Friday, May 30, 2014

Renee's Reading: 2014-05-10 through 2014-05-23

We've got two weeks of reading in this post, since I didn't get a chance to finish writing the reviews up last week. And it's still only four books! Things have been crazy busy around here (my youngest is turning two this weekend and there has been much party prep to get through), so there hasn't been all that much time for reading either.

The Last Good Knight, Parts 1-5, by Tiffany Reisz

It's lust at first sight when Mistress Nora encounters a sexy newcomer to The 8th Circle. She's happy for the distraction, since she left her lover, Søren, but her session with Lance is cut short when her boss, Kingsley Edge, reveals they're all in danger. . .


With a potential stalker on the loose, Kingsley hires Lance as Nora's bodyguard, but stipulates no sex while he's on duty. Frustrated by the ex-SEAL's noble chivalry, Nora is driven to seek release with the one man she's trying to forget. . .


Shocked to see Nora's bruises, Lance is furious that she put herself in danger and demands to know where she got them. As Nora confesses her true nature, she's equally shocked to learn that Lance has some secrets of his own, drawing them together despite Kingsley's orders. . .


With her feelings for Lance warring with her recent encounter with Søren, Nora returns to Lance's bed and finds herself toying with the idea of. . . toying with him on a permanent basis. But after she gets a glimpse into his personal angst, Nora realizes she has the power to rescue this white knight. . .


Now that the perpetrator has been apprehended, Nora sadly acknowledges she doesn't need a bodyguard anymore. She adores Lance and wants to keep him but is faced with a dilemma--if she uses her connections to help Lance, she'll have to give him up forever. . . 

This released as a five-part serial, with each new installment showing up in my Kindle app every day. Alas, I didn't read it that way, so I can't really comment on the effectiveness of the serial format. By the time I had any time to read, I had all five parts already, so I just read it all as one story.

Which is just as well anyway, because serials drive me crazy. I see the value of reading slowly, I just don't particularly like doing it.

As a full story, The Last Good Knight was really good. I, like it seems pretty much everyone else who has read this, loved Lance. He was such a great character and I really enjoyed watching his relationship with Nora develop. Because they're both presented as perfect "alternatives" to Søren, I couldn't help but compare him to Daniel from The Gift. I really didn't think anyone was going to ever be able to come close to Daniel in my mind, but now I can't decide which of them I like better.

Maybe Nora should have them both. . . Yes. I like that plan. I wonder if Reisz has a suggestion box of some kind?

Moving on, I suppose I should say that while I very much enjoyed this story, I'm not sure how well it would work for a reader who is new to the series or someone trying to read in chronological order. That's the odd thing about prequel stories like this. Having read the four books in the Red Years Quartet, I went into this knowing which of these characters was going to show up again and which ones were going to be gone from Nora's life, presumably by the end of this novella.

It builds a different kind of tension into the relationship, watching a character work themselves into the story and wondering all the while how they're going to leave it. The same goes for characters who I already know will continue on. It makes me wonder how much weight I would have given to their appearances here if I didn't know where they end up later.

Overall though, I thought this was a great story. If you're a fan of the Original Sinners series, this is definitely worth a read.

The Arrangement, by Mary Balogh
The Arrangement is Book 2 of the seven-part Survivors' Club series, following after The Proposal. Six men and one woman, all variously wounded in or by the Napoleonic Wars, spent a number of years healing and recovering together at Penderris Hall in Cornwall, home of the Duke of Stanbrook. Now they spend a few weeks there each year, renewing their friendship and supporting one another in their efforts to live normal, productive lives. This is Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh's story.

Although Vincent is only twenty-three years old, his female relatives are pressing him to marry. He is blind and he has recently inherited his title and vast estate. When they produce a suitable bride for him, he feels trapped and flees with his batman-turned-valet. He ends up six weeks later at his old home and almost gets trapped into another marriage he does not want. A young woman rescues him--and then faces destitution for her pains. When Vincent finds out about it, he has to decide what to do. But really, there is only one honorable course of action.

Sophia Fry grew up with a rakish adventurer for a father. Her mother abandoned them when Sophia was still very young, and her father was killed in a duel when she was fifteen. She was passed from one aunt to another, neither of whom wanted her or gave her anything but the most basic of care. By the time she steps in to rescue Viscount Darleigh from the matrimonial schemes of one of those aunts and her uncle and cousin, she looks like an unkempt scarecrow and can easily be mistaken for a boy. Her relatives turn her out of the house in the middle of the night with nothing but a small bag of belongings and the exact fare for the stagecoach ride to London. And then, after she has been offered temporary refuge in the vicarage near her former home, Viscount Darleigh himself comes calling. . . 

As I mentioned in my day two post about Spring Fling, I got a copy of this for free at the conference and I was a little bit afraid to read it. Mary Balogh was wonderful and charming and I was concerned that I was going to like the book and then feel compelled to read all her other books. In case you're unfamiliar, there are only about 75 of those.

But eventually my curiosity got the better of my good sense and I read this one. And now I'm going to have to clear some time on my reading calendar, because my TBR list just got 75 books longer.

Vincent and Sophia were lovely characters and I thought their romance was very sweet. I particularly enjoyed how their relationship seemed to be all about how they could build each other and what they could give to one another. They both needed to feel in control of their lives again and each worked tirelessly to find ways of giving that to the other. It was nice to see a relationship built so completely on two people supporting one another.

I will say that the ending seemed a bit. . . rushed to me. It's not as if all their problems got solved in one fell swoop or anything, but it did seem like a lot of issues resolved themselves in just a couple of brief conversations toward the end there. I don't know. There's not necessarily anything wrong with the way Balogh wrote it, but it just felt. . . off.

Still, even with that, I found this to be a very enjoyable read and it was a nice way to kill off a Sunday afternoon. I'm very curious about the other members of the Survivors' Club and can't wait to read their stories and learn more.

Whisper to Me, by Christina Lee
A hot and consuming New Adult romance about a wayward musician and the one girl who keeps him grounded. . . 

At college, Rachel has a reputation for being a sarcastic flirt with a thing for star athletes. No one at school knows that she'd had her heart ripped to shreds by her high school sweetheart, who'd driven them both off the side of the road on a borrowed motorcycle, and then abandoned her. No one knows the real Rachel Mattson--except one person. . .

Ever since he helped nurse his sister's feisty best friend back to health, pierced bass player Kai Nakos has been head over heels in love. But the supposed bad boy can't risk letting Rachel know the truth--especially now that the two of them are back in their hometown for the summer, together for the first time since the months following that fateful night. Never mind that Rachel's ex is back, groveling for her forgiveness.

Shaken by her ex's return, Rachel finds herself turning to the one guy she knows she can trust. Kai is willing to hide his feelings for her, just to have Rachel touch him again. After all, this is only a temporary fling. Until it becomes something more. But maybe it had been more all along.

I confess that I don't like a lot of New Adult. Much of it strikes me as. . . gratuitous angst with a bunch of sex dumped all over it. But Christina Lee's Between Breaths novels are very much not that. There is certainly angst and sex, but Lee puts it together in a story that works.

Having read the previous two books in this series, I didn't really expect to like Rachel's story very much. Her character didn't seem very interesting in the other two stories. And then when I got to reading this one, I was a little confused. Was this the same Rachel? She seemed like a completely different person. . .

Which it turned out Lee had actually done on purpose. We find out very quickly that Rachel has been living something of a false life while away at college, having reinvented herself when she left home. Now that she's back in her old hometown for a summer, she's struggling with reconciling the girl she's been for the last few years with the girl she used to be. I really enjoyed the way Lee wrote Rachel's journey there.

And Kai. Oh dear. I completely and totally adored him. He was living in that very familiar place of knowing what he wanted out of life but not quite knowing how to get it and feeling pressured from all sides to come up with something. And he's such a great match for Rachel. I loved that he knew all her secrets and supported and respected her though everything. I loved watching him find his way and I so very badly wanted him to get everything he ever wanted, including the girl.

This was a great story, with a super hot romance and two characters I really just fell in love with. I can't wait for the next book in the series!

The Mistress Files, by Tiffany Reisz
When your boss is Kingsley Edge and he gives you an order, you do it. So when Kingsley decided that his other professional Dominants needed more training in the fine arts of Dominance, he went to his top Domme for help. He told her to write out some instructions for the other Dominants. His top Domme decided instead to write out erotic stories about her clients and her sessions with them.

A female submissive who can't orgasm.

A male Dominant too scared to do kink with his blind wife.

A rock star with a secret.

A vanilla gay woman with an embarrassing little problem.

A male switch with an itch for more than just pain.

These are their stories.

I had somehow missed this one, but then Reisz mentioned it when she was talking about her upcoming release, The Saint, so I headed over to the Kindle store and picked it up. Because I'm addicted to this series.

I was going to write down some thoughts about each individual story, but they're very short and I didn't want to spoil them. Enough to say, these five little stories were all fantastic. Smart and sexy, as I've come to expect from Reisz's work. And I get such a kick out of Nora and her humor. As these stories are all Nora telling stories about her adventures, so there's an extra level of that humor woven through them. Such a treat!

So those are my latest reading reviews. There hasn't been a lot of time for reading, but I've been lucky to have liked everything I did have time for. What about you? Have you read any of these? What did you think? What else have you been reading lately?

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