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.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Taste of Temptation by Cheryl Holt

Formulaic and dull
2 stars

At 25 years old, Helen Hamilton is firmly on the shelf of spinsterhood. With the death of her notorious father, Helen is destitute and must care for her two sisters with little money and no prospects. When she tries for a position of a governess at Captain Tristan Odell’s home she is turned away.

Desperate, she ends up in a brothel selling herself as mistress to the highest bidder. It’s a shock to both when Tristan ends up taking her home. An illegitimate rake, Tristan is excited by the prospect of having Helen in his home. But will he offer her a position as governess or something more?

I am usually a fan of Cheryl Holt although I’ll admit that she does like to stick to her formula of rich, arrogant man and down-on-her-luck lady mixed with plenty of evil relatives thrown in to keep the couple apart. However, in this novel it seemed far too formulaic which resulted in a dull story that I struggled to get into.

I can’t really say much about Helen as a character that’s positive. She was supposed to be a strong survivor while she actually came across as weak and pathetic. Tristan was your usual arrogant hero but without much depth. His actions didn’t seem to match his words and he was too quick to jump from one extreme to the other with his emotions for them to be believable. I’d like to say the pair had chemistry but to be honest they had so little interaction in the book that you practically forgot they were even there.

The reason for the lack of interaction was the secondary characters who seemed to take up all the pages. There was the “romance” between the immature, randy earl who was hard to like and Jane, the teenager who clearly knew what she was doing in trying to trap herself an aristocrat. That we were supposed to root for these two was beyond me.

Overall, as I said, I realty struggled with this story. It’s the second in the Spinster’s Cure series (after Promise of Pleasureand before Dreams of Desire) and I’ll read the next book but really can’t recommend this one. 2 stars and even then I feel I’m being generous!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Wicked Little Game by Christine Wells

Deliciously intense romance
5 stars

For years the Marquis of Vane has hungered for Lady Sarah and watched her endure her disastrous marriage. When her wastrel husband offers him one night with Sarah in exchange for £10,000 his honour compels him to refuse while his heart wishes he could say yes.

When Sarah comes to him their passion overwhelms them both but the next morning desire has turned to shame. And then to horror as their mutual passion has set the stage for murder, betrayal and blackmail. Can the pair unravel the mysteries in order to claim the love of a lifetime?

This is the first book I’ve read by Christine Wells and I was gripped from the first page by the intensity and richness of the characters and the storyline.

Despite her seemingly cold nature, Sarah is a character well worth rooting for and one that you can really understand and like. And what’s not to like about Vane? A strong, sexy, brooding man who can’t help but love the woman of his dreams. Together the pair worked well even though the depth of their emotions often had them at odds with one another.

I intensely dislike any infidelity in my romances but in this book it was handled in such away that not only was it not tawdry but you also cheered for Vane and Sarah. And the pair had such guilt over what had occurred that it didn’t feel sordid at all.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. It’s the kind of story that you can’t bear to put down and find yourself promising just one more chapter before you go to bed and waking up early just to read before you start the day. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy a deep, interesting romance and personally I can’t wait to read more books by Christine Wells, even hopefully some for Vane’s brothers.

Friday, 24 June 2011

The Sweetest Thing by Jill Shalvis

Captivating continuation of the series
5 stars

Southern belle, Tara, doesn’t particularly want to be back in the town of Lucky Harbour – there are too many bad memories there. But with her life crashing down around her, she’s decided to stay to help her sister’s with the inn they have inherited.

But now sexy blast from her past, Ford, is once again making Tara hot and bothered, despite her desire to start afresh. Add to that her ex-husband who has decided he wants Tara back and she’s got herself in a right pickle. So now it’s up to Tara to decide what she wants and perhaps she’ll find it in the last place she ever expected.

This is the second book in the Lucky Harbour trilogy (after Jax and Maddie’s book, Simply Irresistibleand before Sawyer and Chloe’s book, Head Over Heels). While I suppose you could probably read this book as a stand alone, I really think that you’d get a better grip on the characters and their previous interactions if you read the books in order.

Tara is the grumpy, bossy sister and although we know and understand why, I was worried that I wasn’t going to like her or root for her. That turned out not to be a problem as yes, Tara was bossy, but she was also self-deprecating and only ever wanted the best for people – I ended up really liking her. Not only that but Ford’s laid back nature really complemented Tara and it was a case of opposites attract. The pair had sizzling chemistry and although there was no huge conflict, peril or drama – I was really rooting for the pair.

The cast of supporting characters were really rich but never overpowered the main characters or love story. As well as Maddie, Jax, Chloe and Sawyer there’s the meddling townsfolk who aren’t nearly as overpowering or stereotypical as in other novels I’ve read. There’s also Tara’s ex-husband, Logan. He’s not a bad guy but clearly not the right guy for Tara but I loved his interactions/battles with Ford. Like another reviewer said, it would be nice if Logan gets his own story in the future. There’s also the adopted daughter storyline which was more sweet than heavy and added a little extra to Tara and Ford’s story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was part of a series that I’m really enjoying and I can’t wait until Chloe and Sawyer’s story comes out in December. If you like fun and sexy romances with characters you’ll love then I would recommend this book, and the rest of the Lucky Harbour series, to you. 5 stars.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Personal Touch by Lori Borill

Fairly bland romance
2 stars

Multi-millionaire business owner and self-proclaimed playboy, Clint Hilton, is fed up of his love life being interrupted by his widowed mother who has moved in with him and will not leave. So he hires dating counsellor, Margot Roth, to provide tips on finding a man for his mother.

As soon as Margot and Clint meet the sparks are immediate. Rather than tell his mother the truth, Clint and Margot pretend to date in order for Margot to be able to find out who will be the perfect guy. But how long will they be able to keep up the pretence, especially when at least one of them is playing for keeps.

Although it’s a tried and tested plot, I still quite like a story where a couple pretend to be together only to find out neither are actually pretending. While this book didn’t follow any formula, I feel that perhaps in order to avoid any clich├ęs, no storyline was truly developed – it was all a bit bitty!

Clint was a likeable enough character as a ladies’ man although I didn’t really believe he was as suave or hot as he was supposed to be. On the other hand Margot wasn’t likeable at all. She was whiney, annoying and deluded – especially when it came to dating in which she was supposed to be an expert. While there was enough heat in the novel, it was all a little bland as the pair didn’t have much chemistry.

Overall, this isn’t the worst book that I’ve read and if you have it on your shelf then it’s still worth a go. However, it was a little bland and certainly not what I was looking for when I picked up a Blaze romance. 2 stars.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Twelve Nights by Hope Tarr

Good romance, bad research
3 stars

Ever since his betrothal to the lovely Alys, seven months before, Callum has yearned to have her in his bed. But Alys wants to be sure that they are meant for each other by waiting until they are wed before being together.

So as a present to his Christmastime bride, Callum plans for 12 nights of sinful decadence as soon as they pair are married. But secrets from the past have a way of finding people and changing what the future may hold for the pair.

This book follows on from Bound to Please, another Harlequin Blaze Historical that focuses on Callum’s twin brother, Ewan. All the characters appear to have featured in the first novel and make an appearance in this one but you don’t have to have read the first to totally understand the story or characters in this.

I’ll start off with the good… Both Alys and Callum were likeable and realistic characters. Callum was strong but with a real weakness for Alys and Alys, a girl with a past, was still relatable and someone to root for. The pair had good chemistry and a very real love for each other even if the sex scenes weren’t particularly hot or plentiful.

The plot was interesting and kept me interested and I really did enjoy Father Fearghas’s journey and the things he encountered.

Now onto the bad.,, This book is set in Scotland in the 1400s but I was constantly thumping my head against the table while reading the book as the language, spelling and context of the words used was abominable. The characters “spoke” in an accent I’ve never heard anyone of the islands (or anywhere else in Scotland) speak and with words that I’ve never heard of and it was cringeworthy in the extreme. It’s like the author thought to throw in a few “ochs”, “ayes” and “the noos” and she’s got herself a Scottish novel. I’m not expecting complete historical accuracy but a little research really wouldn’t go amiss. Just because people say a word differently doesn’t mean you have to spell them all differently! And some actually have proper spellings which the author completely disregards. Add to that the smattering of Americanisms and I was constantly jarred from the novel as I was reading.

I feel like I’m being extremely generous in giving this book 3 stars when I had so many bad things to say about it. However, I have to say that I liked the story, had no problem finishing it and that’s despite all the flaws which is saying something! I’ll admit that perhaps I shouldn’t read novels set in Scotland as something invariably annoys me. If you’re like me then perhaps I would pass on this book but if you’re not bothered by things like that then I would recommend this book to you. The story’s good and you can escape for a couple of hours.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

In Good Hands by Kathy Lyon

Terrible Romance
1 star

Corporate Executive, Roger Martell, needs a treatment for his sky high blood pressure since no modern medicine seems to be working. A chance encounter in an elevator with tempting Amber Smithson may be just the thing he’s been looking for.

Since Dr Amber was fired for practising alternative medicine, she’s made it her mission to help those in need. And Roger is definitely in need. But once he gets her into bed will she be able to leave?

This is the follow on book from Taking Care of Business – Roger was the hero’s best friend from that book. Having said that both book stands completely alone so you don’t need to have read that one before reading this one.

Unfortunately, while I really enjoyed Taking Care of Business, this book was completely the opposite. Amber wasn’t just unsympathetic but also completely unlikeable. Added to that she was preachy, stereotypical and annoying – not the ideal heroine. Roger was fine although a little blah all round. While there were plenty of sex scenes, without any connection or chemistry they all fell a little flat. In the end I couldn’t help but feel that Roger deserved someone a whole lot nicer than Amber.

On top of this I felt the story was weak and at times bordered on ridiculous. It was a real struggle not only to finish this book but also to even remember what the book was about once I’d put it down.

For a Blaze this was a real disappointment. I like to be swept away by the romance, lifestyles, characters and sex and this book didn’t deliver on any. 1 star.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Taking Care of Business by Kathy Lyons

Entertaining Fantasy Escape
4 stars

Julie Thompson's business is failing and she desperately needs a distraction. One comes in the form of a sexy encounter in an elevator with a hunky handyman which soon turns from sexy encounters to a fledgling relationship.

Millionaire CEO James Samuel Finn has always had a problem with people being only after him for his money and so he lets Julie think he's part of the maintenance crew. But as their encounters change and feelings start to emerge will his secret destroy what they've started together.

This was an enjoyable story and it really kept me hooked. With such an obvious source of conflict between the pair it could easily have been quite a predictable book but I never got bored and didn't once anticipate exactly what would happen next.

I liked Julie - strong and confident yet still likeable and relatable. Sam was an ideal hero - a little geeky but still strong and sexy (although I couldn't really enjoy the image of lycra cycling shorts!). He had flaws and was unsure and worried at times but he made the perfect partner for Julie. Together they had great chemistry and the sex was plentiful, hot and at times a little kinky. Just as you would expect from a Blaze novel.

Following on from this book is In Good Hands (Harlequin Blaze) which is Roger's story and I'm hoping we get a little more of Sam and Julie in there, too.

Overall this was an enjoyable way to pass a couple of hours and I liked it a lot. 4 stars.

Just Fooling Around by Kathleen O'Reilly and Julie Kenner

Basic stories – ridiculous premise
2 stars

This is a set of 4 short stories (or encounters) all based around April Fool’s Day and the Franklin siblings who are all cursed to receive bad luck on this one day each year.

CAM’S CATASTROPHE by Kathleen O’Reilly
The oldest of the Franklin siblings, Cam refuses to be laid low by a curse. So each April Fool’s Day he does something outrageous and laughs in the face of the curse that plagues his family. And each year he finds himself in the E.R. being cared for by Dr. Jenna Ferrar.

This story spanned about 4 years with the relationship building up over the space of a couple of hours over one day in each of those years. With that in mind, the fact that these two people could discover feelings for each other (or probably even remember each other) after such a teeny tiny amount of interaction made the story unbelievable and a little frustrating.

DARCY’S DARK DAY by Julie Kenner
Darcy Franklin is determined to visit New York on April Fool’s Day to show the curse can’t hurt her. Determined to save her from the curse, Cam asks his best friend, Evan, to make sure no harm befalls Darcy. But what Cam doesn’t know is that Evan has always had a crush on Darcy and this is the perfect opportunity for him to make his move.

Curse aside – this was a sweet story if a little unsatisfying in terms of romance. Not bad though and easily the best story of the four.

DEVON’S DILEMMA by Kathleen O’Reilly
In order to hide from the curse, Devon holes herself up in a fortress of a house in a remote town. On April Fool’s night she receives a visit from airman, Chance, who’s happy to take her mind off the bad events that are sure to follow.

It wasn’t the story that was ridiculous with this effort but the fact that Devon lived in such a state of fear from a curse that only struck one day a year. Regardless, Chance didn’t seem like long-term material and I didn’t believe in the romance.

REG’S RESCUE by Julie Kenner
Reg Franklin is the one sibling determined to find the cause of and break the curse. Because of the curse he let go of the only woman he’d ever loved to keep her safe. But now she’s back and the curse just might be ready to be broken.

While I liked this story and the two characters – to my mind Reg didn’t love Anne enough to be with her and it was only his lust driving him to get back with her. Disappointing.

I feel I could really have got behind the premise of a curse that inflicts a whole family for one day a year if it had been handled a little less clumsily and with a little bit more reality – as strange as that may sound. As it was, the whole book was fantastical, a bit baffling and utterly ridiculous. Shame, really. 2 stars and the extra one is only because I finished all the stories and didn’t mind Julie Kenner’s attempts.