REVIEW: Laura K. Curtis’s MIND GAMES

Mind_GamesWhen Miss Bates returned to reading romance oh-around-’07, her choices were either historical romance, or romantic suspense. Of the latter, she vividly remembers reading Cherry Adair’s Kiss and Tell, pulling an all-nighter to finish the story of operative Jake, heroine Marnie, a snow storm, bad guys, and Marnie’s need for life-saving coumadin. Maybe because it was a first, maybe because it’s good, the book stayed with her. She went on to Brockmann’s Troubleshooters (yet to be completed) and fell in love with Pamela Clare’s and Lisa Marie Rice’s romantic suspense novels. Since then, Miss Bates hasn’t really found a romantic suspense writer to keep her up tense for the end, and cheering for a sympathetic hero and heroine – until Laura K. Curtis’s Mind Games! Heroine Dr. Jane Evans works for Clive Handler’s Applied Human Intelligence agency, developing psychiatric medications. Jane is a workaholic, living without partner or friends, research her sole focus. Walking to her lab from a NYC subway one morning, thugs attempt to abduct her, but a blond giant rescues her – a blond hunk of giant who looks awfully familiar. He’s Eric Sorensen, the fellow student she tutored in university. Eric is not there by accident. He’s been hired by AHI’s head to protect Jane. *Someone* wants Jane for her Mensa-mind and the life-changing drugs she can create. Despite Eric and Harp Security’s best efforts, Jane is kidnapped and brought to a Mexican secret-laboratory location. She and her lab partner, Daniela, are forced to work on developing  a drug that will create conscienceless super-soldiers. Eric and his team follow the cartel’s trail and stage a daring rescue – but Eric and Jane’s HEA-road remains danger-riddled. Continue reading

REVIEW: Mary Ann Rivers’ LIVE, Or “Sweet For Salt” Time After Time

Live“Had we but world enough and time,/This coyness, lady, were no crime … Let us roll all our strength and all/Our sweetness up into one ball,/And tear our pleasures with rough strife/Through the iron gates of life:/Thus, though we cannot make our sun/Stand still, yet we will make him run.”  The poet, with an opening that warns of choices unmade, opportunities unseized, urges his love, his “mistress,” to make love, to love, to seize this moment right now, right here; for life and love are fleeting.  Carpe diem, LIVE, for tomorrow we may die.  Thus begins and ends one of Miss Bates’s favourite poems, Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” with its resignation to life’s ephemerality, “time’s wingèd chariot,” and in that urgency, that reminder of loss, its beauty.  Reading Mary Ann Rivers’ Live, first in The Burnside Series, Miss Bates remembered and thought about this beloved poem because Rivers’ novel calls up those questions and ends up in the same place: on time’s precipice where we dwell and make our lives.  Rivers’ has written a remarkable romance novel: beautifully, if obliquely, written; tormented as only youth can be; serious as only the un-ironic are; unabashed; explicitly sexual; yet, austere.  Continue reading; Miss Bates hopes she does this one justice

REVIEW: Amanda Flower’s A PLAIN DISAPPEARANCE, Or The Hammer and the Mouse

A Plain DisappearanceIf there’s one thing Miss Bates can say about the occasional cozy mystery series she follows, it’s that they remind her of a favourite autumnal sweater. Heather-green wool, hand-knit from Scotland, she’s waiting for that October chill to don it and walk the red- and gold-leaf-strewn streets of her native city. Thus is Amanda Flower’s Appleseed Creek series now that Miss Bates has read the latest and third volume: comfortable, familiar, endearing. It’s also lovingly written and in keeping with the sympathetic conventions of the cozy. On the other hand, it suffers from the bane of any series: familiarity breeding contempt … and the particular bane of the cozy, the reader’s increasing difficulty to sustain belief in the viability of that many people murdered in a small town and our heroine’s bad/good luck in consistently finding the bodies!  Continue reading to learn what Miss Bates thought of Flower’s latest

REVIEW: Miranda Neville’s THE RUIN OF A ROGUE, Or Honour For a Thief

The Ruin Of A RogueMiranda Neville’s latest, The Ruin Of A Rogue, second in the Georgian-set series that opened with the disappointing Importance of Being Wicked, was, contrariwise, delightful. Along with Grant’s A Woman Entangled, it is one of the best historical romances Miss Bates read this year. What a relief it was for her, after some recent duds, to sink into the replete reader immersion that a romance well-told and well-felt brings. Neville’s novel is adeptly written, witty, poignant, and utterly charming, as are her rogue and his beloved, Marcus Lithgow and Anne Brotherton. If you’ve read the less successful Importance, you’ll recall the scoundrel who indulged in certain shenanigans concerning the heroine’s, Caro’s, Titian and her geek heiress-cousin with the obsessive interest in antiquities. If you haven’t read Importance, you need not read it to enjoy this romance, though mysteries set up in the first are resolved in the second. Read on, for the whys and wherefores you should read this historical romance

MINI-REVIEW: Amanda Flower’s A PLAIN SCANDAL, and Wherein A Little Malaise Sets In

A Plain ScandalLong before Miss Bates was ever a spinster, she read all the Pippi Longstocking books she could get her hands on. It was with a nostalgic smile that she read Chief Greta Rose’s assessment of our romance heroine and amateur sleuth, Chloe Humphrey, in Amanda Flower’s first Appleseed Creek cozy mystery, A Plain Death, “You’re like the Pippi Longstocking version of Nancy Drew.” Our red-haired geek girl and wanna-be detective continues to eavesdrop, interview, investigate, and fight for truth, justice, and the Amish way in Flower’s second cozy mystery, A Plain Scandal. In this case, she’s in pursuit of the culprit who is cutting off the beards of Amish men and Amish girls’ long hair … until these nasty shenanigans turn to murder, the murder of a successful young Amish man, Ezekiel Young. Continue reading for a rare look at a surprisingly succinct Miss Bates

REVIEW: “And Now For Something Completely Different,” Amanda Flower’s A PLAIN DEATH

A Plain DeathFor some time now, Miss Bates had a hankering to read outside of her contemporary and historical romance comfort zone. She wanted to read an Amish-set romance, but didn’t know enough about the sub-genre to select an author or title. She’d read about Amanda Flower’s Appleseed Creek series in USA Today and thought this might be her gentled way in, thought she’d pay a call and linger for a spot of tea. Miss Bates is leery of the cozy mystery’s cuteness and catness, having consumed tons of these before embracing romance wholeheartedly. Once assured that there was a strong romantic element woven into the who-done-it, she gave Flower’s first Appleseed Creek, Amish-set, inspirational, cozy mystery a try. With some misgivings aside, smack, smack, like trying a new food, she uttered, “me like”. Continue reading about Miss Bates’s foray into Amish country