The first quarter of this book, I was pretty sure I was going to hate it. Then things really got in gear, and it became gripping and heartbreaking. The heroine is definitely not my type of girl, but the more I learned about her past, the more she and her reactions made sense. The hero is very damaged (by design, thanks to an amazingly manipulative mob boss) but fights hard to be the best kind of being he knows how. The characters felt unique as did Gideon's version of the paranormal underworld of New Orleans - something that's been done to death, but still felt fresh in this take.
This book was excellent - I read it all in one go and did not want to put it down. The only reason it's not getting five stars is because it didn't have that extra something that makes a book a hands-down, keep-forever favorite - and Nalini Singh is more than capable of producing those (Like Heart of Obsidian - OMG!!!). As exciting as this book was, it felt a little bit like a place marker in the Archangels series, as if the real action will happen in the next few books and this was setting the stage. I loved all the interpersonal drama between Raphael and Elena - I appreciate when authors revisit characters who have already achieved their HEA and show us the difficulty involved in keeping that relationship healthy.
The banter between the main characters in the first two-thirds of this book is great. The last third introduces the hero's insane father and it goes downhill pretty quickly - the father's actions and everyone's reactions were just bizarre. I kept thinking, "Wait, they just did what? WHY? That's the stupidest..." Also Sarah's reaction to Hugh's deal with his father to save her cousin's life made NO sense to me - it was a rather ingenious plan on his part, and she totally freaked out like it was the worst thing Anybody Anywhere could have Ever done Ever. Drama queen.
This book is two novellas by Jill Shalvis, one of my favorite authors, published in 2002, eight years before her amazing Lucky Harbor series. She's come a LONG way. The stories were trite, the characters undeveloped and two-dimensional, and the endings unbelievable to me even for romance. The first story, A Royal Mess, isn't too bad and I enjoyed the pluckiness of the heroine even if it did come across as recklessness and stupidity at least 1/3 of the time. The second story, Her Knight to Remember, was downright offensive in that the hero is a complete alpha-jerk and I really wanted the heroine to deliver a fatal kick to his head the whole time. So yeah, Jill Shalvis vastly improved in the 8 years between this book and Simply Irresistible. One thing that did give glimpses of her talent: the scene writing. There are a few scenes in these stories that are amazingly well done and carry the reader into the emotions and reactions of the characters who a page before were too flat.
I think if I were still a young adult, I'd give it five stars. As an adult, there were a few things Brittany struggled with that left me unsympathetic and rolling my eyes. Especially her issues with her boyfriend (not the hero Alex, but the white jock who lasted much too long): OMG, my boyfriend is being mean and rude and unsupportive, despises my sister whom I love more than anything, and is pushing me to have sex when I'm not even sure I'm attracted to him anymore but should I go ahead and sleep with him anyway?? Seriously, she agonized over this for half the book. I never really liked her and I think that's why I felt Alex (who I very much did like) falling for her was unbelievable. Alex's character received the better end of the author's research and character development. Alex is truly tortured and truly heroic, while Brittany is rich, white, and stressed (really, all you hear about is how rich and white and stressed she is). I'm glad I read this book - it was a quick read and the parts about Alex were quite engaging - but I won't be picking up the author's second book.
This was fantastic. My husband kept checking on me to see what I was laughing so hard about, I'd read a page to him, he'd start laughing, and then I'd yell at him to go away so I could keep reading...and laughing. Warning: everyone in this book has a potty mouth, which was exactly what I needed after a stressful week. When other people cuss when I'm mad, I stop feeling like I need to cuss. The child in this book was such a typical little boy, half the scenes with him felt like they were lifted straight from my own days of trying to raise a small barbarian psycho (aka four year old) into a civilized adult. We're still working on that one. The second book in this series is going on my "really really want to read" shelf.
This is the last Lora Leigh I'm ever going to read. The mystery part of this story was incredibly contrived and hokey, the majority of characters unbelievable and flat, and the sex scenes were repetitive (and not in a good way) and went on and on with totally random introspection from both characters in the middle of everything. One thing that really irked me: the hero's wife and child whom he loved deeply died back in Russia, a point gone over many times to explain the hero's icy heart, and yet the book also states several times "He'd never known love." So the first wife and kid didn't count?? Grrr. It started to feel very bizarre and I found myself hoping the bad guys would win and just kill everybody.
I was loving this book until in the final third when the hero seduces the heroine about 2 minutes after promising her up and down he'll prove his love by waiting for their wedding night. I found this confusing and smarmy. Otherwise this was a highly enjoyable read. This was my first Sabrina Jeffries book and I really enjoyed her writing style. The Sharpe family of "hellions" is entertaining and their emotional lives believable. I'll definitely be reaching for the second book in this series.