Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: LOVE'S RECKONING by Laura Frantz

For your Thanksgiving pleasure, I'm sharing a reading recommendation for your long weekend. Not only is this book cover beautiful (don't you just LOVE the colors??), the story within is lovely, as well. 
Laura Frantz has been one of Joy's favorite authors for a while, but I'd not tried her out until my friend Sandra Byrd gave me a glowing recommendation for Laura's books. And... wow. Although historical fiction is rarely my first choice when I'm looking for something to read, this author captured my imagination--and my respect!--with her well-drawn characters and her superb command of storycraft. It is, indeed, my pleasure to recommend this book to you.
(The recommendation below first appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog, my other home-away-from-home.)
Laura Frantz received much critical acclaim with her 2009 debut, The Frontiersman's Daughter. Since then, the praise has kept flowing and she has garnered a loyal audience who appreciate the breathless, poetic beauty of her prose and the devastating ache she creates in a reader's heart to invest them in her characters.
In Love's Reckoning, the first book in her new series, The Ballantyne Legacy, two daughters of a violently temperamental blacksmith are pitted against each other for the hand of the new apprentice, Silas Ballantyne. Silas is a Scotsman who has no desire for a wife and every intention of moving west into the wilderness as soon as he's fulfilled his contract. Elspeth is every inch her father's daughter and is willing to lie, cheat, injure — and perhaps even kill — to win Silas' hand. Eden, on the other hand, wants to accept that Silas is meant for her sister; because if marrying Silas means staying under her father's rule, she wants no part of him. In her heart and in the secret plans she makes with a wealthy friend, Eden wants only to escape the oppressive abuse she endures at the hands of her father and sister. But the more she gets to know the young blacksmith and his strong but gentle spirit, the more she wonders if her plans are as attractive as they once were. Could she forgo her dreams of working at a Quaker orphanage in Philadelphia in order to escape to the wilderness — and love — with Silas? Or will Elspeth find a way to remove both options from her future?
There were times when I wondered at how unbothered I was at the slow pace of the storyline. In the end, I realized that, regardless of the time it took, I was so invested in Eden and Silas, and so rapt by the emotion Frantz crafted into their stories, that I had no choice but to stay glued to the page. Laura Frantz is an apt pupil of the Donald Maass mantra "tension on every page!" I can't tell you how many times while reading I found myself thinking, "No-no-no-no!" when it seemed something new and entirely awful was about to befall Silas or Eden. (I may have even whispered it a time or two.)
Laura Frantz knows how to use subtle details to craft attraction, romance and even spite. Her words sing a haunting, poetic melody that paint a vivid picture and draw readers into the heart of not only a character, but a place and time. Love's Reckoning is a beautiful start to a new series and, with a teaser at the end of the book that lets us know there is more to come from The Ballantyne Legacy, you may just find yourself hooked.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: Every Breath You Take by M.K. Gilroy

The scoop: A high-profile murder tied to a dating service has the Chicago news media buzzing. Who better to go undercover in the world of personal profiles and promising matches than an ace detective who is single and as attractive as she is tough? Detective Kristen Conner can't figure out her own dating life, but she is about to get a crash course on finding true love -- or at least a Friday night date -- and become the object of a killer's affections.(from the publisher)
What I have to say: Make sure you read Gilroy's Cuts Like A Knife before diving into Book Two of his Kristen Conner serie. This is a must to really appreciate the development of this character and her environment. (If you're squeamish about the Book 1 serial killer, however, you can rest assured that the creepy inside-the-mind-of-a-killer point-of-view breaks in Book 1 aren't nearly as eerie (due to a different sort of villain) in this second book.) 
Kristen Conner is the freshest female voice to hit the Christian market in a long time. Perhaps because she's written by a dude? Hmm. In any case, she's as driven and tough professionally as she is a marshmallow when it comes to her family. She's beautiful, but doesn't believe it. She can't shoot worth a hoot, but can knock an assailant twice her size on their butt with her hand-to-hand fighting skills. I can't help it. I like her. As I've said before, she's Miss Congeniality-meets-Castle's Kate Beckett; a lethal, smart, and fun combo if ever there was one.
In the first book Detective Conner had anger issues that she grudgingly admitted to with sarcastic, self-deprecating sidebar remarks that were all sorts of fun. In book two she isn't so angry, but admits to being too judgmental with the same trademark dry humor that hooked me in book one.
Although the villain of this particular crime doesn't get into your head quite as much as "The Cutter Shark" did in Gilroy's first Kristen Conner novel, there are pieces of the Cutter Shark still lingering in the background of this story, giving an overall darkness to the tale that promises to linger through the series.
Tidbit: In an HEA interview, the author said my HEA review of Cuts Like a Knife inspired him to amp up the romance in book two. And indeed he did thicken the thread … but with a light enough hand that it didn't alter the tough self-sufficiency of Kristen's character. I still would have liked to have seen more actual interaction between FBI Special Agent Reynolds and Kristen, but I'll be excited to watch the romance continue to grow with Kristen and the series.

The majority of this review first appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After Blog

Also, check out M.K. Gilroy's guest post, The Shark Lives: A peek inside the mind of a serial killer that appeared here last month!

Monday, November 12, 2012

CHARACTER/CHARACTER INTERVIEW: Timbrel interviews Aspen from the A Breed Apart series by Ronie Kendig



(submitted for Timbrel by author Ronie Kendig)

TIMBREL: Hey, Peeps. I’ve got a special inside-track for you today. I’m meeting up with Aspen Courtland, the other female handler at A Breed Apart. Let’s sit down and lend her our ears.

TIMBREL: So, Aspen, tell us how Talon’s doing, and what makes him special.

ASPEN: Thanks, Timbrel. Talon is sitting at my feet on the couch with me right now, running like mad in his sleep. As to what makes him special—I guess you’re asking about his post-traumatic stress. Poor guy. He was greatly affected when my brother, who was Talon’s handler, disappeared in an explosion not too long ago. Right now, where he’s at, he’s not going to take anyone down the way Trinity probably would, but that’s okay. I’m here to help him remember how to be a healthy, confident dog again. Talon is now very sensitive to loud noises  and sudden movements, so he has a few issues that we’re working on.

TIMBREL: Yeah, but don’t most guys have issues anyway? Okay, never mind. Don’t answer that.

ASPEN: Thanks for the reprieve.

TIMBREL: It’s the least I can do—you totally had my back last time in Afghanistan. So, I’ve noticed you in the training gym at ABA on the speed bag a lot. You have some serious skill with that and in the ring. Where’d you learn that?

ASPEN: It should not be that a tough girl like you would notice. My skill, as you put it, came from my grandfather. He was on the Marines, too, but he also owned a gym near the base for many years. And then it was my brother, Austin, who taught me to box when I’d get angry, or when I wanted to work out a problem or too. As my twin, he wasn’t as easy on me as most guys are when they step into the ring and see a woman.

TIMBREL: Yeah, and you totally work that beauty angle to your benefit. I’ve seen it in action. You can stop laughing, because I know it’s true. Let’s move on—why’d you apply to adopt Talon? I mean, no offense, but taking care of a dog is one thing, but taking care of one with some serious trust issues is another. I know. So, what motivated you to brave the hard roads ahead?

ASPEN: When I heard they were retiring Talon because he was so traumatized over that incident that left so many questions unanswered—including where my brother is—I stepped up without a second thought because to me, not volunteering would’ve meant abandoning Austin. Despite what many think, I do not believe my brother is dead. And I think that’s part of Talon’s problem. Besides, I couldn’t abandon Talon after all he’d done for Austin and the other troops on patrol with him. He was a company favorite when he was tracking. That dog had a nose for trouble. Whatever happened with Austin, it affected Talon deeply.

TIMBREL: Okay, so give—what’s on the Love Agenda for you these days? I mean, you have all those looks in all the right places. You turn girls like me into chopped liver. Any significant others? Or a soldier, Marine, airman, Coastie, or other military personnel you’re interested in—besides Talon?

ASPEN: You know how to make me laugh. Timbrel, I don’t have time for a man. I know that sounds cliché, but Talon’s therapy and re-training takes all my time. And seriously—I’m not sure a man would want to step into my life when I have the responsibility to look after and help rehabilitate Talon.

TIMBREL: So wait—a traumatized dog keeps the jerks away? Where can I get one? Okay, okay. Not as funny as it sounded in my head. But dudes are seriously overrated.

ASPEN: Yeah, let’s see how long that lasts if you get another mission with ODA452. . .more specifically, with Candyman.

TIMBREL: Hey, he’s a dude. Dudes are trouble. I got the only guy I want—Beowulf. 

Thanks, Timbrel, Aspen, & Ronie! What fun!

Readers, make sure you check out MY REVIEW of Ronie's book, Trinity: Military War Dog as well as MY INTERVIEW with the author!

Image credit, soldier w/dog: <a href=''>diter / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Image credit, dog silhouette w/flag: <a href=''>deepspacedave / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Debbie Knows Edgy: KISS OF DEATH --the new Christian (yes, Christian) vampire novel from Debbie Viguie

So it's the day after Halloween, y'all, and although the doctor says my headache is from a sinus infection, there is the distinct possibility that it could be stronger than that diagnosis would explain due to last night's sugar rush. Oh, sure. I bought candy for the little goblins who dared come to my door, but then my hubby came home with 3 big bags of FREE candy (3 flavors of Tootsie Rolls), so it was up to me to make sure at least a few of those KitKats and Reeces Peanut Butter Cups fulfilled their ghoulish purpose to be consumed on October 31. 
Mission. Accomplished.
Now I'm ready to turn on the Christmas music.
"What?!" you screech.
Okay, okay. I'll wait another day or two. After all, I recently reviewed a really good book that fits any lingering October-ness you might feel today. KISS OF DEATH by Debbie Viguie is sure to set of a ping on your Creep-o-Meter (in a good way) It's the second book in The Kiss Trilogy--that daring series that has been referred to as Christian Vampire Romance.
Have you ever finished a book that was good but just a tad bit lacking and need something strong to restore your passion for reading? Well, I had just finished one such book when my hands reached for Kiss of Death, the next title in my TBR stack. Imagine my huge sigh of relief! I've read Debbie's books in the past (and found her to be a FASCINATING interview subject as well!) and knew I was in for a TREAT. (Yes, that "tricky" little pun was intended. But it is also SO true.) AND... don't you just LOVE the covers on this series???
A good portion of the book recommendation (below) appeared first at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog alongside a couple of other oddly creepy recommendations. Book images are from the author's website Candy bowl Image credit: <a href=''>mg7 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
So, while I go grab another KitKat, here's the scoop on KISS OF DEATH:
What it's about (from the publisher):
Book 2 in The Kiss Trilogy
-- available NOW! --
In the wake of a failed attempt to defeat the vampire Richelieu, Susan and her friends are weakened and divided. Raphael must set aside his animosity and join with his enigmatic sire Gabriel to discover a powerful weapon before Richelieu claims it. Meanwhile, Susan and her cousin Wendy translate a 12th century diary belonging to their ancestor, Carissa, to learn the origin of their family's connection with the vampires. As Carissa's story of love and betrayal unfolds, they discover the secrets of the present will only be revealed by solving the mysteries of the past.
Why you should read it: If you haven't read Kiss of Night yet, make sure you do before sinking your teeth into Viguié's second book of The Kiss Trilogy. The author assumes readership, and rightly so. The first book was just that awesome. (For more info, check out my HEA review  and interview  with the author.)
Using the journal of Susan and Wendy's ancestor to segue into a different time, Viguié flawlessly transports the story between the 12th and 21st centuries and each thread enhances the other.
Book 1 in The Kiss Trilogy
--released in 2011--
Although Susan and Raphael's ability to act upon their attraction is ideologically (and often geographically) stalled for this Kiss installment, the romantic tension between them is tangible, even when they are not in the same country. But never fear: There is plenty of dangerous attraction sizzling between Susan's ancestor Carissa and Gabriel, the vampire who still inspires incredible fear in Susan and her contemporaries. Both paranormal and inspy romance readers will be captured by the new twists in this exciting novel and will be looking forward to the final title to be released in 2013.
NOTE: I'm still a little concerned about where the past of one of the minor characters might lead us, but there is much yet to be revealed before this trilogy comes to a close.
Tidbit: Make sure you read Debbie's "Dear Reader" letter that appears just ahead of Chapter 1. Written especially for those readers who might feel a little queasy about putting vampire elements in Christian fiction, Debbie's honesty and clear love of story will help assuage any doubts you might have about content.


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