Shadow Dance – Julie Garwood

shadow dance.jpgJulie Garwood is a member of my personal romance pantheon. While she’s written some clunkers, she’s also given me many hours of reading pleasure (oh my, do I just adore the heck out of Castles). That makes this a difficult review to write. Because Shadow Dance isn’t a bad book…it’s just not the book it could (or should!) be.
Since making her move to romantic suspense (I know, HK, I know), Garwood has also been name-checking two previous series – the “Roses” series and, for lack of a better name, the “Medieval” series. To achieve this feat, she has brought together a descendants of the Claybornes from the Roses series, and the Buchanans (see Ransom. among the other Medievals) and the MacKennas (who apparently didn’t appear in any of Garwood’s previous books — fact-checkers will be working overtime to verify this — but they’ve been feuding for centuries with the Buchanans). This will all come together, I swear.

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ICING ON THE CAKE by Laura Castoro

Icing on the Cake CoverLaura Castoro’s ICING ON THE CAKE hit the pink cover mother lode. Pink cake? Check. Pink skirt? Check. Pink window dressing? Check. Decorative pink flourishes? Check. It’s a shame that pink isn’t the new black instead of a shortcut used to identify stories about career girls, their shoes, their insecurities, and their boyfriends, because this work of women’s fiction shouldn’t be judged by its cover. Neither should it be missed by any reader who enjoys characters able to face one crisis after another while retaining both their sanity and their sense of humor.

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A New Addition

bookstack.jpg PBR is thrilled to announce the newest addition to our review team – Alison Kent. If you read romance, you must know Alison. She writes romance and romantic adventure for Harlequin Blaze and Kensington Brava. In addition to writing, holding down another full-time job, running a widely read and very active blog, founding a website design firm as well as an author community, Alison reads with a critical and honest eye. Where she finds the time…well, we’re not exactly sure.
Alison appreciates that critical analysis is good for the romance genre. We could not be happier about her decision to join PBR. Welcome Alison!

The Stranger I Married – Sylvia Day

the stranger I married.jpgEven though I often find them implausible and rife with Big Misunderstandings, I am a sucker for marriage of convenience stories. Amazon knows this about me, and has a way of suggesting new titles that make them seem enticing. Time and again I fall for the sales pitch, the clever cover copy. It’s just one of my many character flaws.
So when events transpired that I needed to buy a book by Carson McCullers, I decided to see what new recommendations Amazon had for me – and was intrigued by the come on of The Stranger I Married by Sylvia Day. The beauty of one-click purchasing is there is no time for remorse or second thoughts.

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The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason

the rest falls away.jpgThere’s little room for surprise in the clockwork art that is genre fiction. What is expected of the formula is, after all, the expected. But fiction, good fiction, needs the element of surprise, some bit of plot or character or device that isn’t as expected. It is in the unanticipated, the unforeseen, the unpredicted that talent shines brightest and readers are given something memorable. Debut author Colleen Gleason has neatly sidestepped the issue of triteness with The Rest Falls Away, by stretching and straddling genre boundaries. The result is a story that isn’t strictly a romance or strictly a paranormal or strictly a Regency. It’s a romance without a central love story, a paranormal that never looses sight of the fact that vampires are monsters, and a Regency whose heroine has something besides the ton on her mind. All that makes for a read that surprises.

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Wicked Ties by Shayla Black

wicked ties.jpgShayla Black’s Wicked Ties is the most baffling of books, the kind that manages to be greater than the sum of its parts. It isn’t alone in that. There are plenty of books that should be tossed aside and disliked for whatever reason. And yet they aren’t. They can’t be, because somehow they rise above plot issues, or character issues or any number of craft foibles to be compelling and compulsively readable. Likeable…in spite of themselves. Wicked Ties does all that: gives the reader a plot that begs to have its Swiss cheese holes exposed; characters that are archetypes; and a general feeling that the only way to improve the situation is to throw the book against the nearest wall. Any yet throwing the book isn’t an option because valuable reading time would be lost. And for whatever else Wicked Ties is, it’s a book that, once started, demands to be read.

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Born In Death – J.D. Robb

born in death.jpgAs I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, I have a real love/hate relationship with continuing series. I adore them more than words can say, and I hate it when a favorite series jumps the shark. I don’t believe every book needs a sequel, I don’t believe every character needs to be expanded into his or her own full-fledged novel, but I do believe that authors should have the grace, dignity, and, well, objectiveness to stop a series at the right time.
I’m also sure that you’ve noticed that even when I swear off a series, I sometimes relapse. For me, breaking up really is hard to do, and sometimes I realize that it wasn’t the series, it was me. Like when I thought I was done with the J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts – the secret was poorly kept to begin with, and that’s clearly Nora looking mad, bad, and dangerous on the back covers of recent books) “In Death” series.

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Hell’s Belles by Jackie Kessler

hell's bells.jpgJackie Kessler’s debut, Hell’s Belles purports to be a paranormal romance. The cover, a red-saturated shot of the city with a shapely leg taking center stage, looks like so many other paranormals on the shelves that the images could be taken as shorthand for the presumed story within: striking and strong young heroine overcomes evil with sass and luck when not tumbling the strapping young stud who turns out to be The One. Even the jacket copy points to romance, something light and frothy, something easy to read, quick to be consumed and then forgotten. But that’s not what Hell’s Belles is. Paranormal romance doesn’t fit this book nearly as well as fantasy does and readers eager for a by-the-numbers romance won’t find that here.

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