Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: Heir to a Dark Inheritance by Maisey Yates

After reading and loving Heir to a Desert Legacy, I immediately bought Heir to a Dark Inheritance. The stories are connected, a few of the same characters, but would stand alone just fine.

As expected, I liked Heir to a Dark Inheritance as much Heir to a Desert Legacy.

When I read, it’s for an escape. I don’t want reality. While I usually take the supernatural route, sometimes I need a break from that, and when that happens, palaces and handsome international men of mystery work pretty well. And, no, I don’t mean those billionaire stories where men with too much money prey on young, na├»ve girls then order them to do whatever they want. Not a fan of the billionaire trend. There is a difference between a person who has done well for himself, and happens to be wealthy and a person whose entire identity is how much money he has (I spent my 20s in Dallas, I know all about guys like this and learned quickly how to tell them apart.)

Anyway, point being, I love the men in these books. These are important, powerful men, who happen to be wealthy. This book provides exactly the escape I need. A handsome Russian (I have a huge weakness for handsome Russian men) with access to a private jet, a palace in the desert, a townhouse in Paris. (Paris might be my favorite city in the world, and much of this book takes place in Paris.) Add to that, he’s all of kinds of emotionally insecure. He’s never been in love, doesn’t think he’s capable of falling in love. But we know better.

The story begins when Alik learns he has a daughter, the result of a one-night stand. Having grown up in an orphanage, he can’t stand the idea of his child feeling the same sense of abandonment that still haunts him. So he flies to the U.S. to claim his child. But his child, Leena, is a year old, and during the past year was in the very capable hands of Jada, the woman who was planning to adopt her.

Because he’s the biological father, he’s granted full custody of the child. But as he’s leaving the courthouse, he sees Jada sitting on the floor in tears, her whole world has fallen apart. Already, we have a sign that Alik isn’t quite the heartless bastard he wants the world to believe he is. (Though really, if he were such a terrible jerk, why would he care about what happens to his daughter?) He makes Jada an offer that would allow her to remain in Leena’s life. While Jada doesn’t want to share Leena with this man, she also realizes she has nothing to lose. Her husband died, she doesn’t have any close friends or family or any other reason why she can’t just pack up and leave. Leena was her whole life, and if she doesn’t take Alik up on his offer, she’s going to lose her.

It’s supposed to be a marriage of convenience, nothing physical, no emotions. But eventually the two can’t fight the attraction they feel for each other. I loved seeing how they finally give in to each other. They both are struggling with their pasts and their own expectations about how their lives should be. Jada fears being disloyal to her dead husband and the life they had together, the life she thought she was supposed to have. Alik has spent his whole life avoiding making connections, he’s terrified of the attachment he feels to the instant family he now has.

I enjoyed this book so much. I read the entire book in one day. I had a very rare day off work, and this book was the perfect indulgence. It’s hot and sexy and romantic and very fast paced. I think I might load up my Kindle with everything written by Maisey Yates.

Also, this book gave me a new appreciation for opera, but you’ll have to read the book to understand that.

Review: Down London Road by Samantha Young

I loved On Dublin Street so very much. It’s one of those books that after I read it, I had to tell everyone about it and try to convince them to read it as well.

But when I heard the sequel was going to be about Johanna and not a continuation of Joss and Braden’s story, I wasn’t overly excited. Jo is the bartender that worked with Joss, the one who would have liked very much to get her hands on Braden if given the opportunity because she considered dating to be a job – she only dated rich men who could provide for her and her family. I didn’t like her.

My dislike for her remained in the beginning of Down London Road. I know I was supposed to like her and see that she’s been through so much and she’s only doing what she thinks is best. But still, I didn’t think her circumstances – which were quite awful – justified her attitude about dating. I felt sorry for her, but I didn’t have much respect for her.

Whereas I could relate to a character like Joss in On Dublin Street, I couldn’t relate at all to Johanna. Nor was I all that impressed with the love interest, Cameron. Sure he sounds plenty sexy, but he was also kind of a jerk. I don’t think showing up in a nice restaurant wearing a t-shirt (when everyone else is in a suit) makes a person cool and self-assured, but instead just sort of screams pretentious hipster. I’m not attracted to that type of person, in fact, I’m incredibly turned off by that sort of person. Supposedly he and Johanna have some sort of scorching hot instant chemistry, before they even speak to each other. He’s rude and condescending and yet, her body is on fire every time she glances at him. This only made me realize how little self-respect she had. There’s part of me who feels that I would have found this story a lot more convincing if Johanna had eventually realized the only thing she and Cam had going for them was the hot sex and she dumped him and went back to her nice, polite, rich boyfriend. (I don’t think I’m giving anything away by mentioning that doesn’t happen.)

The first half of this book, when the two characters are just flirting, alternating between hating each other and wanting to jump each other, wasn’t that great. In fact, I was feeling very disappointed with the book. Then it got better, a lot better.

While I never grew to love Jo and Cam all that much, I thought the story became much more interesting. Once the relationship actually begins, the two characters become more likable and the sex is pretty hot. There’s a lot more action and conflict in the last half of the book. There’s also more revealed about their pasts which I don’t want to give away – but helped the story quite a bit. As I worked through the second half of the book, I reached a point where I couldn’t put it down.  Though I could have done without the "silent conversations" - at some point the couples developed the ability to look at each other and read their minds.  What was this, an episode of How I Met Your Mother?  Kind of annoying. 

For the most part though, I really enjoy this author’s style of writing and the way I become so immersed in the world she creates and the lives of her characters. Even when I don’t like the characters, I care about their behavior and want to know what they’re going to do next and why they do it. Overall, I didn’t like the book anywhere near as much as I like On Dublin Street. But I did like it, eventually. I’m glad I read it and I am very much looking forward to the next book in the series.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: Heir to a Desert Legacy by Maisey Yates

Goodreads summary:  Sayid al Kadar was trained from childhood to be a warrior. He's fought, he's conquered-but was never meant to rule... Thrust reluctantly to the throne, Sheikh Sayid is shocked to discover a child who is his country's true heir, and he'll do anything to protect him, even if it means taking on the child's aunt!

Chloe James might behave like a tigress protecting her cub, but this trained soldier can see her weak spot. Taking Chloe as his bride would appease the people of his kingdom, and provide the perfect outlet for the blistering chemistry between them....

I usually stay away from “baby” stories, but the lure of an exotic location and a sexy sheikh overrode my general dislike of babies.  I ended up liking this story quite a bit.

Chloe James thought being a surrogate for her half-sister would be simple.  Sure, it was a lot to ask of her, but she thought she'd have the baby and then get back to her normal life.  Except that her sister and brother-in-law died before they ever saw the baby.  Chloe suddenly finds herself responsible for an infant for which she is not at all prepared.

Because of his brother’s unexpected death, Sayid al Kadar suddenly finds himself the leader of his country, a position he didn’t want and for which he was not trained.  When he learns his brother has a son, he sees some hope for his country, and a guarantee that his own position as leader will only be temporary.

I loved these characters, who were both damaged by their past experiences.  Neither of them had any interest in becoming emotionally involved with each other or anyone for that matter.  They’re logical and practical.  They follow the rules and they do what needs to be done.  They’ve both spent their lives trying to shut down their emotions, avoiding any connection that might lead to pain or passion or some loss of control.  But forced together because of their nephew, they see their flaws reflected in each other.  I enjoyed seeing them gradually break down the walls they’d built up over so many years as they began to fall for each other.

I'm drawn to emotionally stunted characters.  I can relate too well to the need to disconnect and not get involved as an act of self preservation.  Books like this make it nice to imagine that there's a sexy sheikh who would make getting involved seem worth the trouble.  This guy sounds so very hot.  
Of course, I kept finding myself reading the sexy bits at the most awkward moments -- like while waiting for the movie to start, or the car to get inspected.  In theory, having a Kindle has made it safe to read romance novels again, but a Kindle doesn't do much for the flush of heat in your face when things start to get steamy.  Oh well, strangers, never see them again.  Besides, I'd rather my mind be transported to a desert palace than the grungy lobby while I wait for my car to fail its inspection due to a torn wiper blade.  My life is so stupid sometimes.
Heir to a Desert Legacy is a quick read, very sweet and sexy.  I liked it a lot.  I liked it so much that as soon as I finished it, I bought another book by Maisey Yates.  Hoping I can get around to reading that next weekend.
I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley. 

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Review: Wuthering Nights: An Erotic Retelling of Wuthering Heights by I.J. Miller and Emily Bronte

Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is my all-time favorite book. I was in high school when I read the book for the first time, and I’ve read the book many times since then, and still it has a powerful impact on me. I claim that Heathcliff ruined me for all men. If I can’t be loved the way Heathcliff loved Catherine, then why bother? I’d rather be alone. And, well, yeah, you get the idea.

I know there are lots of people who don’t like Wuthering Heights. I notice the way people look at me when I mention it being my favorite book. I believe when it was first released it was regarded as quite awful. They say it’s too dark and the characters too selfish and horrible, lacking any redeeming qualities. But to me, they were simply two people who put their love for each other before everything else. Things like social convention, family and marriage are tossed aside in their desperate quest to be together again. The world stood between them, but even death couldn’t keep them apart.

Reading this as a teenager, I found this book to be more sexually intense than the explicit Danielle Steel books my friends and I were reading in secret. My mind had no trouble imagining what Heathcliff and Catherine were doing while alone in the moors. And when he went to visit her in the home she shared with her husband, I doubted they simply chatted and drank tea while her husband was away. This is why I was intrigued by the idea of “an erotic retelling” of this story that I’d loved so much.

But I hated Wuthering Nights. I hated this book so very much. I wish I had not read this book. It disturbed me, it grossed me out and it made me angry. So many times, I put down my Kindle and said to the empty room, “This is so stupid!” This was not the story of my beloved Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. There was nothing beautiful or passionate about this story. There was plenty of sex, but it was rarely, if ever, associated with love. The sex in this book was there to shock and horrify. It was about control, domination and humiliation. This didn’t turn me on, this disgusted me.

For some reason, Catherine, as a teenager, fooling around with Heathcliff, seems to have transformed into a 90s teen, willing to do “everything but” so as to not violate her purity ring. Not very believable. And Heathcliff is now a rapist, but he’s so impressive that his victims seem to enjoy what he does to them, and keep begging for more. Even with Catherine, who is supposed to be his very reason for living, he simply wants to degrade her, wanting to control her instead of love her. Heathcliff would never have been so coarse with Catherine and Catherine wouldn’t have tolerated that kind of treatment.

Some of the scenes were so very horrible. For no clear reason, Heathcliff decides to start chopping wood outside of Catherine’s house – this is after she’s married. As he’s chopping wood, Nelly, Isabella and Catherine are all in the window – three different windows — watching and masturbating. Catherine strips and presses her naked body against the glass door, in full view of Heathcliff, who simply keeps chopping wood. Then all three of the women orgasm at once at the sight of him taking a piss. Really? Gross.

But it gets worse. Heathcliff has a dungeon that would rival that of Christian’s Grey’s. It’s in this dungeon that he says to his wife, “My cock controls you.” Oh good grief. Then we’re treated to a three-way between him and Nelly and Isabella. This is the point in which I put down the Kindle and said, “Why am I reading this trash?” But for some reason, I kept reading.

The odd thing was, after reading something horrible, eventually I’d get to a part that I loved, and I’d think, “oh, okay, this is getting better” and then I realized every time that happened, it was because I was reading a part directly lifted from the original Wuthering Heights.

I suppose that lovers (or haters, for that matter) of Wuthering Heights all have their own opinion of the true nature of Heathcliff and Catherine. The characters in this story were not at all the way I imagined them to be based on my many readings of Wuthering Heights. My Heathcliff would never, ever do these things. Oh, I admit, he had a fierce temper and the potential to be cruel, but it was fueled by his anger at being separated from Catherine. He would have never treated Catherine the way he did in this book and he wouldn’t have cared enough about the others to torture and control them in this manner. None of that behavior came close to getting him what he wanted, and he wasn’t the sort of man who got sidetracked from his main goal. Now while I do admit to always thinking there was something controlling and maybe a bit kinky going on between him and Isabella – because why else would she have so readily abandoned her family for him? – I refuse to believe it reached the level of dungeons, whips and dog collars.

Clearly, someone who viewed Wuthering Heights as a love story did not write this book. It seems to be more the result of someone who was forced to read it in school and felt the need for vengeance.

I wish I’d not read this. Not only did it make me angry and disgusted, but it also gave me horrible nightmares. How dare this ruin the years of sweet dreams I’ve had of Heathcliff! This book might be enjoyed more by someone who doesn’t have a strong attachment to the original, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who loved Wuthering Heights. In fact, if you loved the original, stay far away from this re-telling.

I reviewed a review copy of this book via NetGalley.