Monday, November 27, 2006

A Sultan's Ransom

by Loreth Anne White

There comes a time in every reader’s life when they are lucky enough to witness the emergence of an author as a force in their field. I’ve always enjoyed Loreth’s books, but the Shadow Soldiers miniseries is beyond anything she’s written before. Full of taut emotions and heart-pounding adventure, A Sultan’s Ransom is more than a romance, it’s the story of two people coming to terms with the past and the emotional scars they carry with them. This book picks up where The Heart of a Mercenary left off, with the FDS hot on the trail of an antidote for the pathogen being used to poison the President of the United States. The ex-French Foreign Legion mercenaries must stop a powerful cabal from taking over the U.S. and in turn, the world markets. This time it’s Sheik Rafiq Zayed, who must return to his homeland of Haman to infiltrate the research compound and plant a bug in the computer of the scientist who created the pathogen. But things go wrong when she discovers him in the lab and he’s forced to take her with him. Believing that she’s totally involved in this scheme, he is surprised to find a woman of compassion and innocence who lights the fires of revolution in this exiles heart. Dr. Paige Sterling took up her parent’s research, creating viruses and antidotes as a preemptive strike against biological warfare and potential pandemics. Completely in the dark about her employer’s true mission, she is devastated to learn that she’s been nothing but a pawn in this game of intrigue and assassination. Everything that she ever believed about her life is stripped from her, leaving Rafiq as her only base of reality. But Rafiq is more than a mercenary; he’s a king in exile, a king whose people have awaited his return to free them from the tyranny of his half-brother. A king who must fulfill his destiny.

With The Heart of a Mercenary, Loreth Anne White painted a picture of the jungles of the Congo that breathed and pulsated on every page. In A Sultan’s Ransom, she introduces us to the sands of the Middle East, its beauty and torment, and a people yearning for freedom. Ms. White uses words as an artist uses a paint brush, each sentence adding nuance and emotion, so that the story comes alive before you. As I said before, you do more than read Loreth’s books, you feel them. The writing is tight, the landscape breathtaking and the romance thrilling. Once again, a 5 star book.



by Jo Leigh

When reading series I often worry about whether the second book will be as good as the first. Relentless is as good as Closer … Jo Leigh has created a cast of characters that you care about, root for; and a storyline that draws you in to its own little world. Relentless is full of intrigue and romance, one of my favorite combinations. This is the first official book of the In Too Deep miniseries, its main characters introduced in Closer … Alienated from their families, wanted desperately by their enemies, this group of ex-Delta troopers and civilians are fighting for their very lives. With the use of underground resources, assumed names and their own special talents, they weave their way through a labyrinth of intrigue and betrayal, relying only upon one another. Kate Rydell was a forensic accountant for the U.N. when her life was shattered in Kosovo. Now she leads a low-profile life, jumping from place to place, setting down roots no where. Only this time there’s no easy way out. Kate witnesses a murder and the cop assigned to the job, Vince Yarrow, isn’t letting her slip out of his sight. For Vince, the death of a friend and finding out who killed him is more important than whatever Kate is hiding from and he’ll do anything to secure her testimony to put the murderers away, except he hadn’t counted on falling in love. Kate would be putting her own life, let alone the lives of the others in the group, on the line if she testifies. And falling in love would only get in the way.

I love Jo Leigh’s writing, the tight spiral of suspense and tension that exudes from every scene she sets up. The sexual currents between Kate and Vince are palpable; their reluctance to open up and their eventual capitulation to feelings that neither one can afford are realistic in Leigh’s portrayal. These are characters that you can understand and commiserate with; situations that raise your heartbeat, and a love story that lingers long after the last page is turned. 5 stars for this one.


UPDATE: 2007 RITA for Best Romantic Suspense Finalist
Winner of's Reader's Choice 2006

The Maverick

by Rhonda Nelson

The Maverick marks the end of the Men Out of Uniform miniseries that I’ve enjoyed immensely. I hate to leave these characters behind, they’ve been wonderful; Jamie in The Player, Payne in The Specialist, and now Guy in The Maverick. Rhonda Nelson has sculpted well-rounded characters, plotlines that elicit giggles and love stories that bring a sigh to your lips. And have I mentioned the men? These stories revolve around three former Rangers who left the service following the death of one of their friends on a mission that went incredibly wrong. The price for their freedom is a favor that each much repay to their former Colonel. It’s now Guy’s turn and he’s more than a bit leery as the preceding favors ended in his friends falling in love. Guy has vowed to never fall in love, a result of watching his father batter his mother for most of his life. He’s afraid that this abusive behavior lies dormant in him. Then there’s the guilt over his friend Danny’s death. As the leader of the group he feels the most responsible. But he made a deal and now it’s time to pay up. Colonel Garrett is facing pressure to retire and he thinks his only hope is to put together another group like Guy’s, and he needs the former leader to train them. It isn’t easy for Guy to walk back on to that base, nor to ignore the instant attraction he feels for Julia Beckham, the relationship expert that Garrett has recruited to help in the training. Julia has problems of her own, none the least the night she spent in jail prior to their first meeting. Her attempt at sexual role-playing in order to keep her latest boyfriend backfired, an embarrassing photo in its wake. If only she were more sexually thrilling, then maybe the men in her life wouldn’t leave with a yawn and a wave. What she thinks she needs is an all-out sensual encounter of the horizontal kind with a no-strings attached bad boy and Guy fits the bill. He’s willing to participate, only to discover that maybe strings is just what he’d like.

These books have been filled with great dialogue, witty banter and heart-thumping romance. Once again, Rhonda Nelson has written a 4 star book.


The Last Warrior

by Kylie Brant

Sometimes you keep trying an author because there’s something about their writing style that draws you, but you can’t seem to quite get in to the story. Kylie Brant is one of those authors whose books I kept buying but never finishing, until now. The Last Warrior grabbed me from the beginning and kept me glued to the pages. For once I felt the perfect mesh of exceptional writing, great storyline, and memorable characters that I expect from authors that I read over and over. With few exceptions, the Intimate Moments line has disappointed me in the last couple of years, so I was pleased that a line that I’d almost given up on is now producing books worth reading.

Joe Youngblood is a Navajo Nations Tribal police investigator, the Alpha type of hero that we all love. His wife left him, taking their son with her, and he’s understandably bitter in the romance department. He’s also afraid that she’s going to take off with their son and he’ll never see him again. Falling in love, especially with another non-tribal member, is far from his mind. Delaney Carson is a prize-winning photographer recovering from a harrowing experience in Iraq. She’s got demons of her own to exorcise, a life to put back together without the help of a bottle. Hired by the Tribal Council to write a book about their culture, she’s not prepared to become involved in the investigation of a drug ring, nor for a man like Joe. These two characters have scars that run deep; they’re emotional equals who need each other in order to heal.

Kylie Brant paints a picture of the land and history of the Navajo Nation, a love for tradition that continues in these people even today. The pride and dignity of a people steeped in history and myth is obvious in every word. Based on this book, I’ll read Kylie Brant again. 4 stars for this book.


Monday, November 06, 2006

The Heart of a Mercenary

by Loreth Anne White
Publication Date: October 2006

This is one of the most extraordinary books I’ve read this year. As many of you know, reality inserted itself into my life and I was forced to put this book down after only reading a few chapters. I recently was able to pick it up again. I mention this only to underline the fact that I didn’t have to go back and re-read what had happened; I was able to pick up right where I left off. That’s how much the story sticks with you.

The mercenary is Hunter McBride, a man forced to flee from his past and join the French Foreign Legion. Along with two other friends, he later formed a group called the FDS, a band of mercenaries who take on jobs no others can perform. Sarah Burdett also fled from her past, a broken marriage to a manipulative man. Her journey took her to the jungles of Africa to work at a clinic. Ms. White’s opening description of the carnage and terror that Sarah experiences when the clinic is attacked is a riveting, heart pounding narrative of the savagery of man. When Sarah escapes into the jungle with a lethal pathogen encased in a biohazard container she had no idea if anyone had heard her radio cry for help until McBride arrived in dark of night. Intent on stopping a powerful cabal from taking over the U.S. government and, in turn the world markets, he must get the canister and its contents to safety. Sarah doesn't know whether she should trust this man whose purpose is shrouded in mystery. Together they embark on a journey to save the world, and in the end, to save each other.

Loreth Anne White writes with knowledge of African terrain, but her words do more than describe the landscape around her characters. She makes the reader feel the pulse of the jungle, the swamps and rivers that surround them. She paints a picture and allows us a peek into the soul of a continent. Not many writers can achieve this and not become bogged down in the descriptive process.

This is a story of love, courage and the unbreakable strength of the human spirit. I give this book 5 Amazon stars.

UPDATE: awarded a 2006 CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Award