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July 2014

Falling for the Pirate by Amber Lin

Cover50244-mediumJuliana Hargate, finds herself penniless and homeless when her father accused of embezzlement disappears. She trades her fancy dress for chimney-sweep’s clothes and few shillings (she knows she made a bad bargain) and sets off to try to clear her father’s name by sneaking into his offices at Hargate Shipping to steal files she hopes to use to clear his name. From the internal narration it is clear that Juliana is nearing some sort of psychotic break due to shock, distress and hunger but she still manages to climb on stacked shipping crates and sneak in to the building. It is a bad plan, but the only one she can think of. While Juliana was able to evade the guards, she does not escape the attention of Captain Nathaniel Bowen, who while impaired by having downed a bottle of brandy in celebration of having almost achieved his revenge, is not about to let anyone steal what he just won back. He rushes to the building and confronts Juliana, who after a brief exchange, is able to escape him, but almost dies when her escape route topples her into the water. Nate rescues her from drowning and comes to realize that the young pilfering chimney sweep is really is a woman in disguise.


By the time Juliana awakes without her memory, Nate has already become fascinated with her, trying to figure out who she is and why she was trying to steal from him. Juliana is doubly at his mercy, already vulnerable, without her home and her father missing, she doesn’t even know why she set out to steal from him and feels keenly guilty to receive some much from him. Capt. Bowen soon figures out who she is, further complicating his feeling for her. Will he ruin her out of vengeance or come to care for her and makes himself vulnerable to her when her memory could returns and she could betray him, or all of the above.


Juliana and Nate indulge in lots of hand-wringing,and wrestle with lots of angst as to the their identity, ambitions and relationship to each other as they spiral closer but it left me cold. On paper I should have liked both characters, Juliana is self-reliant, determined, despite being naively innocent about her father's guilt and Nate is darkly tortured by his past, but is a gruff guardian of poor and abused, but they  simply felt like types, rather than people.  I could intellectually follow their dismay and attraction I didn’t connect with either of the characters enough to care, about whether Nathan would ruin her in truth or if she would leave him if she knew the truth, especially when they rarely talked to each other about it, but instead mused to themselves or others about their feelings. And I have to admit to being disappointed that Capt. Bowen is not in fact a pirate, and the ship they spend the last half of the novel in never leaves the dock.


2 of 5 stars


A review copy of Falling for a Pirate was provided by Entangled via NetGalley for review purposes.

Falling for Max by Shannon Stacey (The Kowalskis Book 9)

18812534Max likes his life, he loves his job, he has friends,and he has figured out routines that let him have a comfortable if not exciting life. Despite befriending several of the Kowalskis and opening his home up on game day to fellow sports fans, to most Whitford residents he remains a mysterious object of speculation and gossip. No one seems to know what he does for a living and why he needs state of the art security for his basement. Max up to now he hasn’t minded the speculation that he might be a serial killer or a secret agent and has enjoyed the mild notoriety.

While Max is content and comfortable with his routine and quiet life, he is coming to realize that he is missing something. What he is missing is a wife and children. Methodical and rational, Max sets out to find a wife by breaking it down to the simplest steps,starting out by finding a date and to that end he breaks his usual routine to visit the Whitford Diner in hopes of meeting some unattached women.

Tori is also a fairly recent addition to Whitford. Tori is graphic artist who like Max works from home. She supplements her income and motivates herself to get out of her house and PJs by picking up a shifts at Paige’s diner. Tori is manning the counter when Max walks into the diner for the first time and she watches him struggle to make small talk with a woman at the counter. After watching him get shot down, it is not long before Tori learns all about Max’s project and convinces him to let her help him become more dateable.


“She definitely wasn’t the kind of date he was looking for, since she liked her relationships to end after a few hours and he was looking for until death did they part.

But he was a nice guy and she has a soft spot for underdogs, so she was going to do whatever she could to make sure Max found his Mrs.Crawford.”

Tori sets out to smooth down his Max’s rough edges, giving him pointers on how to ask someone out on a date, get better at small talk and minimize first date awkwardness but as she spends more time with him, she ends up spending less time making him over and more time appreciating how deeply lovable Max already is and wanting to destroy those in his past that made his feel like someone not quite deserving of love.

“I’m just looking for a woman who’ll love me enough to marry me and risk having little odd duck kids. That’s pretty much my list.”

Before long Max’s modest list of expectations for his hypothetical wife, start changing into one that looks and acts a lot like Tori. The only problem is that Tori is firmly anti-marriage. Despite her close friends being happily paired up, and seeing loving long-lasting relationships like that off her aunt and uncle, Tori has sworn off permanent relationships and marriage. After seeing how hateful and vindictive her parents became during their divorce, a divorce bitter enough to drive Tori out of her hometown. Too terrified to ever risk going through ugliness her parents put her through, and fearful that she could find herself hating someone she once loved, Tori refuses to consider ever marrying.

 Tori has the best of intentions, ignoring her growing attraction and feelings for Max in attempts not to cross lines that would move them beyond friendship and distract him from his project. Max is however is distracted and perceptive and he knows who he loves and wants in his life.

 I really loved this romance. I loved how Tori found herself falling for Max against her best intentions,and I loved how clearly she saw him while remaining willfully blind to her feelings. I love that she saw his quirks and anxieties but even more clearly saw his humor, thoughtfulness, tenderness, passion and intelligence.

 I loved that the message of their story was to learn to love and trust yourself and that the person that needed to learn that more than anyone wasn’t socially awkward Max but Tori.

 My husband and I both witnessed our parents’ marriages implode dramatically while we were in our early teens and I could identify and recognize many of the dynamics Tori experienced with her parents. Her feelings and reactions to it rang true, especially how she could intellectually know that she wouldn’t behave like her parents, but still feel insecure and tentative enough to avoid relationships.

 Nine books in, and this might be my favorite Kowalskis book yet.


A copy of Falling for Max was provided by the Carina Press via NetGalley for review purposes.


Into the Shadows by Carolyn Crane (The Associates Book 3)

Download (1)I read and enjoyed the first two of Carolyn Crane’s romantic suspense series “The Associates” earlier this year. I was bit wary however when I read the blurb to the third. Thorne, the hero is self-described thug and low life, a bad guy, a killer and gang member who is only loosely associated with the Associates, not just a troubled good guy doing covert work. Thorne is dark, troubled hero and I am close to being over dark troubled heroes. However I decided to read it anyway because I trust Crane. Even though it was "Off the Edge"  that won the RITA last night my favorite of her Associates books was Book 1 “Against the Dark.” "Against the Dark" pitted a retired safe-cracker lured back for one last job against an Associates agent deep undercover in a human-trafficking organization. The hero and the heroine it were clearly well matched, both deadly and dangerous and a similar dynamic plays out in Into the Shadows.

 Nadia and Thorne have history together but their combustible relationship fell apart right around the same time her father’s empire did. It is now nearly two years later and Thorne is in deep with the Hangmen as part of a personal revenge quest,and works with the Associates when their goals align with his. However a series of mysterious raids at warehouses that used to belong to Nadia’s father, cast suspicion on him, endanger his position within the gang and threaten to incite inter-gang warfare between the rival but associated organizations that divided up Nadia’s father’s criminal empire. The only way for him to stay alive and not blow his cover is to figure out who is orchestrating the raids and prove his loyalty. His search brings him back to Nadia’s door when he comes to search the neglected mansion she inherited from her father.

 Nadia is the former “Party Princess” one of the coddled spoiled daughters of a criminal kingpin, and she has remade herself after her father’s death. Nadia has become a mother in that time and is no longer blind to the the source of the wealth and excess she used enjoy. She is also painfully aware of the ugliness of her father’s lies, and has become obsessed with finding and rescuing her mother, used and abused by him.

 “She could never face herself in the mirror again if she didn’t make this right. Most important, she could never look her little boy in the eyes again if she didn’t make this right.”


I thought that Nadia and Thorne’s relationship was deliciously complex. Both of them are scarred by their childhoods, by their fathers' abusive presence and their mothers' absences. They rarely say what they mean to each other and doubt the words of the other, but they believe and see each other in ways no one ever has before.  Thorne has never felt worthy of Nadia’s attention, and she has never felt secure of his. 

Nadia fears that despite their cruel parting she still loves him and won't be able to resist him, even if she has resolved to keep her distance for the sake of her young son’s safety. Thorne knows he is terribly dangerous to her personally and by association due to the life he lives and his enduring “lovehate” for her also makes him vulnerable to those who want to control him.

 I read the book in close to one sitting, so completely sucked in and had to go back and re-read the intense last few chapters to make sure I understood everything that happened because I was reading so fast trying to find out what happened.

 I would highly recommend Crane’s Associates series, all stand-alones even if romantic suspense is not usually your thing,because it is not usually my thing but I find them highly entertaining with a great balance of romance and action. However the action level is intense, people are shot, killed and menaced through out, so not for the faint of heart. 


A copy of Into the Shadows was provided by the author, Carolyn Crane via NetGalley for review purposes.