Midweek Minis

Here’s another in our occasional series of mini-reviews.  We’ve got five DIKs here along with three B reads!  Here’s what Caroline, Caz, Maria, Heather, Shannon and E.B. have to say about some of their recent reads:


Caroline’s Read:

I just finished The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. It’s a fantasy/dystopia novel about Paige Mahoney, who can spirit-walk in a world in which paranormal talents are illegal, and whose life using her abilities for an underground syndicate is disrupted by her arrest. She finds out that the entire structure of her world isn’t what she thinks, and she’s placed into the custody of the mysterious and powerful Warden. I have a guilty love of prisoner-captive books, and this is an interesting one, with solid sexual tension and a couple that plausibly has to work through some trust issues. I liked that the heroine already had abilities, so we ddn’t have to go through the standard “Gosh, could it be me?” reveal. The author is British and her UK setting shines, especially a fantastical version of Oxford, which she actually attended (it’s been done, but it’s hard to blame people – that place is pretty amazing.) Plus, it’s a dystopia/fantasy of the old school: some deaths, some darkness, but not a bloodbath contrived for the sake of GUYS THIS IS SERIOUS FICTION. I’m definitely excited to start the sequel The Mime Order right away.

Grade: A              Sensuality: Kisses


Continue reading

Posted in AAR Shannon, Caroline AAR, Caz AAR, DIK, Heather AAR, Maria Rose, Mini reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DIKlassic: Never Love a Cowboy by Lorraine Heath

Reviewed on April 20, 2000

Grade: A

Setting: Post-Civil War Texas

Sensuality: Warm


Never Love a Cowboy is the kind of book that makes me wonder why I’m not more familiar with Lorraine Heath’s name. Why is everyone buying that latest glossy big-name hardback when they could be reading this little jewel? Between these inexpensive green paper covers is a book with more emotional depth than anything I’ve read in a long time.

Harrison Bainbridge is one of a trio of exiled British noblemen who find themselves in the dusty little frontier town of Fortune, Texas. He is a charming clothes-horse with a gift for poker, but beneath his well-groomed exterior lies a man who believes that he is incapable of love. He was gravely abused by his mother, and always felt that his father, an earl, had no interest in him except as a spare heir. He feels he has nothing to offer a woman but sex.

Jessye Kane is a nice girl, but she was raised in her widowed father’s saloon and has no reputation to speak of. In her foolish youth, she was led astray by a sweet-talking man, an affair that led to a shatteringly painful experience, one that still haunts her with regret. She longs for love but wants never to find herself in a man’s power again. She intends to raise a little money and be entirely independent, and hopes that her need to be loved will go away on its own. Continue reading

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Linda Howard’s Troublemaker: A Pandora’s Box

Today, AAR reviewers Maggie Boyd and Mary Skelton tackle Troublemaker, the latest book by New York Time’s bestseller Linda Howard.

Here is Maggie’s summary of the novel:

Isabeau “Bo” Maran is surprised – and displeased – when she receives a self-igniting birthday card from the ex-step-brother she loves to hate. She is even more displeased when she finds that the present alluded to in the card is actually a sick man in need of a very private place to recuperate. She is happy with the bribe she receives to play nursemaid – $150,000.00 will go a long way to alleviating the debt from a bad business decision and putting her back in financial solvency. Looks like she and her dog, Tricks, will be entertaining a house guest.

As the leader of a paramilitary group Morgan Yancy is used to facing danger. He just didn’t expect to find it waiting for him in his own driveway after a day of fishing. Six weeks in hospital after the gunshot wound and he’s ready to break out of that establishment but the open-heart surgery and subsequent pneumonia have proven pretty serious setbacks. He’s in no condition to kick ass and take names like he needs to. When his boss sends him to finish his recuperation – and hide out from whoever ambushed him – at a lazy little West Virginia town he expects to be bored out of his skull within a week. Instead he finds a dog who loves to keep him on his toes and a dog owner who makes his blood sing. But Bo is none too pleased to have him camping out in her home. Can he somehow convince her to give in to the passion between them and let him make this place –and her- his permanent base?  Continue reading

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O Harlequin, Where Art Thou? asks Michele Mills

Once upon a time, back in the dark ages of the late eighties, I read a Barbara Cartland.

I figured, why not give it a go? I’d heard Ms. Cartland was related by marriage to Princess Diana and the stories sounded so royal and romantic. So I went in, read maybe two of them and stopped. At the time, deeply tanned, emotionally stunted heroes and helpless virgins weren’t doing it for me.

Around this same time I also tried reading a few harlequin-type categories marketed towards teenagers. They were sweet, but a bit yawn inducing for my tastes so I gave up mmb1on those too and that was that. I didn’t bother graduating to actual Harlequins thinking I’d find more tame story lines so I skipped them entirely and focused on sci fi books and sweeping historicals with shirtless pirates, cowboys and purple prose sex scenes and called it a day.

Fast forward twenty-five years (I know, I’m ancient). Continue reading

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A Guest Post and Giveaway from M.L. Buchman

The Three Components a Firehawks Book Must Have

When I first conceived the Firehawks series, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I never do at the beginning of a book. That’s actually a joke on the writer. There are novels for which I have created detailed outlines. And even when I have followed (mostly) that outline, the story ends up with a depth, richness, and theme that I could never have conceived before I wrote it. I’m always amused when someone comes up and tells me what my own book is about. It’s not that they’re wrong, they’ve often nailed the heart of the story. It’s that I, as the author, had no clue that was there when I wrote the story. Continue reading

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Deadly Peril: An Audio DIK

Narrated by Alex Wyndham

We first meet Alec Halsey in Lucinda Brant’s Deadly Engagement, where he investigates the death of a friend, and then again in Deadly Affair, with another murder and a mystery. Now, Alec is dealing with something completely different – his diplomatic past and the imprisonment and torture of his good friend Sir Cosmo Mahon and the young Emily St. Neots. Picking up basically right where the previous book left off, the reader follows Alec into Midanich, a small Germanic principality at civil war and ruled by madness, both in its populace and its Margrave.

Alec packs up immediately and, along with his love, Selina, uncle, aunt and assorted servants, heads out to the one place he wanted to never to see again. His past has definitely come back to haunt him, and now not only does he have to face it, he has to tell Selina about it as well. And, considering exactly what that past entails, it isn’t surprising that it’s basically his biggest secret that’s barging its way back into his life. Continue reading

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And the most reviewed authors at AAR are….

One of the features I love most about AAR is the extensive, easily searchable review database. There are literally thousands of romance reviews at my fingertips and anytime I need a book recommendation, that’s where I turn.

bookIf you’re new here (Hi!!), you’ll see we frequently use the term DIK or Desert Isle Keeper. These are our books receiving A grades, the ones we would want with us on a desert island where resources may be scarce and space limited. With a few clicks, you can access solid recommendations in a variety of subgenres.

The AAR staffers started wondering, “Who are our most reviewed authors? And how do their grades stack up?” A lively discussion followed as we tried to guess which authors would have a number of reviews and recommendations. Of course we felt there would be those who would be near the top based on how prolific and popular they are, as well as those who are known favorites around here. AAR has been online since 1996 and seen a number of changes as the publishing industry has evolved. In the early days the pool of books to review and number of authors producing those books was far smaller than it is today. Hence our results skew somewhat toward those authors writing during the late ’90s/2000s. Continue reading

Posted in Authors, DIK, Heather AAR | 21 Comments

The Weekend DIK: The Earl Takes All

I’ve been desperate to read The Earl Takes All since I finished Falling into Bed With a Duke, the first book in Lorraine Heath’s Hellions of Havisham Hall series. Even though at that point no synopsis had been published, I had an inkling of where this story might be going – which says a lot for Ms Heath’s ability to bury hints and subtext in whichever story she happens to be telling at the time – and I have been really, REALLY curious as to how she was going to pull off such a difficult premise. Continue reading

Posted in Caz AAR, DIK | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Metaphor Sex is the best!

On the strength of Maggie Boyd’s DIK review, I tried Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I found one of my favorite writing ideas in there: metaphor sex! I’m not talking about sex scenes written with metaphors (“velvet swords” and “moist flowers” and similarly purple terminology). I’m talking about a scene in which the two characters engage in a non-sexual activity as if it were sexual. They might be cooperating in a physical task like climbing, an intellectual one like negotiating, an artistic one like singing, and so forth.

In Uprooted, the male wizard called the Dragon and the heroine Agnieszka have very different approaches to magic. The Dragon’s spells are meticulously crafted, precise and identical each time they are cast. Agnieskza, by contrast, casts organically. Like a cook who doesn’t bother with a recipe, she adjusts everything from ingredients to spell words according to what “feels right.” When the Dragon and Agnieszka go to cast the illusion of a rosebush together, science meets art. The result is not only magically spectacular but physically and emotionally compelling. Continue reading

Posted in Caroline AAR | 10 Comments

A guest post (and a giveaway) from Jodi Thomas

When I begin working on a new story I always do something I call “walking the land.”  I take a few weeks, or sometimes a few months and wander through museums, bookstores, old houses, cemeteries and the stories begin.  Since I’m doing books right now set on modern day ranches, I visit several, go to rodeos and sale barns, etc. Continue reading

Posted in Authors, Contests, giveaways, Guest Posts | Tagged | 7 Comments