Sunday, January 31, 2010

Crash Into Me, by Jill Sorenson -- Review


Easily Influenced
OK, I admit it. The fact that Ms. Sorenson stops by here regularly and leaves thoughtful, non-self-promoting comments probably has a lot to do with how her book got onto my radar. I spotted it last week at a favorite bookstore and that recognition undoubtedly made the difference between scooping it up and passing it by.

I've also been focusing on contemps and historicals these last few weeks. I think I'm a little burned out on paranormals and the modern California setting was appealing.

The Heroine
I absolutely adored the heroine of this book, Sonora Vasquez, a/k/a Sonny, alias Summer for this particular assignment. The scene where we are introduced to her is completely fabulous. I don't always go for the device of having a secondary or throw-away character's viewpoint for the intro, but Sorenson makes it work.
...he saw a premonition of his own defeat in those strange, light eyes, and Mitchell didn't have time to blink before Vasquez dropped him, with a blow to the temple so well-placed it was almost a caress.

An excruciating, debilitating caress.
What a great start!

I want to say more about Sonny's character, because it's one of the great strengths of this book. Sorenson builds her character up in complex layers, but in a way that I always feel like I know exactly what Sonny is doing and why. I really *feel* her internal conflict in a way that doesn't always happen when I'm reading. And maybe I'm deluding myself, because I'm never going to drop an FBI agent with an excruciating, debilitating caress, but in some ways I related to Sonny on a personal level-- we both tend to be analytical and deliberate; we make plans that do not account for emotional derailment, but then every now and then we embrace the crash (to belabor a metaphor) and accept the consequences with a certain stoicism.

The Plot
Crash Into Me starts with one count against it for me: it's a serial-killer plot. A creepy, Ted-Bundy-esque serial killer to boot. And there were a few points where I wished it wasn't. But the pacing and plotting didn't allow me time to dwell on it; I was too busy turning pages. And Sorenson manages something tricky: she plants enough information about the murders to built the tension -- we know he's a sick, dangerous, awful man-- and leaves the rest to the imagination -- which I kept a very tight rein on, thank you very much; but I could imagine that a different kind of reader could spiral it into some pretty cold horror.

Plotting, pacing, and tension is runaway success for this book (if I could come up with a surfing term that fit, I'd use it, but I grew up land-locked. Best I could do would be "hang ten..."). It's not a cast of thousands, but the secondary characters are vibrant and interesting and the whodunit aspect will have you mulling the possibilities. Sorenson nails the action scenes and furthermore manages them in a way that seems realistic. Sonny's a "kick-ass heroine" without requiring any superpowers and is realistically fallible.

The other kind of tension works really well too. The scenes between Sonny and Ben were excellent, and true to the characters. On the heat scale, whew. The love scenes show up just where they need to, and let's just say, yumm and leave it at that (I refer you to my rule about letting my kids, my mother, and the PTA read here, LOL).

Not Perfect
I did have a couple of minor problems, but nothing close to a dealbreaker. I thought Ben's character was a little flat, and given that he's "the world's most famous surfer," it seemed odd to me that he spent pretty much zero time surfing in the story. Inside his head, there were references to surfing terms, but it seemed a little bit labored to me. If you require an A+ hero to enjoy a romance, I'm not sure you'd find him here.

The story arc for Carly, Ben's daughter was something that worked OK for me while I was turning pages, but when I got to the end and looked back, I felt like it was resolved a little too easily -- we're introduced to her via a suicide attempt, and I'm not sure that was treated as seriously as it should have been. And while I liked the character of her boyfriend, James, and the way he interacted with the adult characters, I was a little put off by the teen romance.

This might be hypocrisy on my part, but I just really didn't want the physical details between them. I want to say "it wasn't necessary for the story," but to be honest that might not be true. I'm trying to imagine the book without those details, but it might be that without them James would not be as a rich a character.

I also found myself questioning some of the procedural stuff - like the fact that Sonny is put on the assignment alone. Don't FBI agents always work in pairs? If that's not true, then the whole universe of buddy movies just got jolted off its axis...

Bottom Line
Even with a little room for improvement, Crash Into Me is a really solid first novel with excellent bones. Sorenson has the chops for great characters, great plotting, and great tension, and I'm looking forward to reading more.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Internet Ears are Burning

Does that even make any sense? Cathy over at Kittling: Books is talking about me today on her Scene of the Blog feature. Which is cute and original and you should check it out in general, not just because it happens to be about me today. :-)


Monday, January 25, 2010

Lessons In French, by Laura Kinsale -- Review

Everyone's a Critic
I can pinpoint the moment in my reading history when I started reading romances more critically. I started a thread on a forum back in 1999 and traded "favorites" lists with other romance fans. My goal was really the same as this blog-- to find other romance lovers and to chat about the books. What I found was a lot of that, but also some really insightful, literary discussions about the best of the romance genre.

This is the point that I was introduced to Laura Kinsale, along with a few other greats I had missed along the way. Flowers from the Storm consistently rates high on "all time favorite" lists and just has so many layers to it. Eric Selinger, a professor at DePaul University and pioneer in the academic study of romance literature, consistently includes FftS in various curricula, teasing out an allegory to Milton's Paradise Lost while he's at it.

I'm also a big fan of her two related medieval novels, For My Lady's Heart and Shadowheart. Contrary to popular pattern, these are not Britain-centric, but have more the Italian/Venetian flavor of the Borgias and Medicis.


Kinsale Lightens Up
These are some tough acts to follow, but Lessons in French does not disappoint. This book is a bit lighter than most of Kinsale's backlist, lacking the deeply tortured hero that she's so famous for. Don't get me wrong, Trev has his problems and they're not trivial, but we're not talking "I had a stroke and got committed to an asylum" or "I was raised by maniacs from the toddlerhood to be an assassin, no wonder I can't trust anyone," level of problem, you know? It has elements of a romantic comedy, with an absurd little subplot about a prize shorthorn bull. Like any good farce though, the parts that make you laugh are also connected to character truisms that will pull on your heartstrings.

Here's the blurb (from Kinsale's website, this isn't exactly what I have on the back cover of the review copy. Your Blurb May Vary):
She is, after all, Lady Callista Taillefaire, jilted three times in spite of her fortune and her father’s best efforts to find her a husband. Now her greatest desire is to win the silver cup at the agricultural fair with her gigantic prize bull, Hubert. But when Callie’s only old flame returns from his long and mysterious absence in France, her quiet spinster life turns upside down.

Dark-eyed, elegant and a magnet for trouble, Trevelyan d’Augustin has given Callie lessons in more than his language in the past. Her father put a harsh and humiliating end to any dreams of romance with a French √©migr√© scoundrel, however, and Callie never thought to see him again.

Swallowing his pride, Trev has finally come home to care for his failing mother, but his secrets and misdeeds follow him. Callie soon remembers that nothing is ever peaceful with Trev around. The enormous Hubert vanishes into thin air, one of her former jilts comes back to woo her in a most determined manner—and her bull takes the town by storm! In the midst of these misadventures, Callie finds herself falling in love again with the worst possible man for her…

My Favorite Things
The best part of Lessons in French is the chemistry between Callie and Trev, and the pitch-perfect dialogue that brings it all to life. My review copy has dozens of little sticky flags pointing at bits that simply delighted me. I know it's going to be good when I start reaching for the flags on page EIGHT* :
"Come, I know it's you," he said gently. He sat down beside her. "I can see a stray lock peeking out from that prodigious lovely turban."

She drew a deep breath. "No, can you? And I was so hoping to be taken for a Saracen." She tucked at the nape of her neck without looking at him.

"You've mislaid your camel, it would appear."
These are the first words they exchange after a nine-year separation. Isn't that wonderful?

Later, Trev is joking with Callie about his nature. Although there is more weight behind his words than she realizes, I just adore her dry-as-dust response:

[Trev says] "I haven't sold my soul. Only mortgaged it, you understand, at a very reasonable rate of interest."

"I quite comprehend the fine distinction."
The characters of Trevelyn and Callie instantly engaged me. Trev has a big problem in his backstory, one that does, in fact, make it impossible for him to stay in England with Callie -- for once not some misunderstanding blown out of proportion. It is solved honorably by the end, but not too easily.

And in someone else's hands, Callie might have been too Mary-Sue, because she has a deep streak of Just Plain Goodness, shown mostly through her care of Trev's ailing mother. But she is beset by circumstantial problems large and small, and just comes through as so very human. It's impossible not to love her.

Now finally, the plot and pacing of Lessons In French won't let you down. There is an awful lot going on here, but all on a really human and intimate scale. Trev's mother is ill, dying. His French heritage and activities during the Napoleonic wars have made his status in England precarious. Callie has been jilted three times, making her completely notorious through no fault of her own, and all but killing her chances to marry. Since her father passed away, her home has been taken over by the new holder of the title, and she knows that her tenure there is limited. Just when she believes her only future is with her sister Hermione, once Hermey locks up a marriage proposal, along comes not only Trev and his complications, but one of her former fiances with a dubious second chance. Then there's Hubert the bull.

All of these story threads come together in a perfect balance of drama and farce, weighty and trivial, darker and lighter. Whether you're new to Kinsale or a longtime fan, I encourage you to pick up Lessons In French. C'est l'amour!


________________
*on the review copy, the numbers may differ in the final publication)

Acknowledgements: thanks to Danielle Jackson at Sourcebooks for providing a review copy. Lessons In French is available in stores on January 26, 2010.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Quick Plug

I'm not very good at challenges. The quickest way for me to DON'T WANNA all over a book is for someone to tell me that I *must* read it. Even if *I* am the someone.

Yeah, welcome to my inner child. She's kind of a brat.

So anyway, I had pretty much decided not to sign up for challenges this year. I signed up for several last year and promptly ignored all of them, all year long. That takes a certain dedication.

But Jackie is wily. She is offering PRIZES. And it's a short term contest, not a year long one, which suits my attention span. AND it features a crew of some of the most entertaining writers around, The League of Reluctant Adults. If you're not following that blog, you ought to be.

So go to Literary Escapism to get the contest details. Of the 20 authors there, I've read two of them and I've been following Carolyn Crane (a/k/a CJ)'s blog for well over a year. I enjoy her blog writing so much, I can't wait for her actual book (due out in March, it sadly doesn't qualify for the contest).

Mark Henry and Kat Richardson are both local to me and I've had the pleasure of meeting them both at signings. Although I gave Henry's first book a mixed review, I will say that he is hugely funny in person and if you've missed his vlogs, they are worth the click (uh, only if your kids and boss aren't around. And if you're not eating anything.) I also spotted him in the back row with some other troublemakers at a Patty Briggs signing. I totally believe the tagline on the League blog that says:

We're a bunch of paranormal romance and urban fantasy authors who occasionally blog, make filthy jokes and prowl the halls of conferences and conventions with switchblades!


... particularly if by "switchblades" they mean "strong alcoholic beverages and possibly a video camera."

I've also read the first two Graywalker books by Kat Richardson but hadn't got around to doing any reviews. This will give me some incentive to get the 3rd one under my belt and get that review up! Besides being really engrossing ghost stories, they're set in the older part of Seattle near where I work. It was just layers of awesome to go to a signing right in Graywalker's main character Harper's neighborhood:


View Larger Map

Now I just need to figure out which of the other authors I want to try. If you're having trouble too, I recommend browsing through Jackie's archives. Glancing through that list, I'm pretty sure she has reviewed or discussed a lot of them over the last two years!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dancing At Midnight, by Julia Quinn - Review

I think this is one of those cases where I like a particular author well enough to forgive a multitude of sins. Dancing At Midnight is a 1995 title, so Quinn has put a lot of pages under her belt since this one. And often when I go into a favorite author's backlist, I'm disappointed by the skill level of their earlier stuff.

I'll say that her recent books are much, much better. More polished. Less flawed.

But somehow I was still charmed by this story, mostly thanks to the cheerful, sweet heroine. Only slightly quirky and without an angstrom of existential angst, Belle has a personality that leaps off the page without being caricaturish. She keeps her head on her shoulders (so to speak) and doesn't suffer John's foolishness gladly. I liked her lots and lots, and she carried the book for me.

John is OK, but I'm not a big fan of the "I'm not good enough for her, therefore I will push her away FOR HER OWN GOOD" trope, and for the most part John did not rise above his trope. He had some good moments though, notably where he and Belle are enjoying each others' humor and wit-- moments of connection that I recognized from similar good times in my own best relationships. Moments when you're thinking: "this person gets me."

It would be easy to pick this book apart on technicalities but I'm stubbornly going to say: I liked it anyway. If you're a big fan of Quinn's heroines and dialog, you'll like it too. If you're in a highly critical mood or looking for the subtlety and deftness of her 21st-century books, eh, maybe take a pass on it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Short Story Saturday: A Two-Fer on Erin McCarthy

So I read McCarthy's story in the The Magical Christmas Hairball anthology, and I was pretty unimpressed. The basic gist of it was that this witchy girl and uptight banker boy crossed paths the previous year (I'm guessing it was in a 2007 Christmas anthology, cuz I have deductive skilz like that) and ever since have been dreaming about each other. Not that they like each other. No, of course they don't, they're Too Different and plus there's a Big Mis. (More of fair-to-middlin' Mis, really, but-- allowances for page count and all that). However, obstacles not withstanding, these are particular, special, paranormal wet dreams Against Which our Intrepid Protagonists are Helpless. Once real life starts to imitate the dream, they realize they've been having the same dream.

So they finish out the smexy reenactment and decide to live happily ever after. And there's a cat in there somewhere. Um, OK.

When I started "Russian Roulette" in the First Blood antho, I wondered briefly if it was the same author, but didn't think so because this story was so much better. A vampire hero that I liked right away; interesting background color about vigilante slayers, and a pretty good heroine. They had great chemistry together. The story starts off with Alistair rescuing Sasha from the clutches of his ex-wife, a powerful badass female vampire. She has people everywhere. She's dangerous. Alistair does this mostly because of how much he dislikes his ex, and relatedly, because he knows her capacity for cruelty. (She's a badass. Don't forget that.) He's a good guy. Rips the manacles out of the wall, etc. It works.

I won't give away the side plot about the slayers, but I will spoil the ending, because it was so completely awful and disappointing that I wanted to cry. I would really, really like to read the other half of this book that was apparently thrown out in favor of this paragraph-- now remember: Cassandra = the baddest of badass vampire badasses-- to wit:

< Cassandra walks into the bar where Sasha is being held by evil henchmen >

They stared each other down, and Cassandra looked away first.

"[Henchman], let her go. This was a mistake, it was all a mistake." Cassandra swiped at her moist eyes, clearly agitated by her emotions. "And to think that I loved him...it's all so damn stupid."


Then Cassandra leaves.

That's it. *poof* Conflict all gone. HEA. Done.

I mean....seriously? ... SERIOUSLY??!? ...ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? I read 70 whole pages that led up to THAT?? I read fast, but still, Erin McCarthy, I want my half hour back. God.

It wouldn't be so horrible if the story hadn't been kind of good up 'til then. I expected better. I don't even know what to think about her full length stories -- I feel like this was supposed to be a whole book but got accidently whacked at the end and sent in to the anthology editor by mistake. Maybe it would be good if it were full length! I liked those characters! I liked the secondary characters and world-building! But what if I read 300 pages and then it ended like that? I don't know if I can take that risk.


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Check out Literary Escapism for more short story goodness today -- and hop on the link if you've got some thoughts to share.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Disgraceful Mr. Ravenhurst, by Louise Allen - Review

Follow Through!
A few months ago, I posted about how the cover of this book caught my eye. And it took me awhile, but I finally got around to acquiring and reading it. I have to say, I enjoyed it very much!

I'm not sure where I first encountered the idea of a low-conflict romance, vs. a high-conflict one, though I've seen it lately at Read React Review. I love the concept, and I'm finding that I really love a well-done low-conflict romance. I think there's just something about the "OMG I HATE YOU IT MUST BE LOVE" trope that I don't really buy on a fundamental level, although I can still enjoy those books.

So back to Disgraceful. I just loved these characters. While we get a bit of the transformed bluestocking cliche, the hero is also unconventional and an outsider and lonely, though they are both of the same social class. The author did a great job of developing a friendship that unfurled into love. On top of that, Allen has a knack for dialogue that is not only witty and amusing, but revealing of character-- and I love that. I just really enjoyed watching these two fall in love, all quiet and sweet.

Recently, Orannia at Walkabout posted about how your "headspace" of the moment affects the reading experience. While I fully enjoyed this book, I imagine in the wrong mood or more critical readers might find the melodramatic plot a bit eye-roll-y (or as the kids would say today: 9_9 ). I actually snickered when the hero and heroine "came to" chained to a wall in a dungeon. Hee. The plot reminded me pretty strongly of a Nancy Drew mystery. Stolen object, multiple suspects. Or maybe Agatha Christie, right down to the house party with all the suspects on the guest list. TRUST NO ONE!! I will say that I was surprised by the whodunit.

As for the character conflict, it falls squarely in the category of Big Mis, and particularly the "I jumped to the wrong conclusion and now I can never tell him/her that I really love her!" variety which is my least favorite of all. Really. I almost always hate that, and can't think of the last time a book with that plot didn't turn out to be a wall-banger for me. Just goes to show you, you can't judge a book by its trope.

You Kids Get Offa My Lawn!
Maybe I'm getting mellow in my old age or something, but in this particular case, the Big Misunderstanding really seemed plausible. The author wrote these characters in a way that every frustrating wrong-headed opportunity not taken seemed like the only way it could unfold. And made me want to hug them both and fix it. (Uh, yeah, I know about the unspecific pronouns there. Sorry.)

It's possible that I was influenced by a budding RL romance I've been reading about on a forum of friends. The protagonists in question were just getting some lift to their relationship, when the holidays hit and Our Hero had tons of family travel commitment. Cuteness in the form of "miss you" type texts ensued.

The Heroine took a risk and sent the Hero an email with just the slightest emotional hue of the "I like you" shade. When no reply came back immediately, the headf*ck began, with us forum members as audience and Greek chorus.

It turned out that he was pretty sick [external conflict!] and it looks like things are back on track, though of course the HEA is not guaranteed in this story (one can hope though!). Anyway, reading Disgraceful at the same time perhaps made the mental gymnastics that Allen's characters were performing more understandable.

And Bring Me My Cardigan!
It kinda made me feel old though. I had a bit of an "oooooh, aren't they cute" reaction which kind of surprised me.

I guess that's my headf*ck for the moment.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Where Am I, Again?

Normally, in January (wow, this is my THIRD January blogging here!) I like to do a "Look Ahead" post, and compile a list of upcoming can't-wait releases. But to tell the truth, I got so buried in paranormal series over the last couple of years, I've kind of lost track of some of my old favorites, and I thought it would be a good idea to stop and take a breath, and try to figure out where I am.

So, meander through the contemporary and historical shelves with me, if you will, and let's check out a few neglected faves, and try to correct that in 2010, shall we? We shall. (And by "we," I mean "me." Apparently we're using the royal we tonight. Well. Anyhoo.)

Favorite authors that I’ve fallen behind with:

Madeline Hunter:
Already out – The Sins of Lord Esterbrook
Coming in 2010 (January) – Ravishing in Red

Robyn Carr:
Auggh, I’m 3 books behind and there are another three coming out between now and March. What am I saying? Hurray!! A series I don’t have to wait for!

Kathleen Gilles Seidel
A few years ago, I went all through her backlist, titles from 1991 or so through 2002 and loved them. It looks like she’s transitioned more to women’s fiction or mainstream, but I’m looking forward to digging up “A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity” and “Shut Up and Wear Beige” (which makes me laugh, because it’s advice that my MIL a} quoted to me when I got engaged and b} mostly sort of kind of followed. She totally wore beige, though.)

Curtiss Ann Matlock
Two… or possibly three? books behind in this sweet, cozy small-town series.

Deborah Smith
Hmm. Nothing new*, but it looks like I missed one along the way, “Charming Grace.” And as I peruse the backlist, there’s a couple I’m thinking about re-reading, ‘cause I liked them so much the first time.

*However, as it turns out, she’s started in with an UF series. Not a lot of buzz on the web about Soul CatcherJ. Kaye liked it (5 stars!) and Katibabs hated it (one of her “bottom 5” books of 2009.) Guess I’ll just have to read it for myself!

Sherryl Woods
I know I’m caught up on the Sweet Magnolias because of the unfortunately-named heroine “Jeannette Brioche”. I mean, it’s not every day you have a heroine named after a breakfast roll. But I did catch the holiday themed “Welcome to Serenity” 2008 offering and enjoyed it in spite of the wince-making name. Which means I’ve got the “Chesapeake Shores” series to look forward to. Two books out, one due in this month, and more on contract for November and 2011. Woods also has a short in the recent holiday anthology “That Holiday Feeling.” I’m kind of over the holiday anthologies for the moment, but I’ll keep it in mind next year. Or maybe I’ll do a Christmas in July. Hmmm.

Eloisa James
Totally behind on the dukes. Where am I? Jeeze, I’m three books back. Need It List:
  • When the Duke Returns
  • This Duchess of Mine
  • A Duke of Her Own

Julia Quinn
I’m caught up on all of the Bridgertons and beyond (although I don’t seem to be fangirl enough to care that much about the extra epilogues…) but I actually *bought* all the earlier ones from her backlist and they’ve been languishing on the shelf. (I need a better system, because if you’d asked me this afternoon, I’d’ve told you that everything on my TBR pile was paranormal.)

Jayne Ann Krentz
I’m hopelessly confused on where I am with the Arcane society books, which I adore, really, but not only are they coming out in hardback and that obnoxious thing between mass market and trade (does that have a name? The tall skinny ones?) but they’re coming out under two different names. I R lost. I even have a signed one, but I’ve been afraid to read it because I’m sure there’s earlier ones that I haven’t gotten to yet, and there’s others out since that one. Argh.

Mary Balogh
How far back do I need to go? I hate when there’s a rash of reprints. Let’s see, my Need It List looks something like (whoa, really??!):
  • A Precious Jewel
  • A Matter of Class
  • Simply Magic (I think?)
  • Web of Love
  • Devil’s Web
  • The Guilded Web (own it, haven’t read it)
  • Simply Perfect
  • The Ideal Wife
  • First Comes Marriage
  • Then Comes Seduction
  • At Last Comes Love
  • Seducing an Angel

And, believe it or not, Nora Roberts. Once “my” authors go hardcover, I get very mixed up over whether I’ve read them or not. Cuz I read the blurb, synopsis, buzz, etc. but I hardly every buy it in hardcover. Then when it comes out in paperback, it’s all vaguely familiar so I kind of think I’ve read it even if I haven’t. And don’t get me wrong, I love the woman, but it’s not that hard to get her books mixed up. I don’t know what I’m going to do about the latest ones, maybe troll the used bookstores.

I don’t believe in buying hardback or trade unless absolutely necessary (Crusie, Gabaldon, and Carey are currently my only hardcover authors, although I’ve made a couple of exceptions when attending signings. JR Ward is borderline, I haven't decided what I'm going to do about Lover Mine just yet).

Wow, that's a lot of books. And seriously, my TBR pile is already teetering. But you know, that's better than the alternative. Who could contemplate a world where we've run out of books to read? That's my idea of horror.

______________________________
Apology: If I were a good blogger, I'd build links to all the titles and author pages. But I'm lazy and I'm not gonna do it. Google is your friend, dear reader.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Short Story Saturday: First Blood

Last of the Backlog
Clearly, I'm going to have to step up my short story game. I'm almost out of material after only five posts. So I'm going back in time, to January of 2009.

I picked up First Blood just about this time last year, but I was pretty burned out on anthologies after my big antholopalooza event, so it took me awhile to get around to reading it. Even then, I homed in on the Meljean Brook story and just skipped the others. Maybe I'll cover one of those next week....

Anyhoo, Meljean's short stories were some of my favorites from last year's event. Between "Falling for Anthony" (Hot Spell) and "Paradise" (Wild Thing) Brook made a huge leap in the art of the novella. FFA wasn't a bad story by any means, but as I said in my review, there were places where it felt a bit like stuff was missing, like it had been intended as a full-length book and then stripped down. And the series proper seemed to depend more on events that happened in FFA which left me a little confused, because I read the full length books first and then caught up on the shorts.

Paradise, on the other hand, was a tight story that not only stands on its own, but if you skip it, the full length books don't contain confusing references either and that's a lesson learned that carried on over into "Thicker Than Blood."

Thicker Than Blood
You don't have to be a Meljean devotee to enjoy TTB. Although the story fits seamlessly into the series arc, the world-building is just enough to set the scene for this story, and if you only like the full length books, and skip it? You won't be left wondering about references.

While this story is full of details about what it's like to be a vampire in Brook's world, the really stunning part is the romance. Like most novellas, the conflict is simplified: how do you make it work between a "normal" human (whatever that is) and an undead vampire? TTB is an intensely emotional story about love lost and then found again; about how to be strong and how to be vulnerable; and-- since it's a paranormal-- also about kicking some powerfully evil ass against staggering odds.

Annie is a character I fell in love with. She needs to protect the human family she loves but aches every day for what she lost with them. She faces the Really Big Bad with no real expectation of surviving, but has a powerful need to protect others weaker than she is. It's hard to explain, but my heart just broke for how sad and lost she was at the beginning of the story.

Bottom Line
If you like Meljean Brook, or good short fiction, or fun PNR/UF stories--and of course, wonderful romance-- this one has you covered on all fronts.

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