred Hitchcock movie and fuss about more misogyny-disguised-as-romance.

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Wrangled by B.J. Daniels

  • Wrangled by B.J. DanielsTitle: Wrangled
  • Author: B.J. Daniels
  • Category/Series: Intrigue; Whitehorse, MT: Chisholm Cattle Co., Book 6
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Suspense
  • Publisher: Harlequin, June 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 217 pages
  • Trope(s): Cowboys, Kidnapping, Serial Killer, Friends-to-Lovers, In Disguise
  • Quick blurb: Something involving a cowboy and a cowgirl, with some wacky not-really-suspenseful crime stuff.
  • Quick review: If this finale book had this much Chock-Full-Of-Crazy, I don’t think I’d survive the entire series.
  • Grade: C

“But that kiss? I was just fulfilling a promise I made you before you moved to New Mexico. Remember?”

The happy couple….

Dakota Lansing is an orphaned cowgirl playing host to her Surprise Step-Sister. Zach Chisholm is a cowboy who…um…I don’t really remember, but he’s definitely a cowboy because his last name is Chisholm and he drives a pickup.

The setting….

The 8,000,000-acre  (approx.) Chisholm Ranch near Whitehorse, Montana, which conveniently features a mysterious graveyard, numerous villain-proof hidey-holes and a water cistern that becomes vitally important to the plot.

The storytelling….

Yowza. In-Disguise Serial Killer Out for Revenge, with bonus Prison-Escapee Minions.  Surprise Step-Sister coerced into doing something illegal that never really made sense. Heroine and Hero identify Surprise Step-Sister’s birth mother with two phone calls and one brief road trip. Surprise Step-Sister and Heroine abducted by Serial Killer. Last-Second Rescue aided by an Airplane Chase, a la North by Northwest:

North by Northwest plane scene

Kinda like this. But not really.

It’s all very exciting. And when I say “all,” I mean there’s a LOT of shit going down on the Old Chisholm Homestead.

Even without reading the previous five books in the series, the identity of the Disguised Serial Killer is blindingly obvious – but really, who the hell cares, because it gives us plenty of fun “Hey, yoohoo, the villain is RIGHT THERE, dumbass!” moments.

The romance….

Hmm…let me think for a moment…. I believe there was some smooching and maybe some under-the-clothes touching at some point, but then The Crazy took over.

The recommendation….

I went with a C grade because this book fulfilled most of my expectations of an over-the-top Harlequin Intrigue suspense plot, but the romance got lost in the dust.

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Fortune’s Perfect Match by Allison Leigh

  • Fortune's Perfect Match by Allison LeighTitle: Fortune’s Perfect Match
  • Author: Allison Leigh
  • Series/Category: Special Edition; The Fortunes of Texas, Book 954 (approx.)
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Harlequin, June 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 218 pages
  • Trope(s): Beta Hero, Secret Baby (kind of)
  • Quick blurb: Sophisticated city girl and scruffy small-town guy, with some baby drama
  • Quick review: Nothing spectacular, but I enjoyed it.
  • Grade: B-

“Problem is—” his fingers slowly inched upward, “I usually make a habit of doing things that aren’t smart.”

The happy couple….

Emily Fortune is the VP of advertising for her father’s telecom company, and she’s desperate to become a mother like her sisters. Max Allen is a brooding airport manager and pilot-in-training who had to give up the Secret Baby That Wasn’t Really His. (Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler.)

Continue reading

Hot Under the Collar by Jackie Barbosa

  • Hot Under the Collar by Jackie BarbosaTitle: Hot Under the Collar
  • Author: Jackie Barbosa
  • Series: Lords of Lancashire, #2
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Circe Press, June 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the author ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 110 pages
  • Trope(s): Beta Hero, Redemption, Revenge
  • Quick blurb: Charming rake finds new inspiration as a clergyman when he falls for a former courtesan.
  • Quick review: I loved Walter the Hot Vicar – and not just because of the sexy times.
  • Grade: B+

And by one means or another, he meant to have her. In the most unholy ways imaginable.

The happy couple….

Artemisia Finch is a former courtesan who has returned home to care for her ailing father. Walter Langston is a third son who finds himself ministering to a small parish after his military career ends in injury.

The setting….

An English village. I kept picturing everything set in Dibley, with a young Richard Armitage as Walter, but without the guy who loves his sheep too much.

The storytelling…..

Sexy and witty, with just enough backstory and angst and villagers and villainy to set up a believable conflict. I LOVED Walter’s common-sense approach to ministry – and I think all the preachers and theologians in my family would agree.

“Often the greatest sins are committed by those who believe they are the most righteous.”

The only thing that bothered me was that Walter seemed to say all the right things at the right time to the right people. His “everything will work out just fine” shrugging gave a lingering impression that the HEA come about too easily – even though it really didn’t. I usually whine about authors not being subtle enough, but I felt Walter’s self-discovery needed a bit more external drama to emphasize his transformation from charming rake to leader of a community.

The romance….

Did I mention that Walter is quite swoon-worthy? When he first started to seduce the reluctant heroine, I was afraid he was going to be a sleaze, but he redeemed himself pretty quickly when he commenced the wife-wooing. Artemisia was a good flawed heroine; despite her ruination, she had her own moral code that gave her the dignity and empathy to resist aiding in Walter’s potential scandal.

And yes, one or two of *those* scenes happened inside the church [*fans self*].

The recommendation….

Holy (heh) crap, this one had me written all over it before I even read it, and I wasn’t disappointed. This is one that I keep thinking about days and weeks later.

And no, I did not ask any of my Reverend Relatives if a vestry or apse or nave featured in any of their romances [*shudder*].