Review: Until There Was You by Jessica Scott

 

Title: Until There Was You

Author: Jessica Scott

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

From the author of Because of You comes an all-new contemporary eBook romance. He plays by the rules, she’s not afraid to break them. Now these two strong-willed Army captains will prove that opposites attract . . .

A by-the-book captain with a West Point background, Captain Evan Loehr refuses to mix business with pleasure–except for an unguarded instance years ago when he succumbed to the deep sensuality of redheaded beauty Claire Montoya. From that moment on, though, Evan has been at odds with her, through two deployments to Iraq and back again. But when he is asked to train a team prepping for combat alongside Claire, battle-worn Evan is in for the fight of his life.

Strong, gutsy, and loyal, Captain Claire Montoya has worked hard to earn the rank on her chest. In Evan, Claire sees a rigid officer who puts the rules before everything else–including his people. When the mission forces them together, Claire soon discovers that there is more to Evan than meets the eye. He’s more than the rank on his chest; he’s a man with dark secrets and deep longings. For all their differences, Evan and Claire share two crucial passions: their country and each other.

Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Blaze of Winter, The Devil’s Thief, and Santerra’s Sin.


Review:

I read Until There Was You because it is an original Loveswept release. Loveswept has been a favorite series of mine for years, and I am delighted that Random House is releasing older titles in digital, as well as new titles. Jessica Scott’s first release, Because of You, looked intriguing, but I was swamped when it came out, so it kept getting shuffled to the bottom of the review pile. When I had the opportunity to hop onto a blog tour for Until There Was You, Jessica’s follow up, I eagerly hopped on. I haven’t read many military romances, so I wanted to give myself a little more exposure to them, and after learning that the author is in the Arm has Army experience, it became that much more interesting.

Claire Montoya is a career soldier, and after years of dedicating herself to the military and the war efforts in the Middle East, she was promoted in rank. Now an officer, her current assignment is to prep a newbie unit for the rigors of warfare. They will be deployed in five weeks, and Claire’s good friend, Sarah, is in charge of the unit. With her best friend, Reza, an enlisted man, Claire must get these young soldiers ready for their convoy duties. The task seems impossible; Claire’s superior officers are focused on skills that Claire and Reza deem unimportant to the survival of the troops. With great despair and trepidation, Claire must set aside her personal views about the training and stick to the program, or risk being disciplined and tossed out of the Army.

I found this an fascinating read because I know so little about military life. The story is set after the Surge, when US troops were supposed to provide more of a support function to the fledgling Iraqi government. Life for the deployed soldiers was still frighteningly dangerous, and Claire had been faced with many decisions early in her career that left soldiers injured or dead. She doesn’t want to see any more lives lost, so she is frantic to prepare Sarah’s troops for the dangers they are about to face. She is constantly clashing with Evan, a West Point officer she has been sparring with for years, about the appropriateness of the training schedule. She calls Evan Captain America because of his unwavering dedication to rules and his job duties. Claire is a bit of a rebel, and she’s paid a price for her outspokenness. She has not been promoted as quickly as she might have been otherwise, but she won’t back down when she thinks she’s in the right and that soldiers will be needlessly killed. The conflict between Evan and Claire seemed insurmountable to me. How could either one of them ever compromise on this very basic but personality defining stance? Follow the rules to the letter, or bend them in order save lives.

Until There Was You is a book about conflict and conflict resolution. When we meet Claire and Evan, neither of them is able to adequately work through the conflicts in their life. Claire is driven to train Sarah’s troops as best she can with Reza’s help, but Reza, having seen several deployments, is suffering from PSTD. To keep his demons at bay, he has taken to drinking excessively, partying and hooking up with women indiscriminately. He’s two steps away from being court-martialed, but Claire is skilled at running interference for him. This adds to the tension between Evan and Claire. He doesn’t see how she can, in good conscience, keep covering up for him. Reza is going to get people killed one day, if he doesn’t kill himself first. Claire already tried to save her father from the demons lurking in the bottom of a liquor bottle. Her failure haunts her, and she isn’t ready for a repeat of that.

Evan hasn’t had an easy life either. He feels responsible for his sister’s death, and his guilt has driven him away from his family and away from close relationships. He and Claire make for a sympatric couple because both of them are so damaged. Neither of them can trust themselves to care for someone else for fear of being hurt again, so it’s easy to get behind their relationship and hope that they will somehow find a way to be together, even as messed up as they both are. It is Evan who takes that first, frightening step of accepting his feelings, and of having to face his fear of Claire’s rejection.

One thing that frustrated me about this story was my lack of understanding  of military protocol. I was confused by the chain of command, and about why some of the events would have such disastrous outcomes for the characters. The pacing of the story was also uneven in parts; I found the training sequences fascinating, but found some of Evan and Claire’s missteps irritating in their frequency. Overall, this is an emotional, satisfying read, and I will have to dust off my copy of Because of You for another military romance fix.

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Countdown to Karen Marie Moning’s ICED and Giveaway!

Karen Marie Moning’s new book, ICED, hits stores on October 30!   Thanks to Random House, I have a set of the FEVER series to giveaway!!  Yup, you can win all of these:

Darkfever

Bloodfever

Faefever

Dreamfever

Shadowfever

Iced

Pretty awesome, huh?

Here’s more info about ICED:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Karen Marie Moning picks up where Shadowfever leaves off with Iced, the first book in her hotly anticipated new urban paranormal trilogy set in the world of the blockbuster Fever series.

The year is 1 AWC—After the Wall Crash. The Fae are free and hunting us. It’s a war zone out there, and no two days are alike. I’m Dani O’Malley, the chaos-filled streets of Dublin are my home, and there’s no place I’d rather be.

Dani “Mega” O’Malley plays by her own set of rules—and in a world overrun by Dark Fae, her biggest rule is: Do what it takes to survive. Possessing rare talents and the all-powerful Sword of Light, Dani is more than equipped for the task. In fact, she’s one of the rare humans who can defend themselves against the Unseelie. But now, amid the pandemonium, her greatest gifts have turned into serious liabilities.

Dani’s ex–best friend, MacKayla Lane, wants her dead, the terrifying Unseelie princes have put a price on her head, and Inspector Jayne, the head of the police force, is after her sword and will stop at nothing to get it. What’s more, people are being mysteriously frozen to death all over the city, encased on the spot in sub-zero, icy tableaux.

When Dublin’s most seductive nightclub gets blanketed in hoarfrost, Dani finds herself at the mercy of Ryodan, the club’s ruthless, immortal owner. He needs her quick wit and exceptional skill to figure out what’s freezing Fae and humans dead in their tracks—and Ryodan will do anything to ensure her compliance.

Dodging bullets, fangs, and fists, Dani must strike treacherous bargains and make desperate alliances to save her beloved Dublin—before everything and everyone in it gets iced.

Check out the nifty countdown widget on my sidebar! Cool, huh?  Click it for a trip to Karen Marie Moning’s website, where you can learn more about ICED and all of Karen’s other releases.  You can also sign up for her newsletter and read her blog!

Ready to enter for your chance to win the FEVER series?  Just fill out the widget below!  Earn extra entries by following.  US mailing addresses only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Excerpt: The Devil’s Thief by Samantha Kane

Thanks to Random House, I have an excerpt from Samantha Kane’s The Devil’s Thief to share.  This Loveswept release will be available digitally November 12.  Enjoy!

If you enjoy the excerpt, you can pre-order a copy by clicking this Amazon link: The Devil’s Thief: A Loveswept Historical Romance

The Devil’s Thief by Samantha Kane, Excerpt

Review: Blaze of Winter by Elisabeth Barrett

 

Title:  Blaze of Winter

Author: Elisabeth Barrett

Publisher:  Random House

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Winter heats up in this hot new Star Harbor romance, as another sexy Grayson brother, a wickedly handsome writer, plots his happily ever after with a sweet stranger.

Frustrated with her job in Boston, social worker Avery Newbridge welcomes the opportunity to reassess her life when family asks her to help manage the Star Harbor Inn. Trying to figure out her future is overwhelming enough, but she doesn’t count on distraction in the form of one Theo Grayson, the gorgeous, green-eyed author who she knows is trouble from the moment he saunters into the inn.
Not only does he have a talent for writing swashbuckling adventures, but Theo also has a soft spot for big-hearted damsels in distress, especially a woman who’s great at helping everyone—except herself. Avery’s demons challenge him, but for desire this hot, he isn’t backing down. With every kiss and heated whisper Theo promises her his heart . . . if only Avery is willing to open up and accept it.


Review:

I have mixed feelings about Blaze of Fire, and most of them are because I have a love-hate relationship with Theo.  Of all the Grayson brothers, he somehow ended up my least favorite.  I don’t know why, exactly.  Maybe I don’t find bespectacled authors of historical yarns intriguing.  Maybe I’m jealous that he was able to live in a bed and breakfast indefinitely,  never having to worry about making his bed or cleaning the bathroom.  Or maybe it’s because I found him a bit too inconsistent.  For most of the book, he is sweet and mild-mannered, with infinite amounts of patience to support Avery during her moments of insecurity.  But like Clark Kent, once those glasses come off, he changes, but not always for the better.  He could be a smug jerk, and I didn’t feel quite so fond of him then.

I did enjoy the tempo and tone of this story.  Avery is emotionally bruised after finding one of her therapy patients dead from an overdose.  Upset with herself for not realizing that she was being lied to and not able to forgive herself for not being able to keep Mia from harming herself, Avery is hiding out in Star Harbor.  Helping run her aunt’s business while the older woman recovers from her battle with breast cancer, Avery is moving from one day to the next, trying to stay on the fringes of Star Harbor society.  It drives her nuts that everyone in the small community knows everyone else’s business, and she doesn’t like feeling like she’s under a microscope.  She just needs to be left alone so she can come to terms with her feelings of inadequacy, and figure out what to do with the rest of her life.

Theo is struggling, too, but his internal strife is based on his inability to write.  He’s under pressure to complete the next volume in his privateer adventure series, but he’s stuck.   He can’t write a word.  He has no inspiration, and he feels empty.  Leaving his meaningless life in San Francisco behind, he heads back to his childhood home to rediscover his writing roots.  Instead, he discovers Avery, and one glimpse of her vibrantly hued hair has him captivated.  He has discovered his muse, and he’s not going to let her out of his sight.

I liked Theo when he was gently wooing Avery, giving her the emotional support she needed so desperately, but backing away when she needed space.   He taught her how to have fun and take risks, while teaching himself how to open his heart at the same time.  His courtship methods were occasionally questionable, and I didn’t know whether to be amused or appalled as he basically stalked her to her favorite hangout in Boston.  That was a little creepy.  He also showed an epic lapse in judgment that almost destroys his relationship with Avery, and for such a smart guy, I was disappointed with his behavior.  Of course it’s all set up so the good folk of Star Harbor could meddle in his business, but for him to completely disregard everything he knew about Avery and to push back like he did didn’t make sense to me.

The drug runner plot thread had a bigger role in Blaze of Winter than in the previous book in the series, and I am assuming it will be played up even more in Val and Cole’s books.  They are my favorite characters, but they didn’t get much page time here, only serving as backup for Theo.  I was a little disappointed that they didn’t get to play a bigger part in the story, but that just gives me something to look forward to in the future when they get their own 200 pages.  Bring those on! 

Blaze of Winter is a quick read with a (mostly) sweet hero who occasionally displays a lack of common sense.  Avery is an emotionally wounded heroine who needs a lot of handholding to get through the train wreck in her past that has her questioning every decision she makes.  It was gratifying to see her finally set her fear aside and embrace the love Theo, and her own family, were desperate to give her. 

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Excerpt: The Dark Garden by Eden Bradley

Thanks to Random House, I have an excerpt from The  Dark Garden by Eden Bradley to share with you!  Readers who enjoyed 50 Shades of Gray may want to take a look at this book.    If you enjoy the excerpt, you can order a copy from your favorite bookseller or by clicking here: The Dark Garden: A Novel.  There’s a plot description:

 

If you loved Fifty Shades of Grey . . . get ready to enter The Dark Garden.

A deliciously potent tale of one woman’s quest for self-discovery.

Rowan Cassidy likes to be in charge—especially in her personal life. As a mistress at Club Privé, the most exclusive bondage/S & M club on the West Coast, Rowan can live out her dominant fantasies safely, and with complete control—until the night Christian Thorne walks in. Self-confident and sophisticated, he’s a natural dominant if Rowan’s ever seen one. Yet she can’t stop thinking about him and imagining his touch.

Christian has returned home, hoping to break free from his dissatisfaction and malaise—and discovers the cure in Rowan. He’s dying to get his skilled hands on her and watch her surrender, to unlock the mystery of her that captivates him. Determined to be her master, he makes Rowan a daring proposition: give herself over to him for thirty days.

Rowan finds Christian’s offer terrifying—and impossible to resist. But abandoning herself to Christian’s power might be more than she can handle. . . . Or it might be the realization of her true nature and the dark garden within her. There will be only one way to find out. And once the game has begun, there’s no turning back.

 

The Dark Garden; A Novel

Excerpt: Until There Was You by Jessica Scott

Thanks to Random House, here is an excerpt from Jessica Scott’s Until There Was You.  If you enjoy military romances, this one is right up your alley.  You can order the book from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking here:  Until There Was You: A Loveswept Contemporary Military Romance

There is a plot description:

From the author of Because of You comes an all-new contemporary eBook romance. He plays by the rules, she’s not afraid to break them. Now these two strong-willed Army captains will prove that opposites attract . . .

A by-the-book captain with a West Point background, Captain Evan Loehr refuses to mix business with pleasure–except for an unguarded instance years ago when he succumbed to the deep sensuality of redheaded beauty Claire Montoya. From that moment on, though, Evan has been at odds with her, through two deployments to Iraq and back again. But when he is asked to train a team prepping for combat alongside Claire, battle-worn Evan is in for the fight of his life.
Strong, gutsy, and loyal, Captain Claire Montoya has worked hard to earn the rank on her chest. In Evan, Claire sees a rigid officer who puts the rules before everything else–including his people. When the mission forces them together, Claire soon discovers that there is more to Evan than meets the eye. He’s more than the rank on his chest; he’s a man with dark secrets and deep longings. For all their differences, Evan and Claire share two crucial passions: their country and each other.

Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Blaze of Winter, The Devil’s Thief, and Santerra’s Sin.

 

UNTIL THERE WAS YOU by Jessica Scott, Excerpt

Labor Day Hop! Help Random House Celebrate Blaze of Winter!

Random House is celebrating the release of Elisabeth Barrett’s Blaze of Winter by holding the Labor Day Giveaway hop!  They are giving away:

  • A Free Romance book! (10 winners in all)
  • Be one of 5 winners to win a prize pack from author Elisabeth Barrett (Check out the information below!)
  • Fill out the widget below to enter! US only, please.  After filling out the Rafflecopter widget, click on through to visit all of the blogs participating in the hop!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

     

    Here’s what Random House has to say:

    Celebrating our next Loveswept release – BLAZE OF WINTER by Elisabeth Barrett – on sale 9/10 – Winter heats up in this hot new Star Harbor romance, as another sexy Grayson brother, a wickedly handsome writer, plots his happily ever after with a sweet stranger.

  • Interview with Sabrina Darby, Author of The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe

    Sabrina Darby is the author of The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe.  I enjoyed this quirky read, and was delighted when Sabrina agreed to answer some of my questions.  Check out what she has to say:

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

    [Sabrina Darby] From my bio:  I’ve been reading romance since the age of seven and learned my best vocabulary (dulcet, diaphanous, and turgid) from them!

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe?

    [Sabrina Darby] This story was so much fun to write because the premise is basically a mom hiring a mistress for her son.

    The official blurb is:

    Wanted:

    A beautiful young woman—preferably one with no connections, who won’t ask too many questions—to spend two weeks in the North of England with an obstinate, aloof, and utterly handsome man.

    Must love dogs, fixing up crumbling castles, and gorgeous and complicated war heroes who may or may not be hiding hearts of gold under their gruff exteriors.

    Must not, under any circumstances, fall in love . . .

    Simpering misses need not apply.

    You can find an excerpt at http://www.scribd.com/doc/100422106/The-Short-and-Fascinating-Tale-of-Angelina-Whitcombe-by-Sabrina-Darby

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

    [Sabrina Darby] This story actually started as a blog post on TheBallroomBlog.com, where I was playing with some of the common story elements in historical romance: wounded, war-scarred hero, meddling mother, castle, etc.  It grew into a series of posts and then into a novella.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Angelina?

    [Sabrina Darby] Ambitious, Determined, Unconventional

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things John would never have in his pocket?

    [Sabrina Darby] This is a hard one.  John’s definitely the sort of guy who might collect random things if he thought they could be put to good use. Of course, he’s also very neat, so there would be nothing in his pocket by the end of the day. I do think, by the time the story happens, he would likely never have a gun in his pocket.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] If Angelina had a theme song, what would it be?

    [Sabrina Darby] Just prior to meeting John, I’d say her theme song is the Dar Williams version of Comfortably Numb. 

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

    [Sabrina Darby] Another good question, and hard to pick just a few since there is no doubt that I’m influenced by all of the amazing artists who have come before me. However, for now, I’d say Ani DiFranco, Carole Maso and Magritte.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

    [Sabrina Darby] Something to write with, something to write on, and a latte. 

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

    [Sabrina Darby] If we’re talking romance, then I’d have to say the last Sarah MacLean book that I read. 

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

    [Sabrina Darby] I can’t remember because I’ve been reading voraciously for as long as I can remember. However, books like Harriet the Spy definitely contributed to my love for writing. 

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

    [Sabrina Darby] In the past, I used to love ballroom dancing and karate. These days, I like going to museums (Los Angeles has some of the best!), traveling and spending time with my husband, family and friends.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

    [Sabrina Darby] I love when I get to interact with readers! You can find me online at SabrinaDarby.com, twitter.com/SabrinaDarby, facebook.com/sabrinadarbyromance or at TheBallroomBlog.com.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

    You can order The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below. Available in print and digital (digital is only .99!!)