When I first saw came across this book-the title, cover, and blurb demanded I read it. A supernatural motorcycle club with a suspenseful storyline? Sign me up.
The storyline focuses heavily on the characters with light introductions to the Inked Menace club members and dual backstories on our protagonists-Cecelia Marks and Lucky Miller. Cecelia is in the witness protection program after she turned her husband in to the Feds for illegal arms dealing. An impromptu decision to get a tattoo leads her to Lucky. Lucky Miller is a wolf shifter. A patched member of a secret shifter motorcycle club- Inked Menace- he went nomad when his girlfriend was murdered. Lucky and Cecelia connect instantly but their collective issues keeps them from making any moves in that direction. When he hears Cecelia has a bounty on her head and two rival gangs are thinking of trying to collect on it, he throws caution to the wind and decides he and his club are going to protect Cecelia no matter what.
Unfortunately what I expected to read and what I read were two different things.
Weak characterization and storyline takes potentially strong, interesting protagonists and makes them clichés. This is a result of the author choosing to use a multitude of plot devices to force the characters into the direction she wants them to go rather than building on the base she initially sets up. Can’t pursue a relationship due to past issues? Then we’ll slap in a situation to make it possible. Unsure sexually where you stand? The mate bond is a surefire way to bypass having to work through all those pesky emotions. Can’t figure out how to address the supernatural elephant in the room? No worries. We’ll just make the other person magical too. So on and so on. There was no real work in developing the story. Rather the reader is manipulated by flash and awe before noticing there is nothing behind the smoke screen.
Awkward dialogue and some odd phrasing made me laugh but not in a good way; knocking me out of story multiple times. The losing of one’s head is referred to as getting you’re neck hacked from your body. The heroine refers to her and the hero having sex as sating their baser desires. Dirty talk from the hero consists of, “you’re so tight that when we’re done you’re gonna squeak when you walk.” *blinks*
The story rushes to the end with almost no time devoted to the main conflict beyond introducing and off the wall resolution. I wished the villain would have played a more active role. The relationship issues are resolved with sex and a single conversation and everything else is “magically” wrapped up with a happy ending for all.
Favorite Quote: “Oh soldier, how did we come to such a place?”
Midnight’s Kiss picks up right where Night’s Honor left off. The Nightkind (vampyres) demesne is currently engaged in a battle over the throne, with Julian Regillus, the reigning king, and Justine, a powerful council member, at it’s center. Melisandre (Melly), heir to the Light Fae throne, is kidnapped by Justine in hopes of bringing Julian to heel when he hears his former lover is in trouble.
Julian and Melly had an explosive three month affair over twenty years ago that was destroyed when Julian accused Melly of betrayal. Unwilling to believe her innocence, Julian breaks it off and never speaks to her again unless absolutely necessary. Over the years they have danced around their pain, trying to get over their love for one another and move on with their lives.
Melly is convinced Julian will not be rushing in to save her anytime soon, so she is shocked when he appears in the neighboring cell. Now both he and Melly are prisoners with no hope of rescue in sight. Forced to work together to escape, they find their past intrudes on their present when the passion they thought long dead flares to life. But can Julian forgive Melly’s betrayal? And if so…will Melly forgive his?
I have wanted to learn more about Julian since Serpent’s Kiss. His appearances so far has painted a picture of a ruthless, arrogant, unfeeling man who would do anything to secure his absolute rule over the Nightkind. In here we finally get Julian’s backstory, learning everything there is to know about his life, his turning, his broken affair with Melly, and the true reasons behind his push for the throne. Harrison gives us Julian’s side of the story, which paints a very different picture of the events that surrounded Julian and his past actions.
Suspense, mystery, humor, and dramatic romances makes for a delightful series that continues to engage and intrigue with each new installment.The smooth storyline and personable characters immediately drag you back into Harrison’s supernatural world as though you never left. Heavily character driven, the world building continues to expand and evolve though Harrison tends to set boundaries; evolving certain sub worlds within the ongoing storyline in a series of installments. Right now we are fully submerged in the Nightkind demesne and its ongoing political upheaval.
Midnight’s Kiss embodies a trope I enjoy-second chance love with a bite. Two former lovers who have turned enemies. Pain, sorrow, anger, and distrust are the emotions that brew between Melly and Julian. I love when two seemingly indomitable wills meet and clash. Watching the hero and heroine go from antagonists to lovers is a delicious storyline; made only better when there is a volatile history that precedes it.
“I shouldn’t care so much. I shouldn’t care at all.”
In Night’s Honor, Melly came off as a bit of a diva. An actress and Light Fae princess, you got the feeling she was a pampered, spoiled, self entitled, brat who got what she deserved when Julian left her. Only Melly isn’t any of those things. She is intelligent, down to earth, loyal, strong, and very resourceful. Kidnapped and terrorized, Melly instantly takes stock of her surroundings and begins to plan her escape. She has a great sense of humor and a formidable arsenal filled with snarky goodness. Seeing Julian has actually come to her aid is a shock to her emotional grid. She still loves him but the pain he left her with keeps her from falling into his arms and begging for a reconciliation.
“You are delusional if you think I would ever let you take me again, after the way you treated me. You see this?” With her free hand she waved her fingers in the air down the length of her torso as she shook her head. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You’re neeevvver getting this goodness again.”
Julian is centuries old and his attitude reflects that. Born during the Roman Empire, this former battle horned soldier is an uber alpha wrapped in a thin veneer of civility. Sexy, morose, sarcastic, and a wee bit inclined to drama, he rules the demesne with an iron fist, hiding his emotions behind a mask of supposed indifference and boredom. Only two people have been able to see behind his mask-Carling and Melly. Melly was the first woman for whom he was willing to change his life for. Willing to give up his throne and whatever else was needed to keep her in his life. Her betrayal devastated him. Already feeling he wasn’t even close to being good enough for her, discovering proof of that broke something crucial inside of him.
Before her, he hadn’t known that he had been slowly expiring of thirst over the centuries. No matter how many people he tasted or how many lovers he had taken, he’d been dying inside. Dying. Then she had lit everything up inside of him-only to snatch it all away again, leaving him bereft and alone…
The reconciliation blends gently with the on going conflict. Being trapped in a prison isn’t conducive to any smexy times, it does however allow them to spend time together with no outside interference. Their chemistry is as strong as ever and the scenes drip with sweaty bare-chested alpha male posturing and some reluctant internal swooning on the heroine’s side.
She made another sound that was purely sexual, husky and needy, and the warmth of her body nestled against him. The soft curve of her breasts pressed against his bare chest, her hips brushed against his painfully hardening cock. […] The ravenous hunter in him took fierce note. All the signs were there. She would be his for the taking, all his again.
Non stop action speeds the story along as Harrison reveals each new subplot. As each scene unfolds, we watch Melly and Julian face their fears and overcome obstacles while dealing with the external factors that try to stop them. Neither plot nor romance is sacrificed. They balance and complement each other through the entire arc; merging together towards the end.
It does take some time for our hero and heroine to make nice and finally discuss what occurred 20 years ago, which I found a little strange. I will admit I guessed early on what had happened and was put out by how easily Melly and Julian forgive the situation. Harrison gives a reasonable explanation for the choices they make but I still wanted to see something besides perfuctionary understanding and forgiveness. It fell flat considering the build up that received.
The ending is a dramatic undertaking as a series of events lead us to an admirable conclusion. Harrison gives us a brief look in to Graydon’s story-Shadow’s End (Elder Races, #9), set to release December 1, 2015-that had me bouncing in my chair. I am SUPER PSYCHED FOR THIS BOOK!!
Harrison continues to write stories that any paranormal romance fan who loves action, suspense, humor, and a sizzling romance is sure to enjoy.
Molly Harper keeps on delivering in her newest Half Moon Hollow installment. Snarky humans, overly protective vampires, and the most dysfunctional famMolly Harper keeps on delivering in her newest Half Moon Hollow installment. Snarky humans, overly protective vampires, and the most dysfunctional family around will keep readers in stitches when a young woman meets the vampire of her dreams only to discover he doesn’t remember her at all. Hijinks and mayhem rule the day as Gigi sets out to find her man’s memory while trying to keep her family from taking him out of her life permanently....more
Rosa Alban comes to Dylan Black for the favor he owes her . Rosa was forced into marriage at a young age, she needs Dylan’s help to free her people anRosa Alban comes to Dylan Black for the favor he owes her . Rosa was forced into marriage at a young age, she needs Dylan’s help to free her people and castle from those who seek to control her. Luc Black, Dylan’s brother, jumps at the chance to help for he is ready for his own territory and Rosa intrigues him. As Luc and Rosa fight for her freedom, the bonds between them tighten until a decision must be made to either let go of the past or lose their future.
Book two was so much better than one. Still well written and action packed, DeLima expands the world building, giving readers more in depth background and hints towards what to come. The romance demands more page space as we watch two alphas struggle to overcome their pasts in order to have a future together. Smoking hot love scenes balance well against the conflict. I look forward to book three....more
Favorite Quote: ”How you got not one but two gorgeous vampires to fall for you is beyond me.”
“They’re old fashioned. I just smiled and nodded a lot.”
Cherry thought being a vampire was frightening enough until her newly turned vampire boyfriend, Alex, utters the scariest sentence ever…I want to meet your parents.
When Cherry’s ex is quick to agree to the meeting, Cherry knows he is once again keeping things from her. She quickly learns that her family history plays a far larger role in and it’s not only affecting her present but also her future.
If that wasn’t enough to deal with, Alex is beginning to act strange. A former enemy is back and determined to end Cherry once and for all, using the people who mean the most to Cherry. As she gears up to fight for her family, friends, and lover…she learns once again that the road to happiness is littered with sharpened stakes.
Cherry, a former almost porn star and unwillingly turned vampire, is back and still rocking her bad hair choices in Sotia Lazu’s second installment-Cherry Blossom. Fun, snarky, and intelligent as ever, Cherry and her newly turned lover, Alex, now live with her ex boyfriend, Constantine, a menage of nubile female vampires, a butler, and Cherry’s former agent. Cherry’s maker is still out there gunning for her and Alex and Cherry feels hiding with Constance is their best bet. Though she and Constantine have been over since she found him in bed with his maker and he used the old, “vampires live too long to be faithful,” excuse, there is still a small part of her that remembers the good times, making their living situation a tad uncomfortable at times. Constantine, for all intents and purposes, is being a good boy and respecting the fact Cherry is in love with Alex. He is trying to help them but there is some lingering feelings on his end, also.
“Why couldn’t Alex and Constantine settle in their respective roles as doting boyfriend and calculating former lover, and stop messing with my head.”
Lazu takes a different approach in this installment, giving readers a darker suspense filled mystery along with some romance troubles. Well written with engaging dialogue and smooth pacing continues to make this series a fast read. Lazu cleverly interjects bits and pieces of the last book into the current storyline line, allowing new readers to catch on quickly while giving fans a small refresher.
Alex and Cherry have overcome some serious odds in order to be together but not all is well in romancelandia. Smoking hot chemistry and strong sexual desire still reigns supreme between them though Cherry’s stranger danger radar is pinging all over the place. Alex is resisting his vampire nature and when his already erratic behavior becomes dark and menacing, Cherry finds herself wondering if she really knows Alex.
Vampires aren’t people-people. Our dietary means aren’t the only thing telling us apart from humans. Alex still didn’t understand that. He thought we could place house indefinitely.
Because of this, the romance is does a 180 and the relationship suffers. Certain situations may some uncomfortable.
The conflict and storyline are far more solid in this installment. Lazu uses Alex’s behavior to further expand the ongoing arc and provides some much needed explanations from book one. Cherry’s lingering feeling for Constantine only adds to the tension filled story. If I had any qualms, it’s this particular installment is so heavily entrenched in Cherry’s point of view, I didn’t get the same feelings of equality from Alex and Constantine in their presentations. Character development is a minimum, the focus remaining almost solely on the storyline.
An action packed ending gives us the resolution we need but keeps the door open for book three. Cherry finds herself in a new position with some decisions to make and I don’t envy her. Even with the darker tone and subject matter, Lazu keeps us hooked as she takes our favorite vampire into a world of intrigue, suspense, and sexy hi-jinks.
Favorite Quote: “My mom always told me not to play with my food […] She never told me not to let my food play with me.”
Cherry Stem was involuntarily turned into a vampire. A former model and rising adult film star, her now undead status has stymied her career and left her hustling for food and rent. When her normal trolling hooks her up with the gorgeous detective, Alex Marsden, Cherry figures she’ll let him wine and dine her, get what she needs, erase their memories together, and everyone will be happy. Except plans change when she falls asleep at Alex’s house and he discovers his one night stand is actually a vampire.
“So it’s Bram Stoker more than Stephenie Meyer?”
I couldn’t contain a very eloquent, “Huh?”
“Your hand.” As if that explained everything. “Stoker had the vampire thing down better than Meyer, right?”
He sounded like he really wanted to know the answer.
Only a dead and buried person would have missed the buzz the latter’s works had caused, and the former was a legend. “Stoker’s definitely closer—I mean, sparkling? Seriously? Neither is completely right, though.”
One steamy passion filled night leads to many more when Alex makes the connection between Cherry’s turning and a series of unsolved cases involving other young females. When Cherry finds out the man who turned her may be involved, she is forced to contact her ex boyfriend, the man who broke her heart, for help in convincing the vampire council of her fears. As the clues mount up, Cherry begins to realise that everything that happened to her was for a reason. Now she just needs to discover what that reason was.
Fans of MaryJanice Davidson and Michele Bardsley will enjoy the snarky humor, steamy hot romance, and intriguing paranormal storyline that Sotia Lazu employs in the first book of her new vampire series. Lazu takes readers on a light hearted journey that leaves you giggling while giving you a couple of mysteries to solve. Well written with engaging dialogue and smooth steady pacing made for a quick fun read. Lazu produces a vampire romance that sticks close to the legends but adds her own twists that modernizes it. While the old adage of sunlight kills is still in effect, garlic and religious artifacts don’t bother them at all.
Cherry Stem (giggle) is an amusing heroine with her witty monologues and no-nonsense attitude. Lazu gives us a supernatural who isn’t warrior trained or self hating. She isn’t stunning beautiful, all powerful, or a special snowflake that everyone adores. Cherry is a normal 23 year old woman, with normal issues, who happens to be immortal. And she has problems with that.
The main reason I’d been pissed off for the better part of six years was that I’d been turned before getting the lipo and boob job I’d planned on pampering myself with for my twenty-fourth birthday. Now I was doomed to go through eternity without the perfectly flat belly and double D breasts Dr. King had promised me.
Alex Marsden is the perfect match for Cherry. As a homicide detective, he rocks the whole knight in shining armor personae, but with a hint of vulnerability and little boy charm. He wears his heart on his sleeve, is overly protective, cooks a mean omelet, and makes love like a veteran porn star. Funny and smart, he is everything Cherry could ever want…except his human. Cherry doesn’t date humans due to their less than stellar life spans but when she meets Alex, he makes her want to stay wrapped in his arms forever.
The romance comes at the readers fast. Sex on the first “date” and it’s rinse, lather, and repeat from there. Combustible chemistry and plausible attraction made this easier to swallow than normal. Steamy love scenes with a dominant Alex in the bedroom also helps. *wink* Cherry rightly questions her relationship with Alex in that it could be dangerous for him to be with her and of course, that fact his life span doesn’t even come close to matching hers. Though…SEXY RACY love making makes up for a lot of things in mine and Cherry’s book.
And Alex doesn’t disappoint.
“Do you want me?” he asked. I barely had time to raise an eyebrow in question before he pushed two fingers inside me. “Do you want me, Cherry?”
I swallowed. “You know I do, but—” We were outside his mom’s house, on top of his car. Even I knew that wasn’t right.
“Because I want you. All the time.” He withdrew his fingers slowly and made a show of licking them clean.
Hell, it wasn’t my neighborhood.
“Show me,” I whispered, pushing my hips upward. I wanted more of him. I tried to sit up, reached for him, but he held me down.
I did, and waited for his next move.
It didn’t disappoint.
The conflict is interesting though not as well defined or evenly balanced as the romance. Certain aspects are fleshed out but over all I felt the reasons behind the main conflict were weak and not executed clearly. Various characters come into play to help expand the plot lines but their scenes and development also remains weak as the narrative is from Cherry’s pov so we miss seeing their thoughts behind their actions. The only character who was on par developmentally with Cherry and Alex is Cherry’s ex-Constantine. A overly confident and narcissistic vampire who mentored Cherry after her turning and betrayed her in the most basic of ways. His somewhat ruthless manners are offset by the visible love he still holds for Cherry and his willingness to step aside for Alex. I do hope he gets his own book.
Lazu ends the book with a conclusion of sorts, wrapping up some issues but leaving a door open for the arc to continue. Sadly though she uses an deus ex machina to achieve her happy ending. Regardless of the contrived ending, Cherry Stem is a light hearted fun and sexy paranormal romance that is sure to appeal to fans who love their heroes sexy, their heroines funny, and their romance steamy. The second book, Cherry Blossom, is currently available.
Crouching Tiger, Forbidden Vampire brings a long running storyline to a close as our hero, Russell Hankleburg, solidifies his revenge against Master Han, the evil vampire who changed him and then left him in a coma for 39 years, with the help of a were-tiger who has her own reasons for wanting Han dead.
Jia, our heroine, is a royal were-tiger princess whose parents and siblings were slaughtered by Master Han. She has vowed revenge but is stymied by her cousin, Rivja, the Grand Tiger of her village. She escapes her guards and while hunting Han on her own, inadvertently ruins Russell’s killing shot. Russell grabs her and takes her back to his hideout in order to discover who she is and why she interfered with his plans. Upon discovering her identity, he instantly takes her back to Tiger Town and from there, a somewhat controversial relationship begins between them. The romance is slow to start but builds in balance with the conflict.
Though well written (in terms of mechanics) and fast paced, I couldn’t help but feel rather underwhelmed with the story overall. I have followed this series on and off since the beginning. Interesting dynamic characters, silly tongue in cheek humor, and some steamy romance is what made this series fun but in this installment there was a faint mocking and moronic quality to the characters and the storyline. Dialogue flips from funny and mature to juvenile and imbecile in a heartbeat. Formulaic to the point of redundancy, it follows a noticeable groove worn track and stays one-dimensional. The emotional conduits seem to be missing. We are told more than shown. Russell constantly waxes on how attracted he is to Jia but I never felt the chemistry between them. Jia comes off strong and smart in regards to their mission but naive and somewhat stupid in the affairs of the heart. The romance and the conflict are streamlined and whittled down to the bare bones. No anticipation. No real heart stopping moments or genuine feelings that something bad will happen. It’s all very circumspect.
Almost every couple from the series makes an appearance, bringing some humor as they help wrap up the multiple story lines and close the series out. I did enjoy seeing many old faces and of course seeing where they have all ended up. I admit the angel squad was a bit strange and visiting Hell left me rolling my eyes. The one liners and character caricatures over reached at times and fell flat. The coup de grace concerning Master Han came out of left field and was almost annoyingly easy to figure out. I do wish more time had been spent on the little boy-dragon hostage. His story was rather good and there was a wonderful area to expand there that wasn’t taken.
Overall I think that Sparks was right to wrap it all up and end it here. The stories have become repetitive. The last few installments, this one in particular, have lacked the “spark” that drew me to the series to begin with. While I’m sure die hard fans of the series will be thrilled with the couple and route Sparks chose for this bon voyage, this one just wasn’t for me.
The eighth installment of Darynda Jones’ Charley Davidson series, Eighth Grave After Dark, picks up right where the seventh book left off. Charley Davidson-Grim Reaper, P.I. extraordinaire, and a possible God, is married to the son of Satan and about to give birth to the savor of the world. No pressure there. Living on consecrated grounds offers her some protection from the hell hounds who have been stalking her every move but Charley isn’t one to sit down and knit booties while awaiting motherhood. She has a full plate with trying to find a missing teen, deal with Reyes’ adoptive parents, getting rid of the wailing lawyer in her closet, and is trying to figure out who killed the nun that haunts the church.
This series has shown growth and progression since book one. Charley started out an immature, somewhat flighty young lady whose need for parental love and guidance led her to take some dangerous chances with her life. Since meeting her husband, Reyes, Charley had matured considerably though she is still quite childish and self centered at times. Still one to jump in to the fire from the frying pan for a friend or loved one, she has more confidence in herself and in her love for Reyes and vice versa. That’s not to say she still doesn’t still have her moments of craziness.
Charley is far more somber than normal. Impending birth and being held hostage is wearing on her. We see less snark and avoidance on her end. It’s all rather low key in some aspects as this installment begins to prepare us for the end. Jones’ finally gives us the answers to some long standing questions and begins to tighten up ongoing storylines. Key players are being placed in their position as the fight between heaven and hell begins…on earth. Cookie, Uncle Ubie, Amber, Quentin, Mr. Wong, ect…just about everyone seen throughout the series has a special place in the overall picture and that picture is starting to become clear for the reader.
Reyes is also more mellow than usual. His love for Charley and his unborn child results in some very sweet and touching moments in the series. I enjoyed their easy camaraderie and the lack of tension that used to follow their every interaction. Of course, Reyes wouldn’t be Reyes if he wasn’t keeping things from her but as she does the same to him, it’s hard to get angry with him. A large part of the storyline is devoted to this and when we finally learn the reasons, I wasn’t impressed with his silence. I do wish this aspect of the storyline would disappear. It’s been an ongoing plot device that I feel has run it’s course.
Jones plies her magic and in a series of dramatic undertakings; leads us to a climactic finale that may leave some readers shocked and dismayed by the end. Others will applaud Jones’ bold and risky conclusion but will bemoan the fact they will have to wait till 2016 for book nine-The Dirt on Ninth Grave- which is scheduled to release January 6, 2016. While at the RT Convention, Jones’ did inform readers that the series is scheduled through eleven books.
Eighth Grave After Dark is altogether a fast and easy read though somewhat bland overall. It feels like nothing more than a bridge in which to end one major storyline while opening up a new one. I do feel that the lack of action and usual humor hurt the story overall and I am not sure how the new story arc will reveal in order to read fresh and new and not like a rehash from the beginning of the series.
Favorite Quote: The stars are always shining even if we can’t see them.
Merit and Ethan are back and their drama is as intense as ever. The past comes back to haunt Ethan when his maker, Balthazar, shows up in Chicago. As Merit and Ethan race to discover exactly what Balthazar wants, the Navarre house is experiencing its own troubles.
Morgan, the master of Navarre, is shocked to learn the previous Master left the house in massive debt to The Circle, a shadow mafia group who want a favor in return for an extension on the loans. This favor inadvertently drags Merit and Ethan into the fray when they are forced to stop an assassination attempt at ball hosted by a mysterious businessman whose end game may spell disaster for them all.
Dark Debt, the eleventh installment in Neill’s Chicagoland Vampire series, starts out with a saucy dramatic unveiling as Neill reintroduces a painful reminder from Ethan’s past. Fear, surprise, and a sense of vulnerability sets the stage. Steady pacing, and Neill’s ever present energy and humor keeps the story flowing nicely as we learn of the new challenges Merit, Ethan, and the rest of Chicago are now facing.
Ethan has survived his battle with the GP (General Presidium) and a new consortium has emerged from the ashes-the AMM (Assembly of American Masters). While this was a substantial plotline in Blood Games, it runs silently in the background here as Merit, Ethan, and their supernatural posse has bigger issues to focus on.
Balthazar, Ethan’s maker, seems to have reappeared from the dead…a cause for grave concern. Ethan ran from Balthazar when he assaulted and killed a young lady Ethan cared for. Ethan insured Balthazar would pay for his evil deeds and had since assumed he was dead. Now it seem he is alive and well and his main target is Merit.
This particular installment is heavily character driven with as Neill begins a new long reaching story arc. Per usual, an amount of the book revolves around Ethan and Merit; using the inclusion of new adversaries to showcase the strides they have made in their relationship. While there are sure to be more bumpy rides in their road to happily ever after (both are entirely too Alpha for there to not be) they have settled into a comfortable routine that shows us they are both committed and in it for the long haul. Their sexy chemistry still burns hot and bright between them. I enjoyed seeing them handle problems without one of them pushing the other away as seen repeatedly in the past.
“Are you wooing me?”
“I’ve been wooing you since the moment our eyes locked on the first floor of this house.”
The action is rather low-key, sparking at appropriate moments, as the seemingly separate issues facing the respective houses are investigated. More time is spent in this installment on theories, research, and strategies then the usual slice and dice.The mystery(s) and investigation avenues taken are interesting and strong in suspense. Various subplots push towards resolution easily though Neill leaves enough open to ensure readers will definitely want the next book. We receive some eyebrow raising clues towards the future and I for one am interested in seeing where Neill goes with them. As always, I wished for more inclusion of Gabriel Keene and his pack. The friend based chemistry between Keene and Merit is phenom and always fun to see.
Engaging secondary characters and their sustainable relationships remains a strong aspect in the overall enjoyment of this series. Neill continues to update readers on the aspects of their lives with flare and drama. Catcher and Mallory have reached a pivotal place in their relationship and I was happily shocked by the road Neill takes concerning them. Jonah and Merit are experiencing some rocky times; decisions will have to made soon. Morgan is beginning to grow up and finally seeing the big picture rather than continuing focusing on slights of the past. As always, the dialogue remains sharp and witty, keeping you laughing at some inappropriate times.
“Ah. you must not know about executive order two hundred eleven.”
“Basically we are required to keep sack lunches ready for you. Ethan thinks you get hangry.“
Dark Debt reminded me why I enjoyed this series so much. Neill has allowed her characters to grow at their own pace while keeping the storylines fresh and unique. This series remains a dark humorous Urban Fantasy/PNR with plenty of action, suspense, romance, and snark. This is not a standalone though and I do not recommend starting the series here. Convoluted; the series that builds upon itself with each new book.
Adam, King of the GIMs, was cursed by the Queen of the Fairies, Mab, and given 700 years to find his soul mate to break the curse or his soul would be hers for eternity. When Adam meets Eliza May, he knows she is the other half of his soul but in his haste to break the curse, he alienates her and any hope of help she may have given him. When Eliza is rescued from Adam, Adam’s time runs out and he is taken prisoner by Mab.
Eliza May is half human and half fae. Discovered to be a niece of Mab’s, she finds refuge in with her Aunt when she is freed from Adam only to discover that she has escaped one cage for another. Finding Adam in the basement, a victim of torture and abuse, only reinforces Eliza’s feelings that she is once again being used as a pawn in someone else’s end game. Eliza helps Adam escape and soon they are running for their lives, looking for a legendary weapon that Mab is willing to kill them all to possess.
Tempers flare as do passions when Adam sets his mind to courting Eliza and proving to her that they are meant for one another. Eliza isn’t sure if Adam truly loves for her or if it’s the fact she is the only one who can free him from Mab’s clutches forever, but when the end draws near, love may not be enough to save any of them.
Soulbound is the sixth book in Callihan’s Darkest London series and brings a long and convoluted storyline to an end while opening the door to new adventures. I wouldn’t recommend starting the series here as each book is a building block, referencing previous scenes and characters, using them to further expand the world and the long standing arc. Taut suspense, delicious deception, and dangerous antagonists continue to create fascinating reads that capture me from page one. Strong complicated characters drive this series, each installment using the exploration of one couples’ romantic and dramatic journey to love as the key element on which this series is built.
Callihan expands on the subplot that was introduced in Evernight. Similar in the set up in Shadowdance, Callihan used Evernight to introduce an antagonistic relationship then proceeds to examine the reasons why, setting the stage for a reconciliation. Callihan does a fine job of intertwining the conflict with the romance, using the protagonists’ individual stories to further the arc and tie up loosely threaded storylines.
Fans will remember that Eliza May came to London find her cousins, the Evernights, and was the victim of a fatal mugging. She was found by Mary and Daisy and given the choice to die free or live under Adam’s rule. She choose life and found herself bound by chains to Adam’s side. Literally. Soon her independent nature chafed at her bonds and her gratitude turned to hate. Given the chance to escape leaves her free but within the sights of someone far more dangerous. Eliza is forced to reconnect with Adam and this is where the story truly begins.
“He felt her pain. He felt everything. Finally. Freedom. Finally, it was in his grasp. All he had to do was keep Miss Eliza May by his side. Forever.”
Adam has a lot to atone for to Eliza. He ruthlessly chained her to his side with no explanations when he discovered she was the key to his freedom. Determined to use her break his curse, he tricked her of her free will and was left with an angry, uncooperative woman who uses her wits and stubbornness to thwart him at every turn. When Adam’s backstory is revealed, you understand his impetuous reasoning but, like Eliza, are not very forgiving. Weak and brutally hobbled by Mab, Adam gets a nasty taste of what Eliza felt. Adam is genuinely remorseful for what he did and wants to begin anew.
“I want my peace, Eliza. To feel whole, happy, and free. That is all I’ve ever wanted. Seven hundred years, I’ve searched for it. And if there is even the slightest possibility that you can give it to me, then I am willing to risk everything to get it.”
Eliza is not one to forgive and forget. Already having been taken advantage of by others and by Adam himself, all Eliza wants is to be free to live her own life without being forced to depend or answer to anyone. She doesn’t believe in soulmates or everlasting love which causes even more of a riff between her and Adam. Yet she is intelligent enough to know that without Adam’s help, she will never be free of her Aunt and her machinations. Though it takes awhile, Eliza is able to eventually open her mind and heart to the possibilities of what could be.
“A heated dizziness threatened to send her crashing down. He claimed to be her other half. She, who’d crept through life, escaping the notice of everyone.”
Adam and Eliza have a love/hate relationship; both needing the other and parts of them resenting that need. Their chemistry is as explosive as gasoline and dynamite. Bright, hot, and burning everything that stands in its flames. As they work to stay one step ahead of Mab and find the weapon she desperately wants, they take the time to get to know one another without the ever present antagonism. Adam’s sexual innuendos and volatile nature is the perfect foil against Eliza’s more reserved and cynical nature; adding humor to this otherwise dark tale of betrayal and heartbreak.
“Ah my lovely, it’s been far too long.”
“Shall I leave you to alone then?” Eliza’s lips twitched. She had never seen such a look of reverence mixed with old familiarity. It was nearly indecent.
Adam spared her a glance. “Quiet woman, a man’s relationship with his sword is a sacred thing.”
“So I’ve heard.”
Callihan blends the conflict of the story with the emotionally intense journey of Eliza and Adam; using external subplots to heighten the danger and suspense that surrounds them. Steady pacing and plentiful action speeds the story along as the big picture begins to reveal itself with the addition of new storylines. With each scene we watch Adam and Eliza face and overcome their fears while dealing with the external factors that try to defeat them. Neither plot nor romance is sacrificed. They balance and complement each other through the entire story; merging together towards the climatic and arc twisting ending.
“I’ve always wanted you. I always will.”
As always, the supporting characters are intense, well developed, and intertwine with our protagonists to give us a rich, full-bodied story. Much that played out behind the scenes continues to be revealed, offering even more insight into this rich, intriguing world and its inhabitants. Sin (St. John Evernight) plays a larger role in here as do the reasons for what he has done. We also see more of Augustus and learn just how far reaching his power actually is. I look forward to book seven-title and release date to be announced-which looks to be Sin’s book.
Callihan continues to engage readers with her strong characters, intriguing storylines, fantastical world, and romantic journeys whose rough starts lead to incredible rewards.
Favorite Quote: “Is this part of your motivational speaking? Or can we call this nagging?”
Torin, host of the demon Disease, is forbidden from any humaFavorite Quote: “Is this part of your motivational speaking? Or can we call this nagging?”
Torin, host of the demon Disease, is forbidden from any human contact. His touch only brings sickness and eventual death. When he “accidently” kills a young woman who chose to ignore his warnings, he finds himself targeted by The Red Queen.
The Red Queen has spent centuries locked away in a dungeon. Extremely powerful and more than a little crazy, she vows to kill Torin for taking away her only friend.
The chemistry between The Red Queen and Torin sparks an out of control blaze as they escape from their prison and fight their way towards freedom. Torin needs her to help him find his friends but his iron clad control slips the more time he spends with her. He must resist her if he wants her to live but nothing has ever prepared him for this woman.
Fans of this series have waited impatiently for Torin’s story. As the host of the demon Disease, Torin is prohibited from any sort of human contact…meaning…wait for it…
HE’S A VIRGIN, PEOPLES!
The Darkest Touch is the eleventh book in this wickedly funny and dark paranormal romance series that borrows from Greek, Roman, and religious mythology and legend. Gods, goddesses, angels, demons, and a little of everything else all come together to form an engaging world and character base that continues to expand and evolve. Showalter’s trademark snark and humor entertains readers with it’s fast paced dialogue and scenes while she explores the ongoing arc and begins to tie up open story lines as we head towards the end of the series.
The story starts out slow and at times tedious; continuing in that fashion until about the halfway point. A majority of it is spent watching Keeley and Torin get to know one another, learn each other’s backstories, and engage in a strangely passive aggressive style of foreplay. The story opens with Torin, who is currently residing in a cell courtesy of Cronus due to breaking his self-imposed “no touchy” rule. When he once again causes someone to sicken and die, a voice that has invaded his dreams and every waking minute since being imprisoned starts screaming vengeance for his actions.
“You’ll experience agony in ways you’ve never dreamed possible. for I’ll do to you what I’ve done to so many others. I will skin you with a cheese grater and stuff your organs into a blender to make a smoothie. I will donkey punch your skull so hard your brain will ooze out of your eye sockets.”
Keeleycael aka The Red Queen is an extremely powerful woman whose origins trace back to the heavens. Rejected and exploited by everyone she has ever loved, her final humiliation was being chained and held captive by her ex fiance because he couldn’t accept she was far more powerful than he was. Lost, angry, hurt, and insane…Keeley had only one friend and now that friend is dead.
The Red Queen. No wonder the immortals in the skies had merely whispered about her. Insane? Cruel? Hell, yeah. They’d probably assumed saying her name aloud would have a Beetlejuice effect and actually summon her.
Heavily character driven, Showalter brings all her past LOTU characters into play along with some fun new ones. Keeley has to be my all time favorite heroine of this series. Bright, intelligent, funny, and totally in touch with her awesomeness, Keeley has a will made of steel only made stronger by the vulnerability she holds deep inside her. Betrayed by everyone she has ever had the misfortune to love, she still manages to maintain a very healthy self esteem. Like most of the supernatural heroines of this series, there is an innate selfishness to her character. However, her choices are based on the need to make up for past deeds and avenge the wrongs of others.
Her attraction to Torin is unbreakable and though she understands she could die from being with him, she feels that her powers should shield her and that ultimately, it’s her choice. She;s BIG on choices. Watching her chase and confuse Torin is hilarious as parts of him wants to be caught but other parts are waving their hands in the air, making huge TIME OUT signs.
“I’ll take that as a yes, please, and thank you.” “Take that as a no.” “A soft no? An absolmaybe?” “A hard no. An absolutely not.”
Torin is as fierce as Keeley with a deliciously dominant side that becomes stronger and more protective the more time they spend together. He begins to care for her in a relatively short amount of time though he and his demon fight the attraction every step of the way.
“I’ll say this once and only once. Nothing is going to happen between us, princess.”
It was interesting how Torin’s demon doesn’t speak to him as with the other lords. This is a good thing in that it assures us that all decisions Torin makes are from him only. The romance is hot and heavy with some ingenious tactics invoked to allow Torin and Keeley to be together. If I have one qualm it was Torin’s actions at times concerning Keeley and his attraction. He blew hot and cold a lot, claiming to not want to hurt Keeley when in all actuality, that’s all he does.
“What’s so wrong with me that a man can’t value me?”
The second half of the book is where the action, suspense, intrigue, and laughter picks up considerably and we get back the LOTU craziness we all love. There are multiple storylines that ride parallel along side one another and intersect at key times; bringing advancement to the ongoing arc and clues to future couples. Past storylines come back to life, using Keeley to bridge them all together. I was pleased to see all the Lords and their unhinged eccentric mates but I am most interested in reading Cameo story’s now. I was a little disappointed in some of the reveals concerning the arc. Certain aspects were almost too easily explained and they made me question the legitimacy of the plot line and the Lords’ intelligence.
Regardless of my issues, In The Darkest Touch, Showalter once again proves to readers that her Lords are large, in charge, and ready to rumble with some help from their mates and a few frenemies. Fans of the series will delight in a hero who can’t touch being paired with the queen of touchy-feelys.
I liked Frozen with it's Norse mythology, generational curses, and sinister intentions. My issue was the lack of communication between the h/H. The3.5
I liked Frozen with it's Norse mythology, generational curses, and sinister intentions. My issue was the lack of communication between the h/H. They both dance around, not being honest, and it ends up dragging out the conflict. ...more
Gray Bishop is the second book in Kelly Meade’s Cornerstone Trilogy. An action packed dark urban fantasy that revolves around a family of loup garous-Gray Bishop is the second book in Kelly Meade’s Cornerstone Trilogy. An action packed dark urban fantasy that revolves around a family of loup garous-the McQueens. If you haven’t read book one, I highly recommend you do so as the ongoing arc is extremely important to the storyline and characters bleed over with little to no re cap. Each book focuses on one brother.
RECAP FROM BOOK ONE…READ AT YOUR OWN RISK
We first met Bishop McQueen in book one, Black Rook. Bishop, a gray wolf, was made their father’s alpha heir by default when his brother Rook gave it up in order to be with his true love, a magus named Brynn. A group of hybrids kidnapped their youngest brother, Knight, in order to use him to build an army of vicious hybrids to take over the supernatural world. Various subplots left us wondering at the end of Black Rook and Gray Bishop picks up right where it left off.
Bishop, his family, and various other alphas heirs from other packs are dealing with the aftermath of some fatal attacks and searching high and low for the hybrids. Loup garou towns across the country are being attacked and decimated and there is nothing the packs can seem to do to stop it. Bishop is not only feeling the strain of trying to protect the residents of the Cornertown pack but also his own imagined failings in protecting his brothers-Rook and Knight-who were kidnapped and brutally assaulted in book one. When he meets a female black wolf, his stress levels rise to infinite proportions as he realizes his wolf wants a female neither of them will be allowed to have.
Jillian Reynolds, daughter to the alpha of Springwell and heir apparent, is not only in Cornerstone to help find and stop the hybrids but is also looking for a new mate. She lost her first mate and knows she needs a strong alpha to rule by her side when she takes over the pack. Jillian is shocked when her wolf tries to lay claim to Bishop’s wolf. She knows they can never be together but sometimes the heart and wolf refuse to be denied.
When danger hits close to home for Jillian, she and Bishop race to Springhill only to find that the chaos of Cornerstone has come for her family. With time running out, Jillian and Bishop will have to face their feelings and the archaic laws that rule their lives if they are to survive what’s coming for them.
More angst, violence, pain, and yes, death chases this second installment as Meade builds the crescendo towards the finale. If you have ever read Kelly Meade aka Kelly Meding, you know she doesn’t hesitate when leading her characters down a long hard path. Heavily character driven, Meade further expands upon the arc and the dynamics of everyone involved, weaving it in and out of the main storyline. Racism and treachery continue to prevail as Meade adds tidbits of back story into the world building to further educate readers. Plotlines are expanded and crushing revelations are made that will leave readers shocked at the implications. We learn more of the varied supernatural factions and their past actions that lead them all to this point. Smooth writing, lightening fast pacing, and captivating dialogue keeps you on your toes to the very end.
Aiken manages to outdo her previous works in her 7th installment of her hilarious, violent, explosive, outrageous Dragon Kin Series. Light My Fire wasAiken manages to outdo her previous works in her 7th installment of her hilarious, violent, explosive, outrageous Dragon Kin Series. Light My Fire was fantastic! Best book in the series. Incredible world building, arc expansion, and character dynamics. Aiken hit a home run out of the park with this one.
The most unnatural coupling occurs when a young woman is set up to assassinate the dragon queen but is fortunately or unfortunately (depending on who tells it) is stopped by a laid-back, overly curious dragon of the Queen's guard. Laughter and danger go hand in hand as this couple finds themselves smack dab in the middle of a coming war.
Though the romance has always a low key aspect in Aiken's Dragon series, the balance in here between it and the conflict is remarkably well plotted and revealed. I laughed the entire book. Readers will rejoice as we see many old faces and possible future couplings. ...more
Favorite Quote: “There is always a price and I’m going to collect.”
Vincent Kumix is a powerful, gorgeous, and charismatic vampire, second in command tFavorite Quote: “There is always a price and I’m going to collect.”
Vincent Kumix is a powerful, gorgeous, and charismatic vampire, second in command to the Lord Of Mexico. He has waited centuries to kill his sire, a man who made him against his will, but his revenge will have to wait when a bounty hunter comes to him with a special request. A beautiful woman who needs his help locating someone and who seems to be immune to all his lethal charms.
Lana Arnold is a bounty hunter looking to leave the family business and start her own PI firm. When she is contracted by the all-powerful Lord of North America to find a vampire, she knows this may be the chance she’s been waiting for. Smart, beautiful, and intelligent, she knows there will be a possibility of danger though she never expected it to be in the form of a six-foot plus vampire who oozes sex appeal and charms every women he meets. Lana learned her lesson the hard way about mixing business with pleasure and plans on keeping their time together all business.
As Vincent and Lana trade barbs and smoldering glances, their joint investigation brings to light a series of crimes so heinous, Vincent finds himself even more determined to destroy his sire, claim the throne, and keep the luscious Lana by his side forever.
I discovered D.B Reynolds’s Vampires in America series earlier this year and devoured her series with gusto. Such a wonderful change from the usual fare of angsty baggage laden supernatural creatures who just need to find the right “human” to make them forget their self-disgust at their monstrous appetites. Reynolds hits the spot with her arrogant narcissistic alpha males who sit at the top of the food chain and never lets you forget it. She pairs these males with strong, intelligent, kick arse humans who don’t succumb instantly to lust or manipulation. They usually meet and it’s instant dislike but as the sexual tension rises, so does the attraction. Then the real fun begins. *wink*
Favorite Quote: “I don’t want to wheedle.” “There is no shame in the wheedle” “Really? Because I feel there should be a little shame.”
Kera Watson, a coffee house manager and former Marine, never expected to die alone in a back alley way. Stabbed to death then back from the dead by a mysterious customer of hers, Kera wakes to find herself now a member of the Crows. The Crows are one of nine supernatural clans whose job is to prevent the coming of Ragnarok and to help keep balance in the world.
Suddenly shoved into a mystical world filled with intense vikings, unscrupulous gods, a bloody prophecy, and a group of women for whom the definition of insanity was invented, Kera struggles to gain her footing while attempting to incorporate some much needed organization and discipline into the lives of her sister crows.
With a strong silent viking and a fierce pit bull at her side and a strong dose of crazy at her back, Kera will have to let go of her former life if they want to survive what’s coming for them.
Oh boy, are they in trouble.
The Unleashing is the first book in Shelly Laurenston’s new PNR series based on Norse mythology. Set in the present, Laurenston adds a convoluted layer to our world with the addition of warriors from all walks of life. Killed in someway (some random accidents and some well deserved murders), these individuals are offered a chance at a second life if they agree to serve until their final death the god or goddess who comes to them. Some are chosen due to their heritage while others are chosen for their skills. Either way, what we get is a massive group of loud, scary, obnoxious, narcissistic, petty, supernaturally enhanced individuals who will make you cringe, chuckle, and out right belly laugh as you watch them plow their way through a world that has no idea what has been unleashed on it.
The beginning starts are a little slow as Laurenston sets up the world and gives us a list of the characters who inhabit it and their backstories. Laurenston’s skill as a writer keeps the reader from becoming confused or disoriented by the sheer mass of information being shared. Using dynamic characterization and humor allows each character to become a viable imprint in the readers’ minds. In depth and captivating world building uses mythology and legend, with some twists, to solidify the storyline and start us on a fantastic journey. As with any new series, the conflict unravels alongside the main storyline, giving hints to what is to come for the arc in a series of action packed scenes, cryptic clues, and some sneaky misdirection.
Our heroine, Kera Watson, is a force to be reckoned with. A former Marine with a highly ingrained sense of honor, integrity, discipline, and the need for organization; being tossed into a fly by the seat of your pants group such as the Crows is nothing short of a nightmare for her. The Crows runs a group of expensive drug rehabilitation centers as their cover with their main living headquarters smack dab in the middle of one. Here is the beginning of Kera’s many, many issues…
“I don’t want people thinking I’ve got a fucking drug problem.” “Of course they won’t.” “They won’t?” “You’re too poor to be a patient. You couldn’t possibly afford this place.”
The Crows are considered the black sheep of the clans. These women are the harbingers of death and they love every single minute of it. While they are able to live their own lives; they all have careers and the clan helps with anyone who wants a higher education and/or training, the minute their goddess calls, they come prepared for a bloody battle.
Ludvig (Vig) Rundstrom, a viking with clan Raven, was Kera’s mysterious customer. A weapon maker for all the clans, Vig has crushed on Kera for a long time and it was his quick actions that gave her a new life. A sexy grumpy viking, he does everything he can to help Kera prepare for her new life as a Crow.
“Maybe I would have been better off being a Raven.” “Probably. But you’re a girl and girls are ooky.”
Friends to lovers is a favorite trope of mine and Laurenston perfects it with this couple. I absolutely adored Vig and Kera. Intelligent and witty, both have a unique approach to handling life’s little catastrophes that belays their complexity. Vig and Kera are rather alike in many ways and that helps to clear the way for their romance. I like they aren’t as “hyper” as some of Laurenston’s couples. They accept their attraction and act on it without a lot conflict, fussing, or drama. They not only understand one another but they accept each other as they are. Their delish banter is only enhanced by their cute and energetic romance.
Per usual, no Laureston story would be complete without the inclusion of a cast of outrageous secondary characters. It’s here that Laurenston weaves that special magic of hers. I loved meeting the sister crows and other clan members. They all come together at intervals to interfere, insult, threaten, offer useless advice, and generally annoy each other to distraction. They are a crazy, intrusive, somewhat neurotic group whose antics keep the story moving along at a rapid pace.
“Do you guys have equipment for the new girl?” “Again…I have a name. Three, actually. First, middle, and last.”
The Unleashing is everything you could wish for in a paranormal romance and more. If you enjoy outrageous scenarios, witty banter, and hilariously over the top characters then look no further than Shelly Laurenston’s Call of the Crows series.
Moon Kissed is a reissue from Aline Hunter. A paranormal romance novella that has all the right elements but failed to engage me story or romance w2.5
Moon Kissed is a reissue from Aline Hunter. A paranormal romance novella that has all the right elements but failed to engage me story or romance wise. I’m not a fan of “mate bonding” to begin with and I felt the connection the couple had was magically manufactured and not due to actual attraction. An interesting main conflict falls short as the pseudo romance takes up a considerable amount of space and the length of the story offers no real chance for it to develop and expand. A quick hot read that unfortunately doesn’t offer much beyond grunts of MINE and sex....more
Favorite Quote: “If you ever disappeared, I would look for you and I would not stop until I found you.”
Sedona Snow, a gate keeper, came to RainshadowFavorite Quote: “If you ever disappeared, I would look for you and I would not stop until I found you.”
Sedona Snow, a gate keeper, came to Rainshadow when she was left for dead by a guild boss and subsequently kidnapped and experimented on. She escapes her captors with the help of a dust bunny, Lyle, four days later only to discover her “husband” has already replaced her. When Sedona begins to notice the experiments done to her have altered her original psi talents, she decides to hide on the island before the kidnappers strike again.
A bizarre accident beings Cyrus Jones and his band of ghost hunters to the island. Named the island’s new guild boss, Cyrus’s family wants to know what is happening down there and have sent him to investigate. He has his eye on Sedona but for reasons other than harm. When her ex husband comes looking for Sedona, Cyrus decides to stick close to Sedona, convinced she plays an important part in the strange happenings. His attraction to her is only an added bonus.
The Hot Zone is the third installment in Ms. Castle’s Rainshadow series. A spin off of her popular Harmony series, Rainshadow is an island that has become a refuge of sorts to those who don’t fit in with Harmony’s upper class society. People with unusual or dangerous psi talents gravitate to the island, knowing the island tends to protect its inhabitants from outsiders . The island, a hot bed of unexplored alien energy areas, keeps the local talent on their toes. Dry witty humor and a suspense filled mystery go hand in hand to create a well developed storyline that revolves around as two “misfits” who band together to investigate the island’s unusual alien infrastructure. Personable characters, intriguing plot lines, and vivid world building makes each installment a fun engaing read. Though each book can be read as a stand alone, this series does interact lightly with her Harmony and Arcane series as the three series follow specific families through time.
When trouble comes to Atlanta, you can always guarantee Kate Daniels is smack dab in the middle of it, swinging her swJoint review by Mandi & Tori
When trouble comes to Atlanta, you can always guarantee Kate Daniels is smack dab in the middle of it, swinging her sword. And trouble is definitely come to Atlanta in the form of Hugh D’Ambrey.
Being consort to the Beast Lord isn’t an easy job. Between struggling to keep her business afloat and dealing with never ending pack issues, Kate has her hands full. During the monthly Conclave meeting, a master of the dead is murdered and the pack is challenged to find the culprit within 24 hours or the People will declare war. If Kate didn’t have enough to do, Curren is off doing business in North Carolina, the pack has a traitor in their mists, and Kate knows Roland is coming for her.
As tensions build, Kate will have to shuck off the last remaining shackles of her youth and embrace who and what she is if she is going to save her city, her friends, and the only man she has ever loved.
Tori: We here at Smexy Books love Ilona Andrews and their bestselling urban fantasy Kate Daniels. Basically, we love everything that comes from this dynamic writing duo and if they write it, we will read it. Often rereading this series multiple times per year, I find comfort in their writing. Each reread provides me with more understanding of this convoluted world and its constantly changing inhabitants. While the familiar draws me in, it’s the evolving world and vibrant characters that keep me returning. Equal parts of humor and horror merge together to form intriguing stories that drag me in and hold me hostage to the end. I find their style of writing addictive and I await their new releases with barely concealed impatience. Thisseries is the perfect urban fantasy with its balance of power, action, and vulnerability.
After the catastrophic breath stealing events in Magic Rises, the Andrews takes pity on their readers and gives us a story filled with love, laughter, tragedy, and hope. Almost everyone now knows who Kate is and all her reasons for hiding are out in the open. She must take the offensive if she hopes to have a fighting chance against Roland. I find the route Andrews is taking concerning Roland to be unique and also keeping within the theme that has permeated the series. No one in here is decidedly good or bad. There are multiple shades of gray and each person must make their own choices on the path they decide to walk.
I love the evolution of Kate Daniels throughout this series. In the beginning we met a sociopath whose versions of right and wrong are made more poignant once we are privy to her back story. Raised and manipulated by her “stepfather” Voron, Kate is one of the good guys because she chooses to be. Her internal moral compass, while skewed, is strong and generally points in the right direction. We have watched as this solitary young woman has taken chances and learned to trust and love. Though for every step she made she was forced back two…she fought, clawed, and struggled to become her own person and not the instrument of destruction Voron hoped to create. In Kate Daniels we see a woman who against all odds has become a hero. What do you think, Mandi? Has Kate’s evolution been to your satisfaction?
Mandi: Her evolution has trumped my satisfaction. I’m not sure I could ask more from a heroine. Kate is bad ass, strong, smart, and extremely talented. We can all agree. But she also accepts her faults. She knows she has a weakness for leaving those she claims as hers (pack, friends, family) behind. She can’t just say, ‘let’s sacrifice one for the good of the pack’ – she won’t leave anyone behind. This doesn’t always make a good leader though. And she knows this. She knows when to ask (or should I say finally give in) Curran for help. She is stubborn, loyal, brave and freaking sarcastic. I love her.
I think it’s safe to say that this book is the book we’ve all been waiting for. Ilona Andrews even wrote a note before the book starts basically telling readers to buckle up (and that there are more books to come). Kate has not one but two big, bad dudes after her – Hugh d’Ambray and daddy Roland. This book she gets tested. Big time tested, like never before. I love that this book (and series) is so violent, dark, gritty – but there are scenes like this that make me laugh so hard:
“Hey, Kate? Have you thought of walking up to Hugh and telling him that he’s got the biggest dick ever?” She spread her arms to the size of a baseball bat.
“No, you think it would work?” I asked
“It’s worth a try. Maybe he’ll be so happy you noticed his pork sword, he’ll forget all about trying to kill us.”
Tori, what did you think of the events that take place in this book as it culminates the overall arc this series has been leading to?
Tori: I went through an “evolution” myself as each event revealed itself. The path twisted and turned; once again proving the sheer talent possessed by the Andrews writing team. They plot a difficult emotional path to Kate’s destiny in here, changing the ongoing story line and showing us that regardless of what you think may happen…they have plenty more tricks up their sleeve. What thrilled me the most was the ease in which everything changed and settled back into place. Fans have spent six books with an expectation towards a certain conclusion only to find out, like Kate, that nothing is ever what it seems.
As always, Kate fights for the underdog and all those she feels are under her protection. Parallels between she and Hugh are expanded upon, showing us what she could have been and what she has chosen to become due to a series of events. Introducing new characters and their thoughts/actions gives readers a new “bone” to chew on as we are herded towards the series conclusion. Old plotlines are effectively wrapped up with realistic results while being used to nudge open new avenues for exploration. Violence and humor go hand in hand here to keep readers thoroughly engaged till the very end.
“The other day Andrea tried to explain to me that apparently I am suppose to have a new thing, an old thing, a blue thing, and something stolen.”
“Who the hell even makes up these rules?”
“Even Julie talked to me about it the other day.”
“What did she say?”
“She thinks I should wear black.”
Some events were almost stupefying in their outcome. I love that Kate isn’t omnipresent and gets caught in the crossfire quite a bit. Her ability to survive is half skill and half luck. I love that while Kate will do anything for the pack, she isn’t stupid enough to believe they will do anything for her.
“Honey, we can fill this place with what we know and you don’t.”
Mandi, you messaged me that certain things happened that you didn’t foresee. Did you find them overwhelming or the perfect introduction for the direction we seem to be going in?
Mandi: I was very happy with the way the big events turned out at the end of this book. Honestly, if I had been told what happens before I read it, I would have thought I wouldn’t like it – but as you read, it all falls into place. It’s like Ilona Andrews knows what they are doing or something! *wink* While this closes a large arc, it also opens up room for some new adventure. Very intrigued and excited to see where we go in the next book.
We also get a hot sex scene! Yeah Curran! And I laughed, I cringed, I held my breath – this author is by far the best storyteller out there.
A few of my favorite quotes/scenes:
“What the hell is this?” Desandra asked (Kate).
“This is Cuddles. She’s a mammoth donkey.”
Derek grinned, leaning on the fence. “Do you have any self-respect left?”
“Trapped by a horde of vampires in the middle of a snow-covered field, huddling around a tiny fire on thin blankets,” Curran said. “Drink it in, baby. All this luxury just for you.”
Tori: I second that ‘Yeah Curran!’ Though I was still a little put out by his actions in Magic Rises, I found my love for him hasn’t decreased. The romance, though limited in interaction in here (Curran is gone three quarters of the book) is still as hot and potent now as it was when it first started. This couple has been through the wringer, both externally and emotionally. They have fought their feelings for so long only to give in; which opened a whole new bag of problems. Not many want to see them together, starting with Curran’s own pack. But this couple truly loves one another with the kind of deep powerful that love not only embraces the good but also the bad. Neither Curran or Kate have any illusions to who they sleep next to every night.
“Hey, I warned you from the start it would be weird. I sat in that bathtub with you and told you that this was a really bad idea. You said you loved me and stayed in the tub. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve made your bed. You have to lie in it.”
“I’ll lie in any bed as long as you’re in it, but this is still weird.”
A menage of secondary characters, new and old, continue to expand in their roles, each a viable player in this high stakes game of life and death. I readily appreciate the different personalities that are injected through out here. As I stated earlier, no one is firmly “good and/or evil.” Each serve their own higher purpose that may or may not eventually come into contact with Kate’s purpose. I enjoyed seeing Kate and Ghastek interact on a more personal level. They have been frenemies for so long, it was interesting seeing them interact on a more personal level. Once again, the Andrews remind us that Kate has male friends (of sort) that exist beyond her relationship with Curran, further solidifying the growth she has undergone in this series. Of course, we see plenty of Andrea, Barbados, Ascanio, and the rest of Kate’s rag tag entourage who fight beside her regardless of what she says or does.
Ascanio shot me another brilliant smile. “I’m sorry for all this trouble. I honestly was just trying to help. But now that I’m here, I couldn’t possibly go back all alone and defenseless. Unless you want to condemn me to certain death. Alone. In the night. In the freezing rain.”
The main conflict is a multi layered concoction of intrigue, tension, violence, and heart stopping scenes as the rules are once again changed on Kate. Multiple plot lines race though the book, twisting and turning to close some long standing open storylines while giving us hints to new ones.Magic Breaks takes everything we have learned and turns it inside out, leaving this reader reeling with all the implications of what’s to come. This series just continues to get better and better. Magic Breaks is a another appealing installment into one of my top recommended urban fantasy series.
The Circus of the Damned is the second book in Cornelia Grey’s Deal With the Devil series. You do not need to read the first book to read this one thoThe Circus of the Damned is the second book in Cornelia Grey’s Deal With the Devil series. You do not need to read the first book to read this one though fans will recognise the devil, Farfarello, from book one. An M/M romance fantasy with a healthy dose of historical and steampunk attributes. A bold and interesting premise speaks of a damned circus whose unusual performers promise their soul to the devil in exchange for a safe place to exist. A circus made up of people whose extraordinary gifts and peculiarities make them suspect in the world. Gray attempts to paint a dark fantasy with vivid imaginary as flavors of unscrupulous deeds and acts set the base for her world. There is so much promise here it’s almost unbearable.
Unfortunately, the premise is far more ambitious than the story itself. Beautifully written with a flair for the dramatic, the purple prose and an overabundance of descriptive terms becomes suffocating and drags the story down on more than one occasion. It also doesn’t allow for an in-depth examination of any one particular subplot. In Grey’s efforts to create the perfect atmosphere for her creations, the storyline itself suffers.
The story starts meeting Gilbert Blake. Gilbert Blake is a con man. He uses his gifts of magic to swindle people but only so that he and his pet mouse, Emilia, can survive. Abandoned as a child due to his gifts, he has a layer of vulnerability that speaks of his need to be accepted for who he is though that same need scares him. Temperamental and prone to fits of anger, Gilbert tries very hard to maintain his illusion of normality. When his latest con lands him in hot water, he makes his deal with the circus ringmaster, Jesse, believing that it is just one more con and he can get out of it anytime. Of course, when you make a deal with the devil, the devil is in the details. He tries multiple times to leave only to find himself right back at the circus the moment he falls asleep. When he finally accepts his fate, he begins to see that this maybe his chance to have the family, love, and acceptance he’s always secretly wanted.
Jesse, the ringmaster of the circus, is a bit of an enigma. He made the original deal with a devil that put The Circus of the Damned in motion. In the beginning, we see a mercurial hard man who gives the impression he doesn’t suffer fools lightly. As the story progresses, Jesse loses his hard edges and we see a submissive man who regrets the deal he made so many years ago. Heartfelt and melancholy, he struggles to keep his family safe while dealing with the fact that everyone he loves dies around him.
A cast of eccentric and dramatic secondary characters gives some sense of depth and continuance to the story though Grey doesn’t really dig down to the meat of them. Well developed descriptions give us the physical aspects of the cast but we aren’t given any emotional details. What are their stories? What made them take the deal? How did they come to find Jesse or vice versa? The one personal story we do get was from a character that we have very minimal interaction with. The antagonists of the story do not present as well as the rest. The crime lord’s intentions are established but the resolution is anti climatic. He remains a caricature who never achieves the status of evil we are made to think he is. Same for the devil, Farfarello, who made the original deal with Jesse. His status remains up in the air as hints are made to an old love affair between the devil and Jesse. We are given only enough to wonder at their relationship but not any concrete answers to how or why this original deal came into play. Their history is left in the dark even though the base of the story is built upon it.
The romance is low key. Its evolution attempts to allow Gilbert and Jesse to reveal the hidden aspects of themselves to the reader and each other though. Sexy, steamy, and very lush in terms of sexuality, this couple blazes in bed. Chemistry wise they are well matched but the connection was just not made for me. I could see the attraction clearly but I never felt the shift from lust to love. It’s more of an affair than an actual romance. Their copulation happens rather fast. There is one particular scene involving magic “hands” that will leave you feeling a little breathless, proving that no matter what issues Grey has in the mechanics of the story, she certainly doesn’t lack any imagination in the romance department. WHEW.
A happy for now ending leads us to believe there will be more told from this world in the future. While I enjoyed aspects of the book, I wasn’t to keen on the overall execution. There were just too many loose ties left blowing in the wind with too many unanswered questions.
Pia Saves The Day is the second novella in the Elder Races series that revisits our favorite couple Dragos and Pia Cuelebre. Short but fulfilling, Harrison takes the reader through an array of emotion as she introduces some serious conflict into our couple’s lives. Fans of Dragon Bound will appreciate this sweet romantic story that shows us that no matter what is thrown Pia and Dragos’ way, this couple will overcome.
Pia, Dragos, and their son Liam (Peanut) are in upstate New York, getting their new home put to rights. A freak construction accident causes Dragos to lose his memory, stripping him of everything that ties him to Pia and Liam. Pia must now put aside her pain in order to lead her mate back to her. The only problem is that the most dangerous creature in the Wyr Demise doesn’t submit to anyone.
Though I haven’t always been a fan of Pia’s, she gets on my nerves at times because she’s so dang perfect, I did enjoy her take charge attitude when having to deal with a centuries old dragon who suddenly has no knowledge of her or their life together. Her actions and thoughts are spot on when she realizes that the love of her life doesn’t remember her. A second chance love trope, if you will, as we watch Dragos fall in love with Pia all over again, further cementing their already powerful bond.
This change in events is sure to make for some interesting moments in the third novella, Peanut Goes To School, and the next full length novel, Night’s Honor.