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review 2015-04-14 20:17
Still the One by Jill Shalvis has great characterization!
Still the One - Jill Shalvis

Author Jill Shalvis is masterful at taking flawed, damaged characters and making them loveable. Darcy is hard to love, or she tries to be, but AJ sees right through her gruff exterior and loves her anyway. This is their addictive story with a great catch-up on other characters in the series but it is easily read as a standalone.


Darcy Stone is recovering physically from an almost fatal car accident, but her mental status is yet to be determined. She believes she's not ready to love anyone, even if someone is brave enough to love her. Darcy saves her love for the service dogs she rescues and then gives them to whoever needs them most. She scrapes together the funds to buy these throw-away animals from the two jobs she works.


AJ Colten is the physical therapist who has pushed Darcy beyond reason in order to make her well and he's also now her boss at one of her jobs. It infuriates Darcy that she's so attracted to a man who hardly knows she's alive. Oh, he helps her with her physical recovery but her attitude keeps him far away emotionally, or so she thinks. AJ stays away from Darcy because it's the professional thing to do, not because he's not attracted to her. Quite the contrary, he can hardly keep his feelings to himself, but he'll never tell Darcy that because her brother Wyatt would kick him into tomorrow if AJ hurt his sister.


When AJ's patient, who was supposed to go with him to meet potential backers for his facility, cancels, he's pushed into asking Darcy to help him. Darcy feels obligated and intrigued when AJ offers to pay her money that she can use to buy more dogs, but when she finds out that AJ also did a lot of her therapy pro-bono, she's infuriated that she was never told about his gift. To get even with him, Darcy schmoozes the potential investors, a husband and wife team, into thinking that she and AJ are a couple.


Forced to pretend their love for one another, will they be able to convince themselves there is nothing between them when the sparks ignite?


Since the last book I read in this series was RESCUE MY HEART (book 3), I really didn't have any preconceived ideas about most of the characters when starting STILL THE ONE (book 6). I was also able to begin this book without the familiarity pretty easily. I did wonder about Wyatt and Emily quite a bit, but that's because I want to know their story, which was in the previous book, THEN CAME YOU (book 5).


I chose this book for review because I have an affinity for animal stories and I enjoyed RESCUE MY HEART so much that I wanted more. It met my expectations and amped up my craving to read more books in the series.


Darcy is one of the most interesting female characters I've read about in a long time. She's what made the book for me, but I wasn't impressed with her at first. Darcy has been through so much in her lifetime that she puts up barriers and pretends she doesn't care about anyone except her brother and sister. She's a hardass, plain and simple. Darcy has developed relationships so she's not a recluse and one of those relationships, which is thoroughly covered in this book, is with tattoo artist Xander, her best friend, but her hardened exterior seems off-putting at first.


By about chapter eight, I became acquainted with the crazy off-the-wall Darcy and that's when things really got interesting. Darcy is the kind of friend who can either sink or swim a relationship just with her antics. A lot of what she does is to protect her heart but she seems to damage it just as much by trying to protect it. She's one wild girl when she gets something in her mind and AJ is never quite sure what she'll do next. This proves to be very funny more than once. AJ loves Darcy and always has, but he doesn't intend to follow through on his feelings for her. She's off-the-wall wacky a lot, which he finds irresistible as much as she drives him crazy.


This book is worth reading just for the characterization of Darcy, even though so many of the other characters play a very important role in this novel. Xander and his brother are very intriguing so I hope we hear more about them in the future. Fans of the ANIMAL MAGNETISM series will enjoy cameo appearances of other characters from previous books with a lot of time devoted to Emily and Wyatt, especially Wyatt. Since the next book is about Zoe, Darcy's sister, she gets a lot of page time as well, setting up her upcoming story. We get to know these siblings' relationship with each other rather well in this book so I'm anxious to see it further explored in Zoe's book.


I've come to expect humor when reading Jill Shalvis' books and this novel is no exception. There are some laugh-out-loud funny moments in STILL THE ONE, the scene that made me laugh the hardest is the one with Darcy and a parrot. And let's not forget the cat who gets in on the humor. There's nothing super original about the scene itself but it's the magic of the characterization and Darcy's inner dialogue that makes the scene so funny. That's magic when an author can take something predictable and make it unpredictably funny. There is also heart-breaking sadness that is so worth reading. I sobbed like crazy toward the end of the book when emotions are running high and Darcy is faced with something she never expects. A truly beautiful chapter that will touch your heart and cement Darcy, as a character, forever into your memory.


For those who love animals, there are several scenarios with the service dogs Darcy rescues and then places with new owners. Those are great, emotional, loving moments that will tug at your heart.


AJ is the perfect hero for Darcy even though he has some issues to overcome as well. Their journey is sexy, funny and often heartrending, but that's what makes their relationship special.


I had a hard time deciding how to rate this book because I ended up loving it so much. I concluded with 4.5 because I felt Darcy's characterization was a bit off in the beginning, even though I can't put my finger on exactly why. She surprised me when she and AJ took off on their road trip, this made the book for me, so much so that by the last page I felt that overall I really loved this book. I think you need to read it yourself to see if we're in sync with our thoughts.


If you love quirky, damaged characters, laugh-out-loud moments, heart wrenching emotion plus family dynamics and friendships improved by hardship, then STILL THE ONE should be bought to read right away. While you're at it, you might want to pick up a few more books in the ANIMAL MAGNETISM series because you won't be able to read just one. Funny, crazy characters falling in love, what are you waiting for? Jill Shalvis writes keepers that you'll want to re-read.


Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies and TBR Mountain Range.

Source: www.romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/contemporary/Still-the-One.shtml
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review 2015-04-07 02:02
The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James a Recommended Read!
The Other Side of Midnight - Simone St. James

An exciting 1920s ghost story featuring a psychic and a war veteran who try to outsmart a killer who seems to have a real dislike for psychics, including the one hunting him!


REVIEW: The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James
Category: Historical Gothic Romantic Suspense
Publisher: NAL (April 7, 2015)
ISBN: 978-0451419491
Rated 5 + RR
Format: PRINT ARC read, available in eBook, Audio as well.


Ellie Winter is known as The Fantastique, finder of lost things, a psychic like her mother. When she catches a client misrepresenting why he's come to her, Ellie swears he's a journalist there to debunk her talent. Instead, he's the brother of her former best friend and psychic, Gloria Sutter, who was murdered and left behind a note to have Ellie find her. Ellie no longer talks to the dead, but she can't tell Gloria's brother no when he asks for her help.


Ellie has operated off the radar in London, living a quiet life as a finder of lost things for an income since her mother's death. She lives in her mother's home, wears her mother's dress when she meets with clients, but Ellie doesn't do séances any longer. Running into James Hawley, a war veteran who ran the tests on Ellie and her mother all those years ago to discredit them, brings up so many feelings of betrayal. The attraction she felt then is still there, but Ellie's distrust and anger at James for what he'd done hasn't gone away either. However, James won't stop dogging her and he seems sincere in his regrets for his actions with the New Society for the Furtherance of Psychical Research.


As James and Ellie investigate further into Gloria's death, the suspect list grows and so does the danger. Can they solve this murder without becoming victims themselves?

Simone St. James is one of the few authors whose books I snag as fast as possible. There isn't another author I've experienced, yet, who can bring out the atmosphere of the 1920s quite like this author. Ms. St. James so easily captures the mood and sets a scene for a ghost story with her words that it's like poetry in motion. If you have any doubt, go to the bookstore and turn to page 259 to read the second paragraph. There are many more examples but that one paragraph struck me because I was wondering at that very moment, what is it about this author's talent that fascinates me? I was answered by that beautiful, descriptive paragraph. Simone St. James' apt turn of phrase is always so very original.


Ellie Winter is an engaging heroine. She's smart and yet, has an innocence and curiosity that makes her likeable. Her life hasn't been easy since she worked alongside her mother as a child talking to the dead. When her mother gave up the séance business, it left Ellie in a position to find her own way but not completely, since this is all she knows. She also can't control when the dead contact her, even though she tries to block it. She made me laugh every time she hissed at them to "go away" like they are a petulant child.


The attraction between Ellie and James is so well honed. James has some issues as a war veteran and Ellie is one of the few people who can truly understand what he's been through. I really enjoyed Ellie and James working together and then finding their way into a relationship. James seems like the type of guy any woman would be proud of for his service to his country and his sense of right and wrong. He also has a dry wit that comes out in a few unexpected places in the book that made me chuckle. If you've read a lot of 1920s fiction or enjoy movies from this time period, then you'll be able to picture James as the brave warrior he is with a bit of the bad boy gene in the way that he moves or sulks in a doorway. I could picture him the whole way through because he is so well portrayed.


The villain in this book is unexpected. I was so surprised when I found out who he is because it's such a clever plot that I never suspected. It's so rare to be taken by complete surprise that I think most suspense lovers will appreciate this author's talent immensely.


THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT is exactly what fans of gothic romance will love. Many of us compare everything that Ms. St. James writes to her first book, THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE, as it's such an exquisite piece of gothic romantic fiction. Is this book as good? I think so, but for different reasons. I also feel that we'll never get another book like the first one because it was our first experience reading this talented author. There's no way to bring back that first experience, any more than we can outdo any other first in our lives.


The cadence of the sentence structure is perfect for building suspense in this novel. The sentences are rhythmic, creating suspense with their pace as much as the words and how the story is told. THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT exemplifies great storytelling. You will be enraptured, creeped out, fascinated and surprised—fully satisfied by the prose, the era, the nostalgia and the great characters who make you fret, laugh and cry. A Recommended Read!


Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies and TBR Mountain Range.


More reviews of books by Simone St. James at my website: http://www.tbrmountainrange.com/


What’s on your TBR Mountain Range? What's your favorite ghost story?



Source: www.romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/historical/The-Other-Side-of-Midnight.shtml
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review 2015-03-24 21:51
REVIEW: The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M. J. Rose
The Witch of Painted Sorrows - M.J. Rose

Filled with dark history, ancient artifacts, artists’ ambience, sensuality, suspense and a most compelling characterization, THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS contains the perfect twist Gothic Romance lovers will find irresistible.


THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS is very aptly named as you’ll discover if you choose to read this spellbinding novel. This is the first book I’ve read by author M. J. Rose and I’m very impressed with her eloquence, the obvious extensive historical research, as well as her intricate understanding of an artist’s viewpoint, which all culminate into an intriguing character transformation. It’s precisely the type of dark historical romantic fiction that I love because it’s different, exciting and makes me want to know more about this time period. I relished every word because there were so many beautiful passages, sometimes interspersed with French of which I have no proficiency but loved anyways because it gave the book a realism and passion for this time and place.


American heiress Sandrine Salome flees from New York to Paris, France, in the 1890s to escape her cruel husband. Their marriage was never a love match, but if her father had known Sandrine’s husband’s intent from the beginning, he would have never encouraged their union. When her father’s death is listed as suicide, Sandrine knows that her husband orchestrated it, even if it wasn’t his hands that ended her father’s life. Hoping that her estranged grandmother, a famous French courtesan, will give her shelter in Paris, France, Sandrine escapes to the family ancestral home, arriving unexpected. But Grand-mère isn’t home.


Sandrine’s grandmother’s neighbor finds her struggling outside their home and comes to her rescue, giving her shelter until her grandmother arrives. The neighbor explains that Grand-mère is renting an apartment while their family’s home is renovated. Expecting to be welcomed by her grandmother when she arrives, Sandrine is confused when Grand-mère expresses fear, repeating her warning to Sandrine that she never should have come back to Paris, which is poison for her.


Paris is where Sandrine begins to discover who she truly is, so how can that be poison? We’ll all soon find out as this suspenseful novel takes us through the darkest parts of Paris in search of the truth of her family’s history.


Sandrine is a very light, timid woman who goes through a transformation as she discovers her talents and sensuality. The power and strength she has at the end of the novel is so subtly built that you’ll barely remember that timid, simple but intelligent, creature we meet in the first chapters. Sandrine’s intelligence is proven by her historical and art knowledge that was encouraged by her time spent collecting, archiving and perusing museums with her father, who was very much a philosopher by night in contrast to his banker by day persona. It’s her father’s curious nature that sets Sandrine on a path to follow her dreams.


This novel contains all the things I love about Gothic Romance as a sub-genre with enough distinction to make it fresh. The house is a predominate character, as to be expected, sometimes seeming like a living, breathing entity. Sandrine finds love with her grandmother’s architect, somewhat inappropriate, but you’ll continually wonder if their relationship will just be an affair, as it’s not necessarily a healthy relationship, or one without obstacles that touch on some really unusual circumstances. The darkness is always looming—on the streets, in the house, sometimes in Sandrine’s heart and within other people she meets.


There is a lot of darkness so if you don’t enjoy occult history, this book may make you uncomfortable. It might be a book to avoid reading at night as well, because it can be intriguingly creepy. For me, the occult details were perfectly matched to carry the plot and I love creepy if it makes sense for the story. The author’s research is exquisite and the facts presented are very appropriate for the beliefs of that time so even if you’re not keen on the darkness, you’ll still understand why it’s there. It wouldn’t be this story without it. Another warning, the sexuality is vivid and carries throughout much of the novel but it’s not quite as explicit, or frequent, as it would be in an erotic romance, leaving some but not all to the imagination. This book is most definitely an adult novel, but that is not all it is because it’s not overdone and the plot is so intricately appealing. Since this is a story that includes the history of a family of courtesans, you should expect some realistic historical content to that effect.


One element I absolutely loved was getting a glimpse at what it was like to be an artist in that era. To anyone who has studied art, you will relate philosophically with those characters and crave to paint after reading this novel. There is nothing I love more than to read about creative students in history, reminding me with their camaraderie and experiences why I’ve always been drawn to the arts myself.


Atria Books is becoming one of my go-to publishers for polished, unusual, as well as diverse books I anticipate. A thank you to the editors and advance readers who made my advanced review copy of this novel a joy to read. I can’t wait to find another.


Filled with dark history, ancient artifacts, artists’ ambience, sensuality, suspense and a most compelling characterization, THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS contains the perfect twist Gothic Romance lovers will find irresistible. I highly recommend this novel as a most unusual piece of historical fiction, combined with the ancient dark arts that will spin their magic around you, and possibly make you gasp with surprise. It might even ruffle your feathers a bit, but it’s oh so good to be haunted by such a good tale.


Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies and TBR Mountain Range. ARC provided by Atria Books through NetGalley.

Source: www.romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/historical/The-Witch-of-Painted-Sorrows.shtml
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review 2015-03-24 21:39
REVIEW: Where Secrets Sleep by Marta Perry
Where Secrets Sleep - Marta Perry

A great story with Amish characters but the romance is between the Englisch among them, along with some suspense to keep everyone in this rural town on edge and helping one another through a wave of unexpected crime.


I always sit with a sappy grin on my face when I begin a Marta Perry book. Perry's stories are like coming home to homemade apple pie after a stressful journey. They're sweet and wholesome with some suspense seasoned in to keep the reader turning the pages. The character conflict of a city girl landing in Amish country because of an inheritance creates ambience instantly for some cute situations to lighten the serious nature of the suspense in this latest endeavor. These key ingredients combined are why I began WHERE SECRETS SLEEP with a satisfied sigh.


Interior Designer Allison "Ally" Standish catches her boyfriend in bed with her boss. Now, not only has Allison lost her job, she's lost someone she thought was a good friend and mentor, not to mention her heartache over her boyfriend's cheating when he thought Allison had already left for her trip. How could she have been so blind?


Allison left that day with her cat for Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, after being disrespected by these two people in her life. She had already scheduled personal time off to look over the property that her estranged father's mother, who is the grandmother she never knew, left her in her will. Blackburn House is a historical mansion that is currently being used commercially and Allison is the new owner, per the lawyer who contacted her. Her initial gut instinct is to get rid of this "white elephant" as fast as possible and get on with her life.


Life has a funny way of becoming more complicated than expected as Allison finds out when she realizes that more than one person wants this property she inherited, or she must make it profitable within a year if she wants to keep it. Should she sell or accept the challenge? Someone is determined to convince her to leave, or so it seems, as one thing after another seems to go wrong, including implicating Allison as a criminal. Can there be a new beginning for this city girl in a small rural community, or should she hightail it out of there as fast as possible?


Carpenter Nick Whiting is a single, divorced dad trying to make a good life for his son in the town where his family has a carpentry business. Nick's shop and showroom is at Blackburn House and he's not so sure he trusts the new owner, an outsider, to do what's best for all those who share the space. Blackburn House rents to a quilt shop, a bookstore, a lawyer and a realtor, in addition to Nick's family's business. Nick needs to think of his son first and not follow through on his attraction to Allison. Can he keep his heart closed off to someone who has begun to impress not just his friends and family, but also the young boy he's trying to protect?


WHERE SECRETS SLEEP contains likeable characters you'll find familiar if you love small town rural America and all the intricacies that make it a well-rounded place to live. It's a quaint story that focuses on the relationships of the Amish with the Englisch, exposing their differences as well as their willingness to be compatible as neighbors. There are some references to Amish faith and how it affects their way of life, but this story isn't about faith, or just the Amish, as much as it's about learning to live a fulfilling life. This story is modern but still exemplifies the less modern way of life in an Amish community.


The romance is sweet between Allison and Nick but there is some violence that is typical in a romantic suspense that reads more like a cozy murder mystery. Blackburn House is the perfect setting for a blending of characters from the charming Amish spinster, to the city girl who is transplanted into rural America and is attracted to a handsome carpenter with a cute child, to the meddling Englisch bookstore owner who can't keep his nose out of anyone's business, mixed in with various other characters including some devious villains.


I'm a fan of Amish suspense but I found the originality in this story particularly engaging. The setting lends itself to an almost Gothic Romance feel, without the ghosts, where the house is creepy and especially so when the plot quickens. If you need to relax, a trip to Amish country always does it, even when there's murder and mayhem afoot as in this story. If you're familiar with Amish country, then WHERE SECRETS SLEEP will certainly make you yearn for it.


As the first book in the WATCHER IN THE DARK series by Marta Perry, WHERE SECRETS SLEEP engages the heart. Great suspense mixed with delightful characters you'll look forward to revisiting in the next book.


Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies and TBR Mountain Range. ARC provided by NetGalley.

Source: www.romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/suspense/Where-Secrets-Sleep.shtml
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