Marak Interesting set-up, the initial world-building and character building drew me in. Dhampir heroine out to revenge her sister's death, vampire prin...moreMarak Interesting set-up, the initial world-building and character building drew me in. Dhampir heroine out to revenge her sister's death, vampire prince who rescues her when she's overpowered by a Rogue (evil vampire). But the switch from their wariness of each other and fighting their mating instincts to deciding to get married to having sex to... the end? Way abrupt. Even for a short story, I need at least another 10 pages to make the transitions work.
Vixen We start getting to know Vixen, the only female vampire warrior in history, as she awkwardly performs femininity at the prince's wedding. While she's in bridesmaid drag, Kalen makes his move. They've been arguing/flirting for years, but now they each realize their feelings might not actually be unrequited. But then, Vixen is kidnapped by (view spoiler)[the pixie king because he wants to marry her for some never explained reason (hide spoiler)] and Kalen is desperate to save her. Shenanigans ensue. Except for my total bafflement at Vixen's kidnapping, the lusty-angsty thing works for me.
Feral This was the one I was most excited to read, as other reviewers made it sound funny and sweet. Unfortunately, I was so bored I gave up 30 pages before the end. I can't handle both instalove and "will they, won't they" teasing, and then to add a magical baby to the mix? Gah.
The hateful "she was more curvy than the usual stick insect" and "Tessa was a real woman, not a stick insect" lines were also annoying. And lest you think it's the normal BBW thing, she's also "slender" and has a "wasp waist" (which I will grant was actually amusing given that wasps are insects).
Also, massive editing errors in all three stories. We're talking misspelling "swap" as "swop" and "bugger" as "buggar" kinds of errors.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I saw this posted on the Smart Bitches list of where to start with Linda Howard, so dug it out of storage. I forgot how totally goofy this story is.
Fr...moreI saw this posted on the Smart Bitches list of where to start with Linda Howard, so dug it out of storage. I forgot how totally goofy this story is.
From the description of the hero: "In his veins ran the blood of two of the most warlike peoples in the history of the world, Comanche and Celt." I seriously LOLed at that.
To the inner musings of the heroine: "She was dressed as warmly as she could manage, unless she put on socks to wear with her sensible shoes, but she drew the line at that. Dainty white anklets with long ruffled skirts were one thing, but knee socks with a wool dress were something else entirely." Weird anklet preference aside, this is before she sets forth in -7 degree F weather. I've lived through that weather, and am awestruck that the heroine didn't immediately return home to put on the heavier socks.
And we can't forget the so very '90s mentality of fighting racism by... ignoring it. Structural racism, individual racism, it can all be best battled by being colorblind, right? I mean, if you can't see color you can't see racism so therefore it disappears, right? And if you ignore your own race, well the sky's the limit in terms of how far you can go! (that was me being sarcastic, btw. And I will admit, the phrase "colorblind" does always makes me think of the En Vogue song Free Your Mind from 1992, a little after this book was released.)
(That said, I kind of wish I had an electronic version of this, as I'm pretty sure "breed" and "half-breed" were used eleventy billion times in this story. It was a little weird.)
Finally, Wolf's determination to cure Mary of her post-attempted rape trauma by using some sort of quick-acting Pesso Boyden reenactment therapy? It's a memorable variation on the "cured by magic wang" trope, I'll give it that.
I did still enjoy the story, but more in a giggly nostalgia way than the angsty wonder with which I first read it. I'm not sure that this is where I'd recommend people to start with Linda Howard, though.(less)
Lauren = typical LMR Mary Sue of a heroine. I usually find them more entertaining than Lauren, but she was ok Jacko = awesomesauce the villain...more2.5 stars
Lauren = typical LMR Mary Sue of a heroine. I usually find them more entertaining than Lauren, but she was ok Jacko = awesomesauce the villain = weak sauce
This could have been 4 stars with more Jacko POV and less villain POV. I kind of want a sequel just so we get more Jacko - he's smart, capable, caring, and he discovered he has a strong artistic side while he was ineptly pursuing the heroine. So adorbs.(less)
I didn't quite get why Sophie was so against the MC lifestyle since she admitted to being completely...moreUh, I liked Sophie and Ruger together at the end?
I didn't quite get why Sophie was so against the MC lifestyle since she admitted to being completely clueless about it -- there were a few hints at the beginning that something bad had happened that Ruger should have known about, but the big reveal didn't actually reveal much and it wasn't related to biker gangs at all, so... I don't get it? I mean, her relationship with Zach sounded pretty traumatizing, and I can think of reasons for why one would not be keen on biker gangs, but... maybe her anti-MC stance was more to do with her antagonistic relationship with Ruger than to MCs themselves?
I actually didn't get a lot of her interactions with Ruger, the push-pull, hot-cold thing they had going was exhausting. And she was so judgmental about other women, but in a way that modeled the MC hierarchy of women so... I'll just put that down to internalized misogyny combined with jealousy, I guess.
Or maybe Sophie just needed a few months of financial and emotional stability and maybe a little PTSD counseling to get her head on straight, then she could have made more reasonable decisions. She's pretty young and has had a rough life, so I can get why she'd be in bad place, mentally and emotionally. I really wish there'd been space in the story to allow Sophie to come into her own a bit instead of just shoving her into a relationship with Ruger.
I was kind of interested in Em's story when I started this one, but at this point... eh, maybe I'll try again later. The author did build a pretty vivid world in this series. I just wish she'd do the same with the romance part.(less)
2.5 stars. Rounding up because I was intrigued enough to try book 2.
Overall, I alternated between fascination and horror. It was like visiting an unpl...more2.5 stars. Rounding up because I was intrigued enough to try book 2.
Overall, I alternated between fascination and horror. It was like visiting an unpleasant alternate world, which I'm cool with in SFF but not hugely fond of in romance. (Kind of how I like both raisins and carrot cake, just not together.)
I also found it really interesting how every time a character says "it's not rape" it highlights 1) that consent was neither requested nor received. (Coercion is not consent.) and 2) that there's no point in going to the police with anything because they won't care*. For this latter point, I'm still not sure whether that subtle implication was a sign of despair or (when said by a guy) another sign that guys hold all the real power in this world and they know it.
*unless they have a particular ax to grind with the accused and are just using the victim as a tool(less)
The story seemed to be a pretty standard Harlequin secret baby thing, which I could have dealt with if the characters were brighter and/or the writing...moreThe story seemed to be a pretty standard Harlequin secret baby thing, which I could have dealt with if the characters were brighter and/or the writing had more bounce. Instead it was all flat, dull and predictable. I only finished because I didn't feel like making another book choice. On the plus side, it was free.(less)
A lot of potential here, but everything was at such a superficial level that I spent 95% of the book wondering if Daisy's interest in Easy was just he...moreA lot of potential here, but everything was at such a superficial level that I spent 95% of the book wondering if Daisy's interest in Easy was just her self-destructive tendencies in action. Because while he was an ass to everyone in general, he was particularly vicious toward her from the get-go. Also, why are people so mean to (view spoiler)[prostitutes (hide spoiler)]? Based on the couple of people I've known in that line of work, I'm always surprised that people aren't more angry on their behalf. Shitty childhood + few options should not equal villain or pariah, and yet that's how they're treated. It's gross. /end rant["br"]>(less)
What I liked: The way Mark and Abby learned to trust and communicate with each other. At first it seemed like Abby was the one who had to learn how to...moreWhat I liked: The way Mark and Abby learned to trust and communicate with each other. At first it seemed like Abby was the one who had to learn how to play and express herself, but after the disastrous end to their "consensual non-consensual" weekend, it was pretty clear that Mark had some growing to do as well. I liked that balance and that growth.
The way it was very clearly demonstrated that in the outside world, Abby knows her own mind, has her own resources, and is fully free to choose Mark (or not). I also really liked the explanation of how feminism and bdsm don't need to be in conflict, that feminism means being able to make your own choices about your sexuality -- that's the best explanation of how to reconcile those two concepts that I've seen and doesn't rely on evopsychobabble to make the point.
What I didn't like: Way, way too many sex scenes. I mean, I get that sex was a big part of their relationship development but I spent a lot of the middle part wishing they'd go to work or hang out with their friends or do something else.
The idea of the "consensual non-consensual" weekend seemed a little rushed for both Mark and Abby. I don't know, maybe not, but I kept thinking... couldn't you guys have waited a few weeks or months before trying this? What's the hurry?
Some editing errors. Nothing too egregious, but enough to be noticeable.
N.B. In terms of kink, I know some of the stuff in here bothered other people -- the enemas and dog stuff especially -- but, eh, it was consensual, wasn't abusive, and worked for the characters (or didn't and then they decided not to do it again), so whatever. Consent and non-abusive relationships are my limits in reading material -- I don't think of characters in novels as surrogates of myself, so am otherwise pretty easygoing about whatever sexual shenanigans they get up to even if it's not my thing.(less)
Hurray for promotional freebies, they do occasional turn out to be worth the time!
Surprisingly sweet strangers to friends to lovers story, fe...more3.5 stars
Hurray for promotional freebies, they do occasional turn out to be worth the time!
Surprisingly sweet strangers to friends to lovers story, featuring a hero and heroine with back-stories that are angsty enough to be satisfying and a tone that's humorous enough to keep things away from the land of endless bleak. Also, the hero's friends are great secondary characters and not too obviously sequel-bait.
Warning: attempted rape, references to rape and torture, periodic violence
Rounding down instead of up due to editing issues.(less)
DNF. Gave up on p83 when I realized I'd slipped into hate-reading. Life is too short and I have too many books to read for that.
Way, way too much expo...moreDNF. Gave up on p83 when I realized I'd slipped into hate-reading. Life is too short and I have too many books to read for that.
Way, way too much exposition, like info-dumps within info-dumps within fight scenes. Transphobia and other sexism, both casual and "ironic" -- not aided by the fact that John and Sig meet each other while Sig is chasing a serial rapist (why is it always rape? can't you find another plot device?). Using world religions as a major part of worldbuilding while demonstrating ignorance of those religions. Below are the parts that bugged me the most -- but there are a lot of other pieces that bugged, and I stopped before the halfway point.
"Rigby's does attract an odd combination of local rednecks and students with a sense of irony. So when a striking six foot blonde who wasn't an obvious transvestite sat down in the middle of the bar, there were people around to notice."
So much packed into two sentences. The derogatory term "transvestite" to indicate that anyone who can't pass as a cis woman or any woman who looks too masculine is unworthy of (positive) notice. And it doesn't really get better from there.
"I have personally seen Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, and Tibetan symbols work on undead creatures... I can use just about any holy symbol and make it work as long as the religion doesn't worship pantheons...
Ok. So. I'll just comment about the Buddhist aspect since that's what I'm most familiar with, but... a Tibetan religious symbol is probably Buddhist, not all Buddhists worship deities of any type (it's very culturally dependent), and several paths of Buddhism involve pantheons. The Tibetan Buddhist pantheon alone is massive. Also, in terms of symbols, I'm just trying to imagine the hero whipping up a quick sand mandala to stave off the undead. It does make me laugh, but in a slightly mocking way.
I get that the author is trying to go for an inclusive approach to his worldbuilding, but that only works if you know what you're talking about. And he so doesn't. Or if he does, he's not using it. Bringing in Valkyries and talking about how they collect the souls of those killed in battle to bring to the halls of the slain, but only mentioning Valhalla and not Sessrumnir? That makes me want to cry at the lost potential.(less)
What a dark, scary, gory, crime thriller of an urban fantasy novel. Can't wait for book 2!
I liked how the protagonists behaved like real people with t...moreWhat a dark, scary, gory, crime thriller of an urban fantasy novel. Can't wait for book 2!
I liked how the protagonists behaved like real people with their own motivations and loyalties and back-stories. They're all kind of messed up and make some questionable choices, but real people are like that. Nobody in this book is perfect, and the good guys seem mostly good in the sense that they're not actively trying to be evil. (Well, except maybe Tommy. That cat scene on p.32 was very disturbing.) Also, not everybody's white!
Sobell, their boss for the primary heist in this book, is a charismatic villain -- and I don't mean that in a scenery-chewing sense, more in a -- he does really bad things, knows they're really bad, and if he likes the person he's screwing over, he'll apologize but he still does it. With flair. And he's not even the Big Bad of this book.
The 3rd person POV head-hopping was a little confusing. I got used to it after awhile, but the subtle jumps from how Anna was reacting to things to how Karyn was reacting to Nail were maybe a little too subtle. That's pretty much the only thing I really have to complain about.
In terms of romance, there are signs of a relationship brewing between Anna and Genevieve, but it's a fairly small part of the story. It seems designed as much to alter Anna's existing friendships with her crew as it is to develop Anna and Gen as characters.
In terms of worldbuilding, it seems to draw from Christian mythology about angels and demons and souls suffering in hell. I think if you're Christian, that might make some of the scenes described even scarier. (I was a little concerned this might get preachy at first, but it's not.)
Also, there's no sexual violence. (That seems fairly common in grimdark stuff, so just wanted to relieve any potential worries on that score.)(less)
The only good thing was how the non-masochistic heroine (eventually, with lots of pushing from friends to talk t...moreWoman in Peril sub + Asshole Dom = grr
The only good thing was how the non-masochistic heroine (eventually, with lots of pushing from friends to talk to her Dom about what's she's thinking) negotiates with the sadistic hero to agree on parameters with which they can both get what they need without hurting each other in undesired ways. That part was cool, the rest made me stabby.(less)
It was interesting to read more about the Primals, and I can appreciate the author's exploration of how people change over time and how it's important...moreIt was interesting to read more about the Primals, and I can appreciate the author's exploration of how people change over time and how it's important not to get trapped in certain identities/roles/masks that no longer fit... but I think I needed another 50-100 pages to make this not seem like another "domme turns into a sub for just the right man" story.
It seems pretty clear that van Yssel is trying to avoid making this a gender essentialist cliche, and if there were more femdom books out there I'd probably be totally cool with it, but given how this story fits into the existing "man = Dom, woman = sub" trends within the bdsm romance subgenre, I needed a little more.(less)