BLOG REVIEW: Dangerous Lover by Lisa Marie Rice

Christmas for 28yo bookshop owner wasn't always this financial troubled and depressing.
She had many happy times with her close-knit family.
Until Christmas 6 years ago, when a car accident took the lives of her wealthy parents and eventually her younger brother. 
At first, she was wary when dangerous-looking stranger Hero came to see her
But she soon agrees to rent out 1 of her rooms to him, 
after he appeased her initial fears and advances her much-needed rent money. His great sexual allure, coupled with her need to forget her troubles on Christmas start their affair immediately. 
31yo former Army officer Hero sets out to, not only satisfy her physically,
but in every other way. Even fulfilling her long list of house repairs.
Getting a visit from a threatening FBI agent and her ex-boyfriend shakes her from her sated state,
when she was shown proof that connected Hero to the recent African village massacre. 
More so, when the FBI agent shows her an old photo of herself found among Hero's possessions when he was in Africa. 
What is Hero's real motive for being with her? Is he her dream lover or a fraud?

My 2nd Rice read & I have to say that I liked Dangerous Passion better (click here for my review). This book was romantic with a Hero obsessed with heroine & who also stalked her for a bit years ago.

       ---------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details--------------

Hero fell for her when he was a homeless teen of 17 and had a different name. He and his alcoholic father moved from town to town and lived in homeless shelters. His father would give him different names per shelter. Hero met heroine when she visited the shelter when she was about age 15 and gave him food & books. He was awestruck with her and mutely reveled in her presence. Even 12 years later, he remembered everything she wore, said, and did around him. When no one was home, Hero entered her stately home multiple times, familiarizing himself with it. He idealized her and her family, seeming so different than his world. The last time he saw her was on Christmas day 12 years ago, when his father died. He watched her and her family celebrating Christmas from outside her house window. He stopped, after he saw heroine's boyfriend kiss her in her family's presence that night. He moved out of town that night but never forgot her. No matter how many lovers he had. During times of celibacy during war time or a dangerous assignment, he would sexually satisfy himself by thinking about her &/or looking at her photo. It was his frequent gazing at heroine's old photo that his enemy was able to secretly capture on video and that led his enemy to heroine's small town to find Hero's current whereabouts.

     -----------------------------------------END SPOILERS-------------------------------------------------

I liked this Hero just like I did the one in Dangerous Passion.  His love for heroine was apparent. It made his stalker obsession with her sweet and not creepy.

What I didn't like as much was the heroine in this book. She was more needy & dependent, unlike the independent loner heroine of Dangerous Passion. This heroine was especially dependent on male companionship & affection. Thus, her sexually propositioning Hero the day they met. She wanted him to help her forget about her loneliness on Christmas. She's had multiple short-term affairs, including her on & off affair with her 1st boyfriend, and this before her family's accident 6 years ago. She did date, after the accident. And I believe she would've slept with those men too, if they stuck around once they met her injured brother. Since they were turned off by him, they didn't stick around for another date. My point is that heroine wasn't very choosy with men. She tended to be gullible but, at least, she had higher standards re: their treatment of her brother. She just wasn't my type of heroine. What endeared her to me more than similar heroines was her sometimes-humorous POV (point of view). She was able to laugh at herself and her impoverished life, making it more bearable. Heroine may be gullible but she wasn't stupid. She knew that Hero loved her and used that knowledge for good, when the chips were falling.
 
The action-suspense was lively and predictable. The alternating plot sequence of a chapter of Hero and heroine's romance followed by a chapter of the villain's plot to find & take down Hero was sometimes jarring. Feeling romantic from Hero and heroine's sexy romance then suddenly switching to feeling danger and evil from the villian's POV (point of view). It helped me stay awake and sped up my read. The villain's POV gave us sufficient understanding of the villain's character and motives, without too much detail about his evilness. Action scenes were basically chasing and shooting each other. No gory injury description, aside from blood splattering. Good enough. 

Moderately recommended.
3.5-star 

BLOG REVIEW: Impulsive Attraction by Diana Hamilton

Efficient 28yo heroine is the new bank manager 
in a Shropshire town near her parents' residence.
She's known for her brains and sensibility. As well as her plain looks and tall plus-sized figure.
For her to leave a high-profile party one evening without informing her fiance and without her shoes was very unusual. So was her drunken dip in the nearby stream.
And her enjoying 35yo stranger Hero's admiration of her full figure. She considered his candid compliments of her beauty and desirability as all part of her drunken fantasy. Until she woke up the next day without memory of how she got to her bed naked.
Hero's suggestive hints about what happened the night before makes it hard to deny her recklessness that night. And her frosty & stern attitude towards him seems to have no effect on his provocative behavior with her.
Sculptor Hero wants her to pose for him before he tells her what she wants to know about that night.
Her shock at his demand is as great as the allure of it. She agrees to pose for him, despite
the marked protests of her proper fiance and mother.  
 His hot
and cold behaviors towards her
leave her confused. But mostly determined to distance herself from him.
His persistent pursuit of her, however, incites her to do things she may never do again. Until he unexpectedly lashes out at her one day.
And she sees a pretty blond woman in his cottage, with not much on and very familiar with him.
Was she already being replaced with his usual type of woman?

I give this Hamilton book a 4.5-star rating. Which makes it a 5-star on whole-star rating system like on Amazon and Goodreads. Having read thousands of romance novels in decades, there's just not a lot of books that really impress me. What was impressive about this Hamilton book was how it pulled my emotions as well as the likeability of the main characters, especially heroine. In less than 150 pages of this Harlequin Presents (HP)/Mills & Boon book, I laughed, got tense, felt angsty, was confused with Hero, and empathized with heroine's plight. At one point, I even told my husband to not talk to me until I was done with this book. I was so involved in the story. So invested in Hero and heroine's romance. I willingly put everything in my life on hold for a couple hours until the book ended. That's what I call great emotional pull. Hamilton's writing put me in the here-and-now of Hero and heroine's romance. I could feel their tensions and emotions. This book was big on showing the emotions instead of just talking about it. My emotions swung from high to low & back again. I loved it!

This Hamilton book is far from the perfect romance novel in my opinion. There were some flaws:
 
         ---------------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details----------

        1. heroine sometimes got “brain freeze” when it came to Hero. She tended to be a
        practical and intelligent woman, with good self-control. But, when it came to Hero, she
        allowed the smart & practical part of her brain to be overtaken by her lust-love for Hero.
        So, she'd end up doing something with Hero (ie, kiss him), although she firmly planned
        on distancing herself from him due to her suspicion of his motives.

        The good thing was that it didn't happen too often. Also, I understood the times she got

        brain freeze. Heroine thought her time with Hero was limited. She knew he didn't do
        committed, long-term romance. She accepted that. And believed that, for someone 
        plain like her to be desired by someone like him, even for a short time, was something
        she'd like to experience and remember always. It was quite sad and I didn't find it 
        pathetic at all. She knew who she was and she knew that being desired by someone 
        so magnetically attractive like Hero could very well be a once in a lifetime opportunity. 
        She was being realistic and practical.

        2. Hero needed to apologize more for putting heroine through an emotional wringer. He
        did apologize in general but he needed to specifically acknowledge how much of a jerk
        he was for accusing her of being a social climber & pushing her aside after. I couldn't 
        believe his gall!

        He made many major demands of her. He told her to break up with her fiance. He tried 
        to repeatedly seduce her, even though he believed she was still engaged. He 
        demanded that she accept his marriage proposal instead and plain trust him on it, even
        though he won't tell her anything about his background or inform her of practica
        matters like how he was going to support them, where they're going to live, how
        they're going to eat daily, etc.   

        Heroine made so many concessions per his suggestions/demands, including: 
 
        1.) changing how she dressed
        2.) posing nude(!) for him
        3.) standing up to her proper fiance and social-climbing mother  
        4.) daring to trust him enough to agree to marry him, although nothing had changed 
        about her knowledge of his background and their future together  
        5.) resigning from her prestigious job at the bank as soon as she realized she would
        rather marry Hero in poverty than live a financially and socially secure life without love.

        So, his bitter accusations of heroine tricking him and only wanting to marry him, after 
       she supposedly found out how rich and privileged he was (Heroine didn't know that 
       Hero was the heir of a wealthy baron and was already a successful sculptor until after
       Hero broke up with her. It was her mother that informed her and who Hero had an 
       encounter with, which gave him the erroneous idea that heroine knew who he was all
       along & was pretending ignorance to trap him as another social-climbing wife-wanna-be
       like his ex-fiance was), was such an insult to all the sacrifices she made for him! It was 
       quite angsty. I felt so bad for her and was hoping for a really good apology from
       him.  

       I must be blood-thirsty because I wanted him to grovel for his mistrusting her, when she
       repeatedly showed him how much she was into him for himself and ready to plunge into
       a future with him, thinking that he was only a poor traveling artist. His confession at the 
       did show how intensely affected he was with her. He also realized how foolish he was 
       to require her blind faith in him, while he wasn't showing the same trust in her. I just 
       wanted more! 

       3. There was no sex scene. There were some foreplay scenes (ie., breast play, clothed 
       bodies touching) and lots of sexual tension. Their emotional and sexual attraction was
       palpable, even when nothing was being said by either of them. The sexual-emotional 
       tension increased all the way until the final resolution. So, not having a sex scene at the
       end was anti-climactic. We merely get prelude to a sex scene. But I really wanted the
       sex scene! Not just their plan for it and then “the end”! I guess, I've gotten a little spoiled
       by all the detailed sex scenes in many 21st-century romance novels (This book was
       written in the mid-80s). But 1 sex scene is all I'm asking for. Just one to clinch all that
       growing tension in the book. Too bad Hamilton's no longer around to amend it.

        4. I wanted to know what Hero meant when he said that he did all he could to forget 
       heroine during their 2 months apart. Does that include dating or sleeping with other
       women? I really wished heroine asked. She did pointedly ask him about his former 
       romance that soured him off relationships. I liked her gumption. But I wished she asked 
       if he dated or slept with anybody during their time apart. I am a huge fan of Heroes 
       who stay celibate because of his love/obsession with heroine. I would've like to add him
       on my celibate Hero list.

      --------------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS----------------------------------------

Despite the flaws, the good of this book overwhelmed the bad for me. Thus, my high rating. And probably something I'd reread in the future. I loved the heroine in this book.

This book is told from the 3rd-person and we only get heroine's point of view (POV). We got to know her person and I found her delightful. Heroine was a no-nonsense person, who built her life around her brains & being accomplished in her education and her career. She knew she's not pretty and had no trouble accepting that. I liked how she acknowledged reality and either made do with what she had or move on from there. She might've seemed rigid and orderly but she actually had a good sense of humor. She didn't feel sorry for herself and whine & complain about life. She was able to laugh at herself, at life, and move on. I loved her non-passivity. She's not a really go-getter so much as she was prudent. When she encountered a problem, she tried to solve it. She lived a simple and practical life, working to achieve her goals without much aplomb. She's ruled more by her brain than her emotions. It wasn't until the night of her meeting Hero that her impulses and emotions started to arise. So, most of her confusion and emotional wavering were new. She was usually a very controlled and firm person. But the surging of her impulses, wants, and needs were making her think and act differently than her usual. We saw her try to control them and try to go back to being sensible and logical. Sometimes she was successful. Other times, not. But she accepted responsibility without being a victim or a doormat. 

By midpoint of the book, heroine acted and looked like a different woman. Her character growth was almost as central as the romance. Both were intertwined. Her experiences with Hero changed her. She was woman enough to know that, despite their romance setbacks, she was at least grateful that Hero opened up a new world to her. She even tried to make her pain from Hero into a growth experience for her. Lastly, I loved how heroine embraced her curvy Amazonian figure and was okay with her new not-as-sensible ways. I was happy that she got the man she wanted, a man that we later find out was quite obsessed with her as she was with him.

I surely recommend this book
4.5-star 
 

BLOG REVIEW: One Night, Two Consequences by Joss Wood

27yo heroine used to be devoted to her high-standing & demanding career in a top media & public-relations firm 3 years ago
But now she's a very different woman. And she introduces herself to 35yo grim Hero at a bar
in a little town in Napa Valley.
For the past 3 years, she's traveled the world wherever her whim takes her and with no commitments whatsoever. 
So, a one-night stand with Hero isn't shocking. 
But finding herself pregnant definitely is. Heroine has a firm plan to merely inform Hero about her pregnancy & leave immediately to parent her unborn child by herself. 
Hotel-restaurant & vineyard owner Hero has others plans.
Also, her fragile health necessitates her stay at his vineyard home until she and their surprise twin babies are medically safe. 
 
Their proximity and memories of their 1 night together eventually restart their intimacies.
With a temporary limit set by heroine due to her planned independent living from Hero, leaving him to wonder what would make her change her mind.
Heroine's heart may be softening toward Hero but finding out how loyal Hero truly is to his deceased wife of 5 years changes things.
Will Hero merely be a visiting father to their unborn twins then?
 How can he resolve his loyalty to his deceased wife and his feelings for heroine?

I enjoy reading older Harlequin Presents/Mills & Boon books circa 2005 and older. I've been reading a few again since I restarted reading romance again the last month. Love the big drama, emotional swings, virgin heroines & grim alpha Heroes, and HEA (happily ever after) ending of HPs(Harlequin Presents). All in less than 200 pages. I haven't liked many of the more current HPs due to its increased focus on sex & lust, lack of interesting plot, and unlikeable characters. I picked up this most current (November 2015) Wood book to test the waters of newer HPs again, hoping for the best. The result: disappointing.

I've never read Wood before so I don't know what her other books are like. But this one bored me. It read more like those chick-lit/women's lit books that have become popular the last few years, with the focus on the heroine's journey of self-discovery & have greater secondary characters and small-town living features. It had too much information. Some repeated and some inconsistent (i.e., timeline).  Take heroine's history, for example. She was a child prodigy of a 17-year-old also-prodigy-like mother. She aced school & went to college by 16 and finished everything, including her PhD, by 20. She got a lucrative job at a Fortune 500 public relations firm. Worked there for 4 years before getting promoted to Chief Information Officer, which lasted a year before she was hospitalized for a perforated ulcer. Then, heroine traveled world-wide for 3 years before landing in Napa Valley & meeting Hero on the way to visit her 40-something mother who was about to give birth to her only sibling. Whew...And that's just heroine's background.

This book should've been a chick lit book of 300 pages instead of an HP. It didn't read like one and I didn't enjoy as such. The main characters' romance seemed central quantity-wise. However, the lack of emotional pull of the book overall and the characters made it a tepid one. Hero may have his secrets regarding why he couldn't talk about his wife:

     -------------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details----------

Hero was conflicted in his loyalty to his wife. He loved her but they had troubles in their marriage the last 6 months. Mainly due to his wife's honeymoon surprise that she did not want to have kids. Period. She had aborted a baby from another lover in college due to her non-parenting preference. Hero, on the other hand, wanted a family with kids. But he was already married to her and tried to do his best in their marriage. 

Her motorbike accident killed her but prolonged his devotion to her. Mostly because of the promise she, on her last dying breath, asked him to promise her: that he would love her "to the end". Hero viewed this as him being able to only love his wife romantically. He had no problems having sex with other women the next 5 years after her death. His hesitation to even think of permanently committing to heroine was driven by this guilty promise.

       -----------------------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS----------------------------


But I didn't feel any poignancy from it. There may be lots of telling but this book lacked showing. I couldn't feel their romance. Part of it may be due to the sophistication of Hero and heroine. Heroine especially had a take-it-or-leave-it approach to life and men, in particular. I was more convinced of their lust for each other than their great romantic love. I do believe that they came to fall in love with each other but just without much flourish than I like. 

I started skipping & skimming pages by the 40% mark. I'm glad I did. It was predictable and average at best. I'm going back to my older HPs.

I minimally recommend this book. 
2.5-star