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28 September 2011

Blow Me Down, Katie MacAlister

Pirates and prosthetics...what's not to love?

This high seas adventure stars, Amy Stewart, a financial analyst with a repressed sense of fun and an overdeveloped sense of organization. So to save her from imminent death by work and boredom, and as only a teen can do, her daughter cajoles and guilts her into trying a virtual reality game called Buckling Swashes. (Which, I might add, is a great name for a pirate game.) The game isn't quite finished yet and teen Tara has an advance copy to try before she interviews the game developer, P.C. Monroe.

With the promise to make officer before she quits and gives up on the game, Amy signs on as Earless Erika (you need a piratical name, right?), dons her VR glasses and gets ready to sail the seven seas.
Once in the game, which was made to be as real as possible, from clothes to food, sights and smells, she begins to meet the various and sundry characters that make up this new world.

She's soon grabbed from behind and hauled into an inn by a very large man who wants to keep her seeing as she's such a "toothsome wench". This idea is shot down by Black Corbin, his captain, who then states she is probably a tart with french pox. Not one to take the insult lying down, as it were, Amy proceeds to threaten said captain with a wooden leg and then beat him in a duel with his own rapier. Nice. As her winnings, she claims one of his ships called the
Saucy Wench. (Which, I might add, is a great name for a pirate ship.)

It doesn't take long for Amy to realize something is amiss when she can't find the glasses on her face to log out of the game. A crying jag in the brothel and game of bondage Q and A later, lead her to understand that Black Corbin is actually the Corbin, the guy who invented the game. Now he is stuck in the game world as well as his friend and developer, Holder McReady. (Which, I might add, is a great name for a pirate.)

The only explanation to their predicament isn't a good one. It seems, for some reason they aren't certain of, his ex-partner Paul Samuels has created some virus that traps the players in the game. They need to either find and kill Paul (in the game) and/or play the game out to whatever end scenario he has written the virus to. Easier said than done, as Paul will try to blend in with the other computer characters in the game.

High seas drama, wacky characters and hijinks ensue! Including, but not limited to, 401k plans for brothel workers, death and disease obsessed cabin boys, fun with food (a personal fave...wink, wink), drooling loonies and full scale naval battles.

Though I have only had the pleasure to read a few so far, I can't say enough about Katie MacAlister's books. Her characters are always engaging and the stories, entertaining. The peoples in her worlds are more real than most, and her humor is laugh-out-loud infectious. You care about Amy and Corbin, Holder and Bas, the working girls...and even Bran. Let us just mention that her romance writing skills inspired this Broad to have a sudden yen for pudding. Mysterious.

So, on my avid recommendation, avast me hearties to the nearest booking-type establishment and procure a copy to peruse. It will shiver your timbers in more ways than one!


The Binder's Daughter, Matt Hofferth

Fantasy Writing, Vampires, And A Dash Of Romance...

The title of this book is somewhat deceiving as the story is told from Michael Allen's perspective. Beginning with his normal young adult life in Chicago and taking the reader through his brutal transition to vampire, this novel continues into the present day where our hero leads a solitary life. Haunted and tortured by the memories surrounding the night he was bitten, Michael maintains a lonely existence, fighting against 'The Beast' and hating the very nature of what he is.

When Michael begins hearing a strange voice and finds himself inexplicably drawn to Kiara, a local young woman with a life almost as strange as his own, a longing takes root deep inside him - a longing that could end in disaster. What Michael doesn't know is that Kiara has secrets of her own, some she doesn't even know she keeps. Together, Michael and Kiara discover the peace of self-acceptance through their unconditional acceptance of one another and find that the very powers that kept them separated and distant from others now bind them together.

Hofferth's vampire, Michael, gives readers a vampire's experience through a unique lens, and this Broad envisions the potential for numerous sequels from The Binder's Daughter. A far reaching vampire hierarchy and structure are alluded to, in addition to shape shifters, spirit binders, hunters, and powerful spirit beings which seek human form. The author did an excellent job in crafting the world in which his characters exist. Hofferth also built tremendous tension between not only the hero and heroine, but amidst the secondary characters as well. Yeah - that's what I said! Book ten doesn't sound far fetched after reading that last paragraph, right?

Michael was definitely a tortured character, much different than the vampires normally found in novels. Private, thoughtful, and NOT a seducer, Hofferth's vampire is not going to appeal to most paranormal romance readers. The Binder's Daughter does showcase a romance, but it is the a romance of the heart and mind, not a steamy-between-the-sheets-magic-vampire-schtooping-bonanza that will wow you! I was impressed, however, with the intimate scenes Hofferth did write. One in particular left this Broad weak in the knees, eliciting strong emotion through the written word. Call me biased, but I wasn't expecting that kind of pizazz from a male writer.

Kiara was Michael's love interest, but honestly, I never became invested in her character as much as the others. Blessedly absent of 'in-your-face-angry-drama', Kiara was likable, but the author left her background mysterious enough that I wasn't able to connect with his character. I was left wanting to know much more. Perhaps that was intentional, as I believe that the author has already planned a trilogy of books on this storyline. I'm guessing he'll end up with more than a trilogy...but that's for another day.

On a fun note, Michael's foil, Matthias was my favorite secondary character. I'm hoping to learn that Hofferth will write Matthias his own story. He was such a 'German Cutie Nerd'! I vanted to haff him kiss me... on the lips!
Perfectly delicious.
This vampire has no issues with who or what he is. He comes across as extremely intelligent and somewhat of a risk taker all while keeping it real with his inner nerd. Sold. I'll take one.

To keep it real here at the Broads, I have to say that I was disappointed with the final battle scene. Hofferth did not let readers fully in on Kiara's significance as a spirit binder, nor did he unharness Michael to let him embrace his power fully and hand out a little 'kick-ass'. Oh, there's action!'s more of a team effort thing, and it is Kiara's guardian and mentor, Keisuke, in the end, who brings the house down. I was cheering for Michael to grab up his existence with both hands and free fall, uninhibited, to gloriously defeat the evil that threatened his woman!

Okay. I'm done with that.

Despite my complaint, I most assuredly look forward to reading another of Matt Hofferth's books. This was a great storyline that hinted at a much more involved world than was revealed in the first book in the series.

The Binder's Daughter receives 4/5 stars overall. (Meaning that I mostly liked the story)
Plot strength - 4/5 stars
World building - 5/5 stars
Supporting characters - 4/5 stars
Michael - 4/5 stars
Kiara - 3/5 stars
Romance heat - 2/5 stars
~ Moira Naveen ~

15 September 2011

Pemberley Manor, Kathryn L. Nelson

The Pride & Prejudice Marathon Goes On!

...Darcy & Elizabeth, for better or for worse...

Pemberley Manor, by Kathryn L. Nelson is the first completed sequel in my P & P marathon.

I have mixed feelings.

Elizabeth was very well written, and Nelson kept close to the original character in her portrayal. The author wrote great emotion and dialogue into her scenes, providing sharp wit and smart interactions not only between Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam, but within each of our heroine's relationships.

Darcy is another story. While I agree with the author's interpretation of Darcy's discomfort and difficulty in openly expressing himself when it comes to feelings, Nelson added a tortured haunt to Fitzwilliam that, while not an unbelievable theme, crossed the line on more than one occasion into emasculation. This did not sit well with this Broad! Darcy's brooding and prideful nature was usually tempered by his love for Elizabeth, and her effect on his moods and emotions matched the character's personality in the original. But Nelson's addition of dramatic scenes of unchecked temper and drastic mood swings into Darcy's bearing when he faced any great difficulty did not align with the slow and steady, logical, self-controlled Mr. Darcy of the original.

The romance of Nelson's imagination was nicely done, and she conveyed the Darcy's passion through well placed innuendo and 'fade-to-black' scene breaks. Also well done was Nelson's litany of supporting characters. Charles & Jane Bingley remained sweet and adorable, and Nelson managed to maintain the closeness of the sisters without having the relationship intrude on her main story. Caroline Bingley got far better than she deserved by the end of the story, but it was well played. Trevor Handley was newly introduced to the story, and I greatly enjoyed his side-story - until the end. While noble of the author to feature a touchy subject with class, the truth is that the time period would have prevented any thought of such an admission, and I suspect that acceptance is not the reaction our poor Mr. Handley would have encountered.

Here's how my first sequel rates - ( I will use a five star rating scale.)

1-star = I did not like it at all.
2-star= Not really my preference. It was okay.
3-star= Average. There were things I liked and things I didn't like.
4-star= I mostly liked this.
5-star= I loved this.

Overall story - 3/5 stars
Elizabeth Darcy - 4/5 stars
Fitzwilliam Darcy - 2/5 stars
Supporting Characters - 4/5 stars
Romance Heat - 3/5 stars

I'll be moving on to another book in the next few days. I can't wait to see another author's perspective on the lives of Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

10 September 2011

Claiming The Prize by Nadja Notariani

MMA and romance, definitely claims the prize....

This is the debut book by author Nadja Notariani, and it is worth the read. It is well written with intelligent dialog, realistic events and well rounded characters. It is especially comforting to have a hero who isn't turned into a simpering "yes, dear" by the end of the book. The personalities of our cast stay true to form throughout. Which, for those who have suffered through "sybil" books, is very refreshing.

The blending of romance with the sport of MMA is also a new twist in the genre. For those who are not familiar, MMA is mixed martial arts. It combines the boxing, wrestling and different martial arts disciplines. Ladies, trust me, it is an eye candy store I love to get lost in! Notariani also reaches a nice middle ground with her descriptive elements. I was not left wanting more, nor was I skipping past pages droning on about furniture, flowers and inane character musings.
It is helpful to remember that this story takes place over a fairly long period of time, with the gaps in between fights of usually 4 to 6 months. Just so you aren't wondering why things seem to be happening fairly quickly.

The story follows Drago Zadrovec, an MMA fighter, who comes to America (from Slovakia) to train with team Anto-Engage for an upcoming bout on his way to a title shot. The team and gym is run by Guy Antolini and his daughter, Grace. They meet and fall in love, marry and have the child they both want. All while dealing with the intense training and preparation the sport demands.

The love story between Grace and Drago is very nicely done and doesn't sway to the melodramatic. We get to know Drago as a strong and loving man. Private and protective of Grace without being domineering and abrasive. Grace has a quiet strength, and her love for Drago is clear and unwavering.
Don't worry if you have no knowledge of the sport; the fight scenes are brief, well written and are easily followed.

Some of the secondary cast are quite something in their own right. Carson Khaler is a lovely mess, Yves simply for being called the Friar and St. Clair's charm have me wanting more. Hopefully our author will branch off and give some of these men their own stories. (Fingers crossed!)

I have to say, being an MMA fan had me already in it's corner, but this was a really nicely done story. I hope that we hear more from this author in the near future.


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