Welcome to Cozy Jo's Romance Review blog. This is where you'll find reviews and discussions on historical or contemporary romance books and maybe a few other bits and bobs thrown in for good measure.
So come on in, sit down and find yourself a good romance book to read.

Monday, 29 September 2008

To All A Good Night

Sexy and entertaining romantic anthology
4 Stars

UNLEASHED by Donna Kauffman
Emma Lafferty has just landed her biggest job to date – pet-sitting for a multi-millionaire in his remote, palatial mansion over Christmas. What she doesn’t expect is her peace to be interrupted by the billionaire’s rather distracting and delicious great-nephew Trevor whose reasons for being there are definitely suspicious. And that’s before the pair get trapped together in the house during a snowstorm.

An enjoyable story with two likeable characters and a romance that you can suspend belief and just believe in. While being wintry and a perfect story for a night in by the fire, it wasn’t at all Christmassy and I was rather irritated to find that the ‘great mystery’, which was the whole reason for Trevor being there, was actually just the premise for another of Donna Kauffman’s books.

FINDING MR RIGHT by Jill Shalvis
Brilliant scientist Maggie Bell is an absolute dating disaster, always managing to pick men who turn out to be Mr Wrong. Sexy contractor Jacob Wahler, despite being gorgeous and sweet, definitely seems like a Mr Wrong, but Maggie has decided that a Mr Wrong might turn out to be oh-so right.

Again this story wasn’t Christmassy but it had wonderful characters and was fun, sexy and romantic. Jacob is a hero to die for while Maggie was someone most people could identify with. The story of the ‘mysterious potion’ was funny and kept the pages turning.

One week before Christmas and Natalie Pritchard is in a complete panic. The sexy tape that she made for her ex-boyfriend is missing and she desperately needs help to get it back. Unfortunately the only person she can turn to is her nemesis, deliciously handsome and sexy defence attorney Spencer Donovan but will Natalie be willing to pay his price?

This was a cute story about a curvy woman who is still coming to terms with the way her last relationship ended and her insecurities about her body. Spence is a great hero and perfect for Natalie but the story really does suffer from being so short and the Christmas theme is quite thin on the ground.

This set of three, sexy Christmas stories is let down by the lack of festive content, but all of the stories are still fun, sexy and very readable. These will still warm you up and are perfect for a cosy winter night by the fire. 4 stars.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Beauty and the Beast by Hannah Howell

Endearing medieval romance
4 stars

Gytha Raouille has always known she is to marry the heir of Saiturn Manor but the day before he wedding she is told that the current heir has died and she is now to marry Thayer Saiturn – the one they call the Red Devil.

A battle hardened knight, Thayer has been scarred by battle and had his heart broken in love. So he is less than enthused by the prospect of wedding the beautiful and lovely Gytha but as a matter of honour he will go ahead with it.

As the pair come to terms with each other, and married life, they must contend with many twists and turns but they can only have a happy ending if Gytha can look past Thayer’s scars to see the lonely man inside.

This was the first book of Hannah Howell’s that I have read and I found that I very much enjoyed it. Both main characters were entertaining and endearing and had an excellent chemistry together. Gytha was especially interesting as she truly was feisty as well as being kind-hearted. And I always love a big, strong man – especially one that is slightly insecure, lonely and in need of the love of a good woman!

The plot meandered along nicely and there were enough twists and turns to make you want to keep reading and to hold your interest to the end. The two negative points I would have to make were that the constant head-hopping between different characters’ perspectives at the drop of a hat was slightly confusing. The other was that having two characters with such similar names (Robert and Roger) made me really have to pay attention!

Despite this, the book was fun, lively, romantic and certainly a book I would recommend if you’re looking for an interesting medieval romance where love conquers all! 4 stars.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Seduced by Christmas

Enjoyable romantic stories
4 stars

Mills and Boon bring together two authors for a pair of stories about love and the Christmas season.

Three years ago, Taylor Sommer disappeared out of Dante Russo’s life, leaving just a brief note to thank him for their passionate affair. Sicilian tycoon, Dante, has never got over the fact that someone left him so he hires an investigator to track Taylor down. When found, the pair still have that essential spark but all Dante wants is her in his bed so he can sate his desire for her once and for all. However, things have changed in three years and the pair must learn to put the past aside as well as revealing their deepest secrets, even at the risk of their new-found relationship.

While not being a particularly new or innovative plot, I still very much enjoyed this story and the characters in it. Dante was a strong, passionate, alpha male who also had a tender side while Taylor, or Tally as she’s known, is a feisty and independent woman who will do anything to protect her family. The story was interesting, readable but you can’t look too deeply into the emotions of the characters as in one breath they hated each other and the next they loved each other, and so on. Without particular festive touches, the story didn’t work as a Christmas tale for me, but as a romantic, love story it worked well.

Virginal Holly Christmas has loved her boss for years but high-flying Connor Knight has never noticed her in that way. Until the Christmas party. Their fiery, passionate night surprises them both – especially when they learn that Holly is pregnant. But Holly feels she doesn’t belong in Connor privileged world, while he needs to be sure that she really does want a family, him included.

The standard plot line of the secretary and her boss is used here but it still stands out as an original tale. Holly is a woman with a past that has managed to pull herself through and become somebody yet she still has a lot of demons from what happened to her as a child. Connor is a typical alpha male – strong and passionate but at times I was uncomfortable with how controlling he became. Despite that, the pair still worked well together and you are really pleased that they get their happy ending. Again, this story didn’t feel Christmassy enough for me, but it was still an enjoyable tale.

Overall, if you’re looking for festive stories then there are definitely more Christmassy ones out there. Yet these stories are still readable, enjoyable, sensual and most importantly, romantic. 4 stars.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Lessons from a Courtesan by Jenna Petersen

Engaging and exciting Regency romance
5 stars

The ton is abuzz with the mystery and beauty of "Ria". The men and consumed with desire for her and the woman are all jealous of her. Each needs to find out all they can about the lady that has been dubbed 'England’s greatest courtesan'. All except Justin Talbot, the Earl of Baybury. He knows very well that the mysterious "Ria" is actually his estranged wife.

Three years ago, the day after their wedding, Victoria Talbot was abandoned in the country to live on her own. Now she is in London on a mission to help her friend but if she also manages to drive Justin a little mad with lust and jealousy, then that's all he deserves! Justin is determined to find out her secrets and as the pair spend more time together they realise that the games they are playing with each other might just be leading to something a whole lot more.

I very much enjoyed this well-written and very engaging story. Both Justin and Victoria were intelligent and drawn-out characters that had fabulous chemistry and very real emotions. I loved the pair together even if they both had to, at times, work hard for their happy ending.

As I said, the plot was really engaging and it made you want to keep reading to find out what happened next. There were lots of twists and turns and secrets to be revealed that meant there were no dull moments from beginning to end.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. It was exciting, well-written and reminded me of books by Debra Mullins or Sabrina Jeffries. If you're looking for a book to escape with then you should definitely give this one a try. 5 stars.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

The Naked Truth

Charming and Entertaining Contemporary Anthology
4 Stars

This is a collection of four contemporary novellas focussing on the misunderstandings between men and women on the path to true love.

The Winning Truth by Erin McCarthy
Tansey Reynolds has decided to swear off men until she can raise enough money to go back to college. But that is before she meets JT Kowalski in line for a radio station competition. In order to win $25,000 the pair must live together in a SUV where the prize might be even bigger than the cash.

This was a really simple story of a pair that meet and fall in love during a strange radio competition. It was a fine enough story but far from exhilarating or different.

The Naked Truth About Guys by Alesia Holliday
Newspaper humour columnist, C.J. Murphy is fed up with being treated like ‘one of the guys’ – even if she does tend to dress like one. So she enlists her glamorous best friend to give her a makeover. Soon she has two guys fighting over her but only Hugh sets her pulse racing. If only he can convince her that he likes her whatever she wears.

This was a fun, engaging and cheery story written in the first person. While enjoying the story immensely, for the first 30 pages I genuinely thought that a man other than Hugh was supposed to be the hero of the story!

Truth or Dare by Donna Kauffman
Soap Opera writer, Bailey Madison, has just landed her big break – ghost-writing the autobiography of the wealthy billionaire, Franklin Dent. Unfortunately for Bailey, Franklin also intends to shoot a documentary of his life at the same time and his filmmaker of choice just happens to be Noah Morrissey – the very same man that walked out on their 6-month relationship without a word.

I love a story where the characters get a second chance at love and this didn’t disappoint. It was entertaining, well-written story with enjoyable characters and an interesting plot.

Nothing But The Truth by Beverly Brandt
It’s Valentine’s Day and Madison Case has to organise three proposals to help with the promotion of Rules of Engagement – the marriage preparatory place where she works. Unfortunately, everything that can go wrong is going wrong except for the appearance delicious divorce lawyer Scott Seaver.

This was definitely the worst story of the anthology, in my opinion. The goings on seemed farcical, the hero and heroine spent little time together and I really didn’t like the fact that Madison’s ex-husband dumped her for her surgically enhanced sister on national TV and Maddie didn’t even hold a grudge.

Overall, this was an enjoyable enough set of three stories. Being so short, they did tend to lose a lot of the character and plot development you would find in a full-length story, but if you’re looking for a quick, fun read then you really can’t go wrong with this book.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Merry Christmas, Baby!

Well-written and likeable anthology
4 Stars

This is a Mills & Boon anthology where each story is centred around the Christmas season.

Cinderfella by Susan Wiggs
Down to earth reporter, Jack Riley and his new boss, socialite Madeline Langston couldn’t be from more different worlds. But when Jack does a good deed, a good deed is done for him in return, and he goes to Madeline’s Christmas party to show her that he might just be her Prince Charming.

This Cinderella parody is sweet, funny and very cleverly written. I didn’t find it especially festive but it was a good story all the same.

Grady’s Kids by Bobby Hutchinson
Rancher Grady Hughes admits that he was wrong to try to stop a train from killing his cattle by holding the train up at gunpoint but he was at the end of his rope. When he is put on probation by the judge he doesn’t expect his parole officer to be as sweet as Fiona Bennet. Grady knows she has fallen in love with his home and his kids, but can she ever feel the same way about him?

This was another very enjoyable story that didn’t feel overly Christmassy (despite all the snow!) Good and memorable characters made this a joy to read.

It Takes A Miracle by Karen Young
Little Jessica and Jamie really want their Uncle Nathan to get a wife for Christmas – especially since he’s now their guardian. They also have the perfect woman in mind – his ex-wife, Emily. That’s exactly what Nathan wants, too, but convincing Emily is going to take a miracle.

This was definitely my favourite story of the anthology, as I love a story where a couple are reunited! I sighed at the happy ending of this tale and liked the way the story seemed almost magical. Wonderful.

Overall, apart from the last story, this wasn’t really festive enough to be called a Christmas anthology, in my opinion. Having said that, the stories are all enjoyable, well written and are perfect for a quick read, whatever the time of year. 4 stars.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Santa Paws

Pleasant, canine themed anthology
3 Stars

This is a collection of 4 stories with all the couples finding love thanks to some delightful, determined canines.

Shakespeare and the Three Kings – Victoria Alexander (England, 1893)
With the death of his beloved aunt, Sir Oliver Stanhope inherits her home and her three pampered, terribly annoying Yorkshire Terriers. Luckily, before her death his aunt managed to acquire the services of a dog trainer. Unfortunately for Oliver, the dog trainer just happens to be the love of his life, an American that broke his heart ten years before.

Not very Christmassy but still a satisfying tale of redemption, forgiveness and love.

Athena’s Christmas Tail – Nina Coombs (Regency London)
When Robert, Viscount Brockton brings home his new wife, she hopes to make the best of their life together but he treats her very coldly. Aware that the pair are in love with each other yet neither can admit it, the couple’s dogs decide to do a little bit of matchmaking.

Not particularly deep, this story is still a fun tale (even with some of the story being told from the dogs’ perspective) but not at all festive.

Away In A Shelter – Annie Kimberlin (Modern Day)
Camille Campbell is a dedicated volunteer at the animal shelter when she agrees to work the shift over Christmas. Unbeknownst to her, Roger Matheson has also agreed to volunteer which does not bode well as the pair can’t stand each other. But that soon changes thanks to a timely blizzard and an adorable abandoned dog.

This was an enjoyable story that could have done with a little more time to make the ending seem less rushed.

Mr Wright’s Christmas Angel – Miriam Raftery (Los Angeles & Alaska)
A few days before Christmas, Joy Winters gets fired from her job as a doctor in a Los Angeles hospital. Feeling depressed, when a mysterious man named Kris Kringle offers her and her daughter two tickets to Alaska for a truly magical and old-fashioned Christmas, she jumps at the chance. When she arrives and promptly crashes her car, she is delighted to be rescued by the mysterious Nicholas Wright and his amazing dog.

I really adored this genuinely magical and sweetly festive story where you really root for all the characters on their way to a delightfully happy ending.

This Christmas anthology is certainly not the best that I have read as many of the stories really lacked any festive touches at all! Having said that, I did find that the last story really captured the true spirit of Christmas and it was definitely the highlight of this book for me closely followed by Victoria Alexander’s tale.

Perhaps not a book that you would go out of your way to find, this is still a good collection of wintery stories that offer a pleasant enough read. 3 stars.