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review 2018-03-23 09:55
The Highlander's Touch by Karen Marie Moning
The Highlander's Touch - Karen Marie Moning

In 1308 Circenn Brodie, the immortal laird of Brodie, swears an oath to kill whomever comes along with a hallowed Fae flask that's been recently stolen and put a binging spell on.

In present day Cincinnati, Lisa Stone is working two jobs to pay the medical bills for her deathly ill mother. One of those jobs include night cleaning at the museum...Then one morning, curiosity makes her touch a shimmering flask in a recently unearthed chest brought to the US from the Scottish Highlands...and she finds herself flung 700 years back, to 1314 and castle Dunnottar, smack in the middle of Circenn Brodie's chambers.

Yet the man who swore the oath to kill her, the man who lived his life with honor, cannot bring himself to do what he'd sworn to do. And the woman who, in the past five years, had seldom experienced tenderness, care and comfort finds herself falling for the towering warrior.

But there are obligations waiting for her back in the future, and even though Circenn claims he cannot return her, Lisa is adamant in finding a way out of her predicament and back to her mother's side...Even if it means breaking two hearts in the process.

This was the first Karen Marie Moning book I ever bought, it introduced me to the author and to this series. And yes, it's probably my favorite of them all. You know, you never forget your first one.

But what's not to like about this story, really?
It's set in Scottish Highlands (my favorite setting of them all; I've actually visited both castles mentioned in this story—Dunnottar and Brodie!), it features, albeit briefly, the battle at Bannock Burn (providing one of the best quotes in this book*), it's filled with wonderful supporting cast (the Douglas Brothers, the surprise appearance of Robert the Bruce in all his matchmaking glory...), and has one hell of a leading man.

Circenn Brodie, the ninth-century warrior living in the fourteenth-century war-torn Scotland, falling in love with a twenty-first century woman. And the man was barely ruffled, except when it came to the woman, of course, as it should be.
Granted, I'm not really sure why he fell in love with her, she (at least not that I could see) had any special characteristics, except for being "alien" and having a mind of her own. Yes, she's suffered, she had issues, but that was pretty much it. Not much was spent on her character at least not in the way for Circenn to fall for her the way he did.
While many pages were spent on Circenn and all his good qualities (did he even have any bad ones), making him known to the reader so that she/he would understand, empathize and sympathize with Lisa's plight as she stumbled over the proverbial cliff.

And then there was Adam Black whose real identity, as it was revealed, comes as a huge surprise for those who read this book for the first time. I'm glad he's starting to redeem himself after the "mischief" he concocted in the first book (where he was quite a villain) and we're slowly working toward his own story.

This book was a fast-paced, intriguing mix of historical romance and time-travel with a gripping, yet minor, suspense and treason sub-plot, the romance was lovely and heartfelt, the narration was wonderfully evocative, painting vivid pictures of the characters and their surroundings...All nicely intertwined with magical elements and the beauty of Scotland.


Along the Bannock Burn, Circenn Brodie was an animal, merciless and swift. Later the men would claim he vied with the Berserkers in his deadly rage, and epics would be composed in his honor. He was cold and sharp and hard, and good for nothing but slaughter. He lost himself in a blackness so complete that he cared naught if he slew legions, he simply raged, hoping to exhaust himself and gain the respite of unconsciousness, a temporary kind of death.
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review 2018-03-22 01:48
It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian - My Thoughts
It Takes Two to Tumble: Seducing the Sedgwicks - Cat Sebastian

This first of a projected series was recommended all over my Twitter feed as being a fun, sexy read.  And the recs weren't wrong.  :) 

The two main characters were a little different from the norm.  A ship's captain and a vicar.  I liked their characters.  Phillip, the widowed naval captain with the three unruly children is a grumpy, clueless, stern and standoffish fellow who we soon learn actually does have a heart under that disciplined exterior.

Benedict, or Ben, the vicar, is a sweetheart.  Takes care of everyone.  Good humoured and understanding and endowed with a huge heart, he's the perfect foil for Phillip. 

I honestly can't say that any new ground in historical, gay romances was broken here, but it's certainly a fun and entertaining read.  The love story is sweet and believable, the sexytimes are hot, and the children aren't little paragons of cleverness or virtue or old beyond their years. 

I enjoyed it quite a bit!  And I'm looking forward to the next in the series. 

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review 2018-03-21 16:03
To Tame a Highland Warrior by Karen Marie Moning
To Tame a Highland Warrior - Karen Marie Moning

At fourteen he found his father crouched over his mother's battered, bloody body...That same night, his home and his clan were attacked by an enemy clan and Gavrael Roderick Icarus McIllioch sold his soul to Odin in exchange for the strength he needed to save his home, becoming a legend, a Berserker.

Not wanting to have anything more to do with his name, especially the madness his father professed coursed through the veins of their clan—the madness that surely made his father kill his wife—Gavrael became Grimm Roderick, spending the next fifteen years in the employ of the king, trying desperately to forget his legacy...And the beast inside him.

Then a missive comes from an old friend, calling upon the vow Grimm had made when he was sixteen. To protect the girl who found him, covered in mud, hiding in the woods. "Come for Jillian", the missive says and nothing could stop Grimm from racing to the side of the girl who's turned into the only woman he's ever loved. The only woman he could never have...imm from racing to the side of the girl who's turned into the only woman he's ever loved. The only woman he could never have...

This is one of my favorite books in this Highlander. It has it all, a legendary warrior, secrets in the past, determined enemies, and a pair of star-crossed lovers caught in the midst of inner and outer turmoil as they navigate their epic romance.

This book stars Grimm Roderick, Hawk's best friend and captain of the guards and the wish upon a fallen star Adrienne made at the end of the previous book. Because that wish came true. ;)
I loved Grim to bits. What's there not to love about an obtuse man so utterly and completely in love with a woman that it's made him stupid. So stupid in fact, he tries to push her away for almost half the book and almost accomplishes his goal in the second half. Yes, he was an idiot, a jerk and as ass, but at least he had a reasonably good excuse for his behavior (a wrong one, but he didn't know that until almost the end).
So he hurt the woman he loved, and, bless her heart, she endured. Lucky for all of us, Jillian was too stubborn for her own good and once she realized the truth about how the man truly felt for her, she dug in, and refused to be defeated.

I just loved these two together, how they changed from the aloof, poised individuals they were separately, into bratty, sometimes childish, and rather stupid couple that was the epitome of the saying "if he teases you, he likes you". There was a lot of metaphorical hair pulling involved, but once they crossed the proverbial line in the sand, their feelings, their connection was almost palpable.

But because this is a romance and the story isn't short, there were quite a few hurdles to overcome before the requisite HEA, but instead of the story feeling stretched out and overblown (like Beyond the Highland Mist for example), the reader (at least this reader) was so "involved", having come to know the characters, what drove them, what drove the conflict, and having seen what could be, that the pages simply flew as fingers were being crossed that all would end well.

The overall conflict between the McIllioch and McKane clan was also very well done, and rather "realistic" in terms of combating force (compared to the mystical elements involved in the previous book). This conflict wasn't between a human and Fae, but between two Scottish clans, echoing the savagery of the time and the locale in which the story is set.
Though we never got to see a real battle, the "danger" was there.

But what I liked most of all, beside the romance and the main couple, in this book, was the supporting cast, especially Quinn, Grimm and Jillian's friend and the voice of reason in their love story (wonder if he'll ever get a book), and Balder, who made an appearance quite late in the book, but had by far the best lines in the whole story.

Gone were the inconsistencies of the first book, this one was well-written, well-paced, offered a pretty good twist of a bad surprise in the end, and delivered one hell of a romance. I'm still starry-eyed. ;)

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review 2018-03-20 16:45
Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning
Beyond the Highland Mist - Karen Marie Moning

Thanks to a woman's pricked pride, two people from different points in time, find themselves embroiled in the battle of wills...And hearts.

Aoibheal, Queen of the Fae, decides to make her husband, the King, and her jester jealous by talking about the almost mystical prowess (both in the battlefield and the boudoir) of Sidheach James Lyon Douglas, third Earl of Dalkeith. Apparently his appendage and stamina are able to possess a woman's soul. And the Queen claims to have experienced in first hand. Which makes the King and the Fool rather peeved and intent on revenge.

Enter Adrienne de Simone, all the way from 1997, badly burned by a beautiful, deceitful man with a black soul, which makes her hate all beautiful men at large. So what is she to do, when she's thrust back into 1513 Scotland and wed, by proxy, mind you (!) to a devastatingly beautiful (both in and out) man?

This is the first book in Moning's romance Highlander series. I prefer her in the romance author guise myself, because I like my books to actually have a beginning and an end all in one book, but that's just me.

It's obvious, this is the first book, since it sports the many first-book problems. It looks like KMM was still looking for her voice, tempo, and narrative style with this one.

For starters, the conflict dragged on for too long (almost two thirds of the story) and in the end came across as more of a stubbornness issue on the heroine's part than anything else. There was nothing to the conflict really to start with. Sure, she was badly burned, but hating all beautiful men because of the action of one specimen is a bit over the top.

The second problem I have with this story is the fact, the romance doesn't really "register". It's there because it's written, the resolution comes across as plausible, believable and sweet, because of the length of the conflict, so in the end the reader wants the hero and heroine to be together just to end the idiocy of the conflict that's keeping them apart.
Unfortunately, the story is so focused on the conflict and heroine's trust issues that it never lingers overmuch on the characters, leaving the reader slightly bewildered to the fact why these two love each other so much in the end, when the reader barely knows them.

And the third problem is the antagonist, but that's just me, since I loved him in his own book that comes later in this series.

Still, the story is well-written, though slightly underdeveloped, overblown in places and rather plodding in others. It's set in Scotland (my favorite setting of them all no matter the time frame), it features a yummy Scottish, kilt-wearing laird that falls (inexplicably) head over heels for the first woman who resists him (novelty, I guess), and is filled to the brim with wonderful supporting cast.

It could be better. It should be better, but it could also be a lot, lot worse, so it gets three stars.

I like it and I won't mind re-reading it in the future.

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review 2018-03-15 20:30
I Have Come for the Airing of Grievances
Perfect - Judith McNaught

So here's the thing. I love, love, love romance books. I love the HEA, I love the hot sex scenes, I love a guy that is totally into the heroine and the heroine being kick ass. But as we have all said here time and time again, older romance novels are problematic. There are a lot of tropes that just don't get done anymore unless that's a genre that you are trying to market to these days. These book had a whole mess of issues that made me cringe. Then again, this was written in 1993 so I was trying to give McNaught some leeway here, but honestly there was so much other stuff that didn't work that I just could not give this above two stars. I bought this book and have no intention of even looking it's way again.


I think that McNaught's historical romances are set up a bit better than this book though we still have the trope of heroine does something and hero takes it badly without listening that appears twice in this one. We also have the heroine is a virgin and has the best first time ever trope. Let us not even get started on the TSTL kicks that Julie kept getting on throughout this entire book. 


"Perfect" is book two in the Paradise contemporary romance series that McNaught wrote. Book one is "Paradise" starring other characters that appear in this book as secondary characters (Matthew and Meredith). Book two is focused on Zachary Benedict and Julie Mathison. 

Zachary Mathison is thrown out of his family's home by his grandmother. Zack then is able to turn around and become a stuntman (of course he did) and from there go on to acting and directing. He ends up being a highly respected actor and is now in the process of directing his wife in what many are calling an Oscar caliber film. When Zack finds his wife in disarray with the lead actor on the film and demanding a divorce. When a scene involving a gun leads to her death, Zack is then charged and convicted of her murder. 


Julie Mathison is a foster kid that is shuffled around until someone realizes her potential. She is eventually sent to live with the Mathison family in Texas and promises she will do whatever she needs to be the "perfect" daughter, sister, friend. She eventually grows up and becomes a teacher and is happy with her life with her boyfriend (I think his name was Greg) even though she feels like something is missing from their relationship (it's the sex Julie, that's what is missing). 

When Zack escapes from jail he eventually comes across Juile at a cafe, Julie because she realizes he has on new jeans and invents a reason for why he would have on new jeans (no I am not kidding) gives him a ride where eventually Julie figures out that Zack is an escaped convict who then takes her hostage. He just has to guys cause he's so drawn to her. I mean he's been in jail for five years (ughhhh).


That is just the bare bones to this story. We also have a plethora of characters in this one. Why McNaught got into Julie's brother Ted's romance in this one made no sense. That is honestly why this book was so endless and went on for more than 700 pages. She could have just broken up Ted's story and at least laid out the bare bones in this one without taking away from the main story.

That said, Ted sucks and can kick rocks. Most of the men in this story just sit around and either treat the women they supposedly care/love like crap through verbal and sometimes physical abuse (Zack and Ted) or they sit around and decide they know that's good for the woman (Zack, Paul-the FBI agent who falls for Julie, Julie's dad, Ted again (you still suck) or the feel like they have ownership over Julie's chastity (Julie's freaking father). The last few chapters of this book are actually about not having sex before marriage. I could not deal with this many men in my life being that up in my body. 


To wrap it up most of the men (not Matt) are awful and I honestly thought the character of Paul was a freaking chump. Who hangs around someone who is not into you at all?  

Katherine and Meredith were better heroines in my eyes than Julie. Julie is passive through this whole freaking book. And her going from being a virgin to all of a sudden wanting to have sex with Zack, who has kidnapped her by the way blows my mind. I wonder if McNaught even thought of the implications of Stockholm Syndrome? Zack repeatedly makes Julie tell him she believes that he is innocent. I mean even if she didn't believe it, you are alone with a guy with a gun what are you going to say/do? I think that would have been an interesting side road for her to go down. 


The initial part of the book with regards to writing held a lot of promise. I always get annoyed when an author rushes the backstory to characters to get to the meet cutes and all. But McNaught did a very good of setting up Zack and Julie's circumstances. However, as I said above, there was way too much going on. This book did not need to be 700 pages. The flow was up and down depending on where McNaught took the story. Sometimes we would follow Zack and Julie around, then we would shift back to Ted and Katherine, Matt and Meredith, and then freaking Paul. 

The writing in this book hurt my soul sometimes, but hey at least Sam (AMReader) and 

WhiskeyintheJar/Kyraryker are having fun making fun of it.


Some of the passages where I include the percentages just so you can see my notes/comments as I was reading:


1 percent-“If you don’t like my offer,” Margaret informed her in a steely voice, “then I suggest you get yourself a job as a waitress or find yourself a pimp, because those are the only two careers for which you’re fit right now.”



19 percent-"Julie had never before offered a hitchhiker a ride; the risks were far too high, but she decided to do it this time, not only because he’d changed her tire or because he seemed nice, but also because of a simple pair of jeans—new jeans."


So Julie is not smart is what you are saying. Also don't tell me how she doesn't even let men come into her home and she's all let me give a total stranger a ride cause of his jeans


24 percent-"He had tasted her lips and felt their response to him. His starved senses wanted to feast on the entire banquet."


He has literally kidnapped her at gunpoint?! Maybe wait a while on the hot smexy times. 


28 percent-“Have something to drink,” he ordered, thrusting a long-stemmed glass toward her. “Drink it, damn it!” He made a visible effort to soften his tone. “It’ll help you relax.”


Ughhhhhhhh. I mean sure, let's get her drinking so you can do whatever. Gah.


31 percent-“My father is a minister!” she wept. “He’s a respected man and you’ve made his daughter into a public slut! I’m a teacher!” she cried hysterically, “I teach little children! Do you think they’ll let me teach children now that I’m a national scandal who wallows in the snow with escaped murderers?”


You have literally just kissed the dude! How do you go from that to I am a slut?! Also I should not be laughing at this, but I am. 


31 percent-“I’ve spent the last fifteen years of my life,” she sobbed brokenly, struggling harder against his grasp, “trying to be perfect. I’ve been so perfect!” she wept,"


You have been lame and exhausting. I have only been reading this for a little bit, but no, you have not been perfect.


40 percent-"Apparently, she had withheld her virginity from her own boyfriend, who obviously loved her and wanted to offer her respectability and a future. Tonight, however, she was willing to surrender it to an escaped convict who was incapable of loving anyone and who had nothing whatsoever to offer her."


Enough said. 


42 percent-"Her body stiffened with the brief pain, but before he could react, her arms were around him and she was opening for him like a flower . . . welcoming him, sheathing him."


I love how back in the day all virgins in romance land either had the easiest first time ever or were assaulted by the hero.  FYI these two didn't even use condoms. I can't with Julie having sex with a convicted criminal and not even thinking about STDs. AIDS was a thing back in 1993 and my first thought would be men being raped in jail or raping others and ugh this is why sometimes I have to yell at myself to just read and not get all actually about books, but it's hard. 


44 percent"Now she looked at the man she loved"

So much wrong here I can't even.

FYI, you can follow Whiskey's buddy read updates, here: 10 percent25 percent, and 50 percent


The ending was ludicrous. I am not a fan of male characters being abusive to the heroines and it all just getting wiped away. There of course is HEA that honestly I don't see is remotely believable, but hey at that point I just wanted to be done with this. 


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