Belcher proves he’s no one-trick pony with the second installment of his wildly adventurous and humorously horrifiying Golgotha seri4.5 Stars TOP PICK
Belcher proves he’s no one-trick pony with the second installment of his wildly adventurous and humorously horrifiying Golgotha series. Putting his imagination to good use, Belcher paints a complex and engaging story of love, loss, redemption and sacrifice in a town where dreams can come true, but often at an unimaginable price. Charismatic characters and a stunning blend of history, legend, religion and modern sensibility intertwine to create a world that embraces the strange and fantastical.
Read the rest of my review in OCT issue of RT Book Review Magazine....more
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.
MY REVIEW AT SMEXYBOOKS CONTAINS REVIEWS FOR PARTS 4-6 in ONE POST.
Part Four-The Kraken King and the Inevitable Abduction
Zenobia is on pins and needles as she and Ariq get closer to the Red City. She knows she will have to spill her secrets and she dreads what’s in store for once Ariq knows the whole truth. Forgiving him for his faux pas back in Krakentown, Zenobia still harbors doubt that she is not enough for him and that once he meets the real Zenobia, his feelings for her will die.
Part four focuses on Ariq’s and Zenobia’s feelings for one another. Brooks uses some downtime to reveal a softer nature of both our lovers as she helps them navigate a minefield of lies, secrets, and half truths. Zenobia is still unsure of Ariq but as we have learned, Ariq will not let her deny him anymore. The heat level rises to scorching as Ariq lets Zenobia know that he will do whatever it takes to tear down the walls around her heart. We end on a cliffhanger when Ariq’s past pays a surprise visit.
MY REVIEW AT SMEXYBOOKS CONTAINS REVIEWS FOR PARTS 4-6 in ONE POST.
Part Five-The Kraken King and the Iron Heart
Tensions run high as Ariq’s past is revealed and we learn the full story in regards to his parentage and the truth behind his moniker. Our lovers find themselves dragged into a political game they have no hope of winning. An unusual declaration proves to all that Zenobia is under the protection of The Kraken King and beware to all who doubt that. When Ariq is forced to leave Zenobia behind in order to save her, Zenobia prays he remembers his promise to come for her. But when Zenobia suffers a terrible loss, she realizes that sometimes, you have to save yourself.
Brook’s brings in the big guns with bold actions and her outrageous imagination to shoves the conflict into high gear, revealing a situation that rocks the very core of the story. The past and the present intertwine, showing Ariq and readers that you can never fully escape your past....more
MY REVIEW AT SMEXYBOOKS CONTAINS REVIEWS FOR PARTS 4-6 in ONE POST.
Part Six-The Kraken King and the Crumbling Walls
Zenobia and Ariq are finally reunited but no one is safe with war coming. Ariq finds himself at a loss when his need of the Empress of Nippon’s ear collides with his need to keep Zenobia by his side and from rebuilding her walls against him. The decision is taken from him when he and Zenobia are forced into quarantine to bide their time until the Empress receives them. Though physically close, Zenobia still guards herself against the dangers of the heart.
Love and politics make strange bedfellows as our lovers soon learn. Sexual tension is at a premium and Brook’s masterly uses it to uplift and push the story along. Ariq and Zenobia are closer than ever before but Brook’s doesn’t make it easy for either of them. We spend more time with some secondary characters who give us details Ariq and Zenobia aren’t able to. Intrigue follows us into the Living City and prepares us for the end of the Kraken King.
An enjoyable emotional novella between two lost souls whose physical transformations leave them feeling adrift and divorced from life. Slow in the beg
An enjoyable emotional novella between two lost souls whose physical transformations leave them feeling adrift and divorced from life. Slow in the beginning, Archer spends a great deal of time allowing our protagonists to develop a relationship at their own pace. A bit wordy, though the payoff is worth the wait. Quiet and sensual, this story glides along smoothly, picking up pace as our lovers begin to grow beyond the boundaries they've set for themselves. A climatic ending leaves the reader sighing from pleasure.
I do believe I will be looking into the first 4 of this series. ...more
I have always enjoyed Jessica Sims (Jill Myles) stories. Always fun and sexy with the perfect amount of humor to keep you chuckling as the hero and heroine find themselves in crazy, outrageous situations on their journey to their happily ever after. Speed Mating is a cute, short, lighthearted PNR about a female liger-Estrella- who goes into heat and finds herself at loose ends. She doesn’t want to just sleep with anyone. She wants romance, passion, and a mate that compliments her in every way. Her alpha, Vic, tries to help by bringing in eligible males for her to choose from but Estrella and Estrella’s liger only seem to want what they can’t have…Vic, himself.
“I didn’t say your name was a good name. It’s simply tolerable because it’s yours.”
Conjuring Max (Code Of Shadows 0.5) by Carolyn Crane
As always, Carolyn Crane likes to take a unique approach with her characters and storylines. Though this one didn’t engage me romantically as much as I would have liked, I found that the chemistry was lacking, Conjuring Max was still an entertaining short read that offers an interesting look at witchcraft and the modern world. Veronica was mocked as a child for her work with computer and spell casting. Now a recluse with a huge chip on her shoulder, Veronica has perfected her computers, enabling her to conjure anything she wants. When she conjures up Max to be her bodyguard against those who seek to harm her, she finds herself willing to do anything to keep Max around forever.
Wrecked (Iron Seas) by Meljean Brook
I absolutely adore Meljean Brook Iron Seas series. A series that crosses boundaries and transports this reader into a thrilling inventive world that just keeps getting better with every new installment. Fabulous characters combined with a full bodied complex storyline made this my favorite novella in this anthology. In Wrecked we meet Elizabeth who has been on the run from her father and his hunters for over 5 years. Her reasons for running are more than justified, as she proves when her father’s favorite hunter, Caius, found her the first time 2 years ago. Caius was devastated the first time he lost Elizabeth and now seeks to prove to her that he is not there to take her home, but to help her and hopefully build a life with her.
“I know you, Elizabeth. You. Not who someone wants you to be, but who you are.”
All in all, Fire & Frost is an enjoyable anthology that gives fans of these three powerhouses a little bit of everything.
Favorite Quote: “I’d rather leave you then have you taken from me.”
As chief surgeon for the Wardens, Evelyn Stone fears her own life is on the line when she is kidnapped by a band of pirates—only to discover that the airship captain is Gavin “Mac” MacRae—her former lover. The man whose life she once saved. The man she abandoned.
Since Evelyn left, Mac made his mark as both a pirate and a pilot. But his true allegiance isn’t known. So when he asks Evie for help with a wounded woman onboard, he tells Evie that the woman is his wife—even if his feelings for Evie have never waned…
As the days pass, however, the unease between Evie and Mac gives way to the old comfort they used to have. Yet, their newly ignited romance is complicated by conflicting loyalties and desires, and a betrayal that may cost them both their love and their lives. (Goodreads)
Breath Of Iron, the third in Ms. Cross’s dark and intriguing Clockwork Agents series, submerges us back into the wonderful world of Victorian sediments and steampunk adventures. Riveting action, dangerous spies, steamy romance, and an all-star cast keep us on our toes. Lush world building continues to evolve as we divulge deeper into the mechanics behind the Wardens of the Realm and their arch enemies, The Company. The Wardens are a secret government group who work behind the scenes to protect the monarchy and it’s hierarchy, while The Company seeks to destroy it. In this installment, Cross crosses the continent and brings us the Wardens and The Companys Russian counterparts.
Our story begins with the kidnapping of Dr. Evie Stone, the Warden’s English doctor. Evie knows her kidnappers but is shocked when she is drugged and wakes upon The Queen V; her ex lover’s ship. Evie left Mac three years ago after she saved his life once again. She couldn’t stand his being a pirate nor his propensity for getting hurt. She feared for the day she would not being able to save him and so she left. Mac, a previous Warden who left the agency for calmer waters, has never forgiven Evie for leaving him while he recuperated in the hospital, but he needs her skills as a surgeon to save a very important life. In order to keep Evie safe and his heart protected, he lies about the young woman he needs Evie to save.
Evie knows something is wrong with the entire situation but believes Mac has moved on from her and reluctantly accepts his marriage. When Mac is attacked and a crew member is killed, all evidence points towards a traitor on board. Evie’s investigation reveals the whole story behind Mac’s marriage and the real reasons he’s back in England and consorting with Wardens.
Both Mac and Evie are interesting protagonists and I enjoyed learning their backstory. Evie’s fear of commitment and distrust of love stems from her parent’s relationship and her father’s desertion of her and her mother. Mac has a hero complex that places his life in continuous danger. Both are extremely brave and stubborn. There were times I felt neither really listened to what the other was saying. Pages of dialogue show them bickering back and forth; both still hurt by their failed affair. It slows the story line down. Though they seemed at times unable to get past that day three years ago, they did have a delightful banter between one another that is both sensual and amusing. Witty dialogue and little digs will have you smiling as their two square off against each other. Their strong chemistry singes the pages as the main conflict unfurls amongst suspicion and distrust. I did feel that the romance overshadowed the story and didn’t blend as well with the storyline as it did in the other two installments. Everything happens fast and there are some situations that do not fully reveal, leaving me at a lost to what exactly happened.
Ms. Cross’s continues to write well developed and personable secondary characters whose individual storylines spike your curiosity. Ned, Mac’s sister, is a jovial character whom I forsee has having some further conflict with the Wardens. We get an interesting look at the director of the Warden’s personal life that was shocking. Ms. Cross allows us time with Lucas and Arden and Clair and Alister; giving us intimate glimpses into their lives. What I normally enjoyed about this series is that everyone has hidden agendas; making for a more exciting story filled with many twists and turns. In this installment I felt we didn’t get that as much. The story lines revolves almost singularly around Evie and Mac’s romance. I missed the cutting action and suspense from the previous two installments. I also missed the usually strong Warden presence.
Regardless of my qualms, Cross continues to pen an engaging steampunk romance that is sure to appeal to fantasy and romance fans alike.
Favorite Quote: “Not having isn’t the torment. Having and losing is. “
Nate Powell lived a fulfilling if not sedate life as an inventor until he was kidnapped, experimented on and turned into a hybrid – half bloodhound and half vampire. He longs for death until a new arrival at Iron Creek peaks more than just his interest.
Diana is a rarity in the Bloodhound world as she is female. A fierce warrior who is unapologetic about her gender and sexual appetites, she is a conundrum for Nate. Her attraction to Nate is ripe with both need and exasperation as he pushes her away out of fear yet pulls her back to him in his need to protect her.
When the answer to rumors that someone is selling women to vampires as unwilling blood donors is dropped in their laps, Nate and Diana make plans to go undercover and smoke out this rogue bloodhound. Soon, the pull of the new moon heightens the attraction between Nate and Diana, sending it spiraling out of control. If Diana and Nate can survive this job…will they accept their destiny or consign themselves to a fate worse than death?
I absolutely ADORE Moira Rogers’s steampunk/ paranormal series-The Bloodhounds. In fact, I pretty much adore all their work. Diana’s Hound is an incredibly sexy, action packed story that will keep you glued to your e reader. Ripe with sexual promise and a tense storyline, this enchanting mixture of old and new sets the stage as we prepare to engage with our two explosive protagonists-Nate and Diana.
We first met Nate in Wilder’s Mate. He was Satira’s mentor and the man she risked everything to rescue. Nate was in a bad way when they found him and has struggled with his dual nature from day one. He now resides with the bloodhounds in Iron Creek and is attempting to expand upon the work started by the man who made the Bloodhounds-Epiham. His old world style gallantry makes him a delightful beta hero yet Diana brings forth his hidden alpha tendencies; which scares him.
Diana is a beautiful, intelligent woman who manages to maintain her femininity while being who and what she is in a man’s world. Turned into a hound as a young girl and losing her husband in the process, Diana is an interesting mixture of bravado and vulnerability. She wants Nate badly but won’t beg for his attention. As with most of Roger’s heroines, Diana is not a shy retiring heroine. She’s had a hard life but she has risen above it. She’s also very pragmatic and that struck a chord with me. She doesn’t hide from Nate nor what she feels and gives voice to it often.
Nate and Diana are perfect together. Loyal and intelligent; both seem to be holding their breaths-waiting for that something or someone to complete them. Unlike the other Bloodhound relationships, there is no marked alpha/beta hierarchy in this relationship. They are remarkably similar in temperament and it works well for them.
The dialogue between them is both humorous and seductive as they fit together well with just enough friction to keep it interesting. The chemistry is apparent from the beginning and a steady undercurrent flows between them, priming you for when they will go to the next level. The romance blends well with the sexual attraction to the point where you cannot be sure which came first.
The secondary characters add further suspense and mystery to an already explosive storyline. I loved the interaction between already established series characters. Old revelations are expanded upon concerning the Guild that take will take this series down new and exciting paths. What I really love about all of Moira Roger books is no character is used just as filling. Each one is imbibed with enough vitality that you want then to have their own story.
The plot is solid with plenty of suspense and action to keep you satisfied. I do like the villain(s) was more prominently featured in this one and the storyline is built upon layers that I await impatiently for answers to. All and all another brilliant read by the ladies of Moira Rogers that left me wanting to read more about these sexy, sexy Bloodhounds and the women who are their destiny.
Though I enjoyed the first installment of this series, I found this one wasn't as engaging. The heroine's massive entitlement issues and personalitDNF
Though I enjoyed the first installment of this series, I found this one wasn't as engaging. The heroine's massive entitlement issues and personality completely turned me off and the lagging storyline was unable to hold my attention. ...more
Favorite Quote: “You’re not going to kill me in my sleep are you?.“ “No, I’d want you awake for that.”
Claire Brooks is on a mission of revenge. A deadly agent for The Company, Claire is determined to find the reasons her brother was killed, even if that means getting into bed with the Wardens of the Realm. When she is taken prisoner by the Wardens after being shot by a fellow agent, Claire agrees to help bring down The Company and accept whatever punishment the Wardens deem fit if they help her capture the rogue agent who her murdered her brother.
Alistair Payne, Lord Wolford, an agent for the Wardens, is still recovering both mentally and physically after his lover betrayed him and left him for dead. Struggling with past issues involving betrayal. Alistair agrees to partner up with Claire; he will help her capture the rogue agent while keeping a tight grip on her leash.
When Claire and Alistair go undercover as an affianced couple, both Claire and Alistair find it hard to discount the growing feelings between them. As they get closer to the capture of their target, each must decide what’s more important…their loyalties or their hearts?
Touch Of Steel, the second in Ms. Cross’s dark and intriguing Clockwork Agents series, submerges us back into the wonderful world of Victorian sediments and steampunk adventures. Riveting action, wicked spies, steamy romance, and an all-star cast keep us on our toes. Lush world building continues to evolve as we divulge deeper into the mechanics behind the Wardens of the Realm and their arch enemies, The Company. The Wardens are a secret government group who work behind the scenes to protect the monarchy and it’s hierarchy, while The Company seeks to destroy it. One important aspect to remember is each group feels it is doing what is best for England and its residents and each will stop at nothing to achieve their objectives.
Our story begins with the capture of Claire Brooks, code name the Dove, by the Wardens. A very dangerous woman, Claire is considered a huge catch for the Wardens. When she comes to, she immediately asks for Lucas Grey. Lucas was the hero in Heart Of Brass and a former agent for the Wardens and The Company. Lucas, whose mind was tampered with by The Company, lost seven years of his life and Claire knows that if anyone will help her with her revenge against The Company, it will be him. However, Lucas is no longer an agent and due to his family situation, Alistair steps in to once again to protect his friend from harm.
Alistair is prepared to hate Claire as an enemy of the Wardens but finds himself reluctantly drawn to the strong, independent woman. She makes no pleas or excuses for her actions. Like him, she believed in her employer and their ideals…until they took from her the only person in the world she loved. With a beauty and boldness that appeals to him, Alistair finds himself liking and admiring her while, at the sometime, disgusted with her for betraying her employers. He already doesn’t trust his judgment when it comes to women and he can’t help but feel that Claire’s endgame is far more insidious than anyone realizes.
Both Claire and Alistair are delightful protagonists who you instantly connect with. Writing in the 3rd person allows us an intimate view into both their psyches. Claire’s commitment to the Company is explained in that she has been with them since she was fifteen years old. As her only family, their betrayal was doubly hard for her. Alistair also grew up amongst spies and both his parents were Wardens. Both have suffered at the hands of deception, which is both a hinder and connection for them in their relationship. Their interactions with one another are sensual and amusing. Witty dry dialogue and little digs will have you smiling as their two square off against each other. Strong chemistry keeps their romance steamy even as it unfolds slowly.
A well developed and personable secondary cast with individual storylines that intersect and spike your curiosity. Dr. Eva Stone once again shows her remarkable compassion in her befriending of Claire and we see a tiny clue of her back story involving another Warden that I’m anxious to read about. Ms. Cross allows us time with Lucas and Arden; letting us see how their relationship is progressing. We met other Wardens and various members of the Company. What I enjoy about this series is that everyone has hidden agendas; making for a more exciting story filled with many twists and turns. As stated earlier, the Wardens and The Company want what’s best for their country. There are good and bad agents on both sides of the playing field. Viable characters and intriguing conflicts keeps the story moving along and also continues to give more insight into our characters and their places in this secret world.
If you enjoy strong protagonists, witty dialog, steamy romance, and exciting steampunk adventures, then I wholeheartedly recommend Kate Cross’s Clockwork Agent series.
Favorite Quote: “She drove him to distraction, frustrated him, amazed him, and made him what to do better.“
Arden Grey, Countess Huntley, has everything a woman of the 19th century could want. Wealth, status, and independence. Everything except her husband. The Earl of Huntley disappeared seven years ago while on a mission for a secret government agency called the Wardens. Arden knows her husband is still alive and has never given up hope he will come home to her. One night Arden feels someone watching her and realizes it’s her missing husband.
Lucas (Luke) Gray, the Earl of Huntley, is now an assassin for the Company, a corrupt agency. Referred to as number 5, he is sent to assassinate Arden for her crimes against the Company. As Luke watches his target, he finds himself unable to complete his mission. Something about Arden is familiar and his attraction to her both excites and scares him.
Arden and Lucas’s best friend implement a plan and are able to capture and subdue Luke.They take him to the Wardens headquarters and learn that the Company has tampered with both his memories and his physical stature. Luke is definitely not the man he was seven years ago. The Wardens don’t trust him but Arden finally has him back in her life and will do anything to keep him there. As Arden and Luke struggle to reacquaint themselves with one another again, they have to stop the Company from killing them and Arden has to stop a serial killer.
Heart Of Brass is an delightfully adventurous steampunk filled with riveting action, wicked spies, steamy romance, and an all star cast. Lush world building transports us to an exciting time where carriages and automations are beheld side by side. Set in 19th century Victorian England, we are introduced to the Earl and The Countess Huntley. Married young, these two are challenged in different ways to keep England safe as members of a government agency called the Wardens. Our story starts out with Arden entering the seventh year her husband, Luke, has been missing. Unknown if he is alive or dead, Arden keeps the home fires burning, stubbornly defiant against all who claim Lucas must be dead. When Luke begins appearing to her, threatening her life, Arden realizes that he was captured and corrupted by the Company. As she attempts to stay alive and force Luke to remember her, she realizes that the man she married is not the man who stands before her.
There are two separate but equally important storylines that make up this story. Luke’s disappearance and subsequent return and a serial killer who is preying on young woman of London. Both interesting plots that run parallel but do not intertwine. The serial killer mystery is for Arden only and it strongly shows how fiercely Arden needed to be more then just Luke’s wife. Arden has a hidden vulnerability that engages our sympathies. She has never felt she was good enough for Luke, a feeling enforced by his family. So she strives to become everything Luke was after he left-to prove to him that she too can be exciting and challenging both in and out of their marriage. When we get their background story, we realize that Arden’s and Luke’s marriage had problems and things were said and done before Luke disappeared, which only reinforced her feelings of inadequacy.
I genuinely liked Arden. She is a strong, independent, intelligent, outspoken young woman who we learn has changed drastically since her husband vanished. She has had to stay strong against her own doubts and the doubts of those around her, causing her to take more control of her life then a woman of this time period might normally. She is a brilliant inventor and comes up with devices to help the Wardens but also certain female appliances she sells to be financially independent. She’s not a paragon of virtue though. She has a small drinking problem which started after Lucas disappeared. She is also very stubborn and obstinate. Being on her own for seven years has required to assume the helm so to speak and once Lucas returns, she has a slight problem sharing command.
Poor Luke. You can’t help but feel sorry for him even when you discover how he was before he disappeared. He is back with his wife with no memory of her or their life. Through Arden and his own returning memories, he begins to remember the man he used to be and finds himself disgusted by his previous behavior. He treated his wife as a possession-not badly, but rather indifferently. Being a Warden had meant everything to him and he did many things in his service to them, things that left his wife questioning his feelings for her. We learn his last mission required him to partner up with his mistress, a mistress Arden knew nothing about until after he disappeared. When Luke learns of this he wants to die, not wanting to believe that he brought even more pain to his wife. We also learn that he was not faithful while he was with the Company. When he discovers a tattoo on Arden’s shoulder that is an exact replica of a tattoo he got while he was gone, he knows then that no matter what happened to him while he was with the Company, some part of her was always with him.
Their reunion is bittersweet. In bed, they know exactly where they stand with one another but out of it, they are both somewhat at a lost. Watching them fall back in love with one another is very romantic as the chemistry between them is quite tangible and explosive.
Luke’s expression hardened. “If he came in here right now and told you that somehow I was behind it all, you’d believe that wouldn’t you?” She scowled at him. “Don’t be a jealous idiot. I would not believe it, and if you’re so very concerned about my affections straying, why don’t you give me a good reason to keep them with you.” Slowly, he straightened and came towards her. She felt a little like a Gazelle eyeing an approaching lion and didn’t know whether to run or simply accept her fate and offer up her throat. He gaze held hers until he stood mere inches away. His hand reached out and curled around the back of her neck, pulling her closer. “You’re mine,” he told her. “I’d kill any man who tried to take you away.”
Obstacles are handled, situations diffused, and honesty is finally given. We get some wonderfully passionate scenes and the lovely Mr. Huntley likes to talk dirty in bed. Ooo La La. While their situation isn’t 100% resolved, they are off to a wonderful start by the end of the book.
A well developed and personable secondary cast with individual storylines that intersect and spike your curiosity. Henry Huntley, Luke’s younger brother, is an angry young man who treated Arden terribly and was set to declare Luke dead when Luke reappears. He is not happy Luke is back and sets out to discredit Luke as the rightful Earl. Alister Wolfred is a member of the Wardens, a long time friend of Lucas’s, and in love with Arden. He is both elated and angry that Luke has returned from the dead. We met other Wardens, investigators with Scotland Yard, and various members of the Company. What I enjoyed is that no one is what they seem and their hidden agendas make for an exciting story filled with many twists and turns. Witty and engaging dialogue helps speed the story along and give us a more intimate look at out characters and their personalities.
The two mysteries keep us on our toes and resolve themselves simultaneously; giving us the identity of the serial killer and the person who betrayed Lucas and the Wardens. An heroic ending with an intro into the book two leaves us satisfied and more then ready for Touch Of Steel which releases December 14, 2012. I recommend Kate Cross’s newest steampunk series if you enjoy strong protagonists, witty dialog, delish romance, and exciting adventure.
One problem I had with the book is the cover. In the book, Arden wears a nose ring and has seven chains that stretch from nose ring to studs in her ears. It’s a pivotal part of her emotional make up and I was disappointed that it wasn’t shown in the cover art.
Favorite Quote: “How will history judge me? I care not.”
There are some spoilers from last book so read at your own risk!!
The Kingmakers is the dramatic, pulse pounding, emotional, heart wrenching conclusion to Clay and Susan’s epic Vampire Empire trilogy. From the first sentence of The Greyfriar (book one), I was instantly swept away into an incredible adventure of unimaginable horror, and an impossible romance so pure, that it shatters your heart. At the end of The Rift Walker (book two), Adele and Greyfriar exposed betrayers within Adele’s empire and gained valuable allies. Some of Adele’s trusted allies and hidden enemies have found out the Greyfriar’s secret (he is really Prince Gareth) and now they both wait to see what they will do with that information.
The Kingmaker is a splendid conclusion to the spellbinding magic of The Vampire Empire. Filled with mind boggling political intrigue, betrayal, deception, magic and a healthy dose of romance-you can’t help but be swept away by this epic trilogy. The Greyfriars was Greyfriar’s story. The Rift Walker was Adele’s story. The Kingmakers is their story. We begin with an intense battle scene as the war with the vampires has escalated.. Adele’s beloved General Anhalt and Greyfriar are leading her troops against the vampires, but there are high losses to the Equatorian army.
Adele has grown so much since she first met Gareth. The young teenage princess has become the empress of a nation. A nation that looks to her for guidance and protection. Adele has realized that her happiness is second to what her people need. With that, she decides she can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch her country’s possible desecration, so she ignores protocol and heads to the battlefront. We now witness the power she has gained in reference to her Geomancy magic. A power that could turn the war in their favor.
The subtle romance that flavored the series takes a heavy, firmer stance in here. We see more one on one scenes between Adele and her consort that serve to backlight decisions both of them make regarding the war and their life together. It remains an integral part of the arc and the Griffith’s did a fantastic job of slowly building their love affair to the pivotal point it reaches in The Kingmakers. While the storyline isn’t new, enemies turned lovers, the way in which they develop the romance is indicative of their craftsmanship. Adele and Gaeth are soul mates. I adore them. They have each proven time and time again the sacrifices they will make for one another. They are only truly at peace when they are together.
The moment the door closed, he grabbed her arm and pulled her to him in a deep embrace. She crushed against him, her mind filled only with the desire of him. His leather glove held the nape of her neck and tilted her head up as she pulled the cloth from his sharp-featured face so he could kiss her. His long, dark hair brushed her face. She thought only of the long days and nights without him, filled with worry and want.
The Griffith’s used the first two books to expand and develop this world while focusing on deeper development and commitment of the characters. We have now reached the end and everything the Griffith’s has prepared us for is now being revealed. There can be only one winner and Adele and Gareth know it must be the humans, even at the expense of their own lives.
The secondary cast still remain as strongly defined as our protagonists. Rather than simply extending the storyline, they expand and lift it. Senator Clark, along with Flay, General Anhalt, and Mamoru all excel in their scenes and play their parts brilliantly. General Anhalt excels in his devotion and love for Adele. He is her right hand and I love how secure he is in his place at her side.
“How long do you think you can maintain your strength, my old friend?” Anhalt watched his beloved Adele depart. “As long as she needs me. As long as she needs me.”
Flay is as dangerous as ever and I do appreciate the fact that the Griffith’s never attempted to humanize her. She is a vampire warrior and a killer. Just as she should be. Mamoru. Poor Mamoru. His deception is finally out in the open and we all shudder with sorrow at the lengths he goes to complete his agenda. We don’t see much of Caesar though his presence remains a dark shadow over the story. I admit I missed seeing more of him and watching his plans reveal side by side as Adele’s did.
Multiple storylines and subplots run parallel and intertwine with some staggering revelations. Gareth is finding it harder and harder to play the role of the Greyfriar. He feels he is not doing enough, especially concerning his brother, Cesare. Adele worries about her people and Gareth, trying to figure out a way for everyone to survive the horror that cannot be denied. I love that her humanity both restricts and frees her. Everyone has their own agenda and the wrap ups are deliciously devious. New reveals are made, alliances change, and new enemies are found. There are still quite a few humorous scenes and dialogue in here that engage and give the reader a respite from the seriousness of the story.
"But he is a fearsome warrior. Known far and wide as the deadliest hunter his kind has yet produced. In fact, Gareth is credited with the killing of -" Adele touched his sleeve as her lips quirked upward. "Um, yes. We get the point. Prince Gareth is a god among vampires." The swordsman lowered his head with a rebuked cough. "Well, he is known to be quite impressive is my only point."
The ending is exactly as it should be. A tantalizing combination of excitement and despair we which we learn the fate of Adele, Gareth, and the world. Even though this is the last book of the trilogy, I do hope the Griffith’s think about writing more of Adele’s and Gareth’s adventures. I, for one, would love to see more of this world and the couple we have come to love. Regardless of whether they do or not, The Vampire Empire series remains on my top ten must read list in Fantasy.
Meljean Brook once again delivers a “riveting” steampunk fantasy revolving around two personable and quite adorable characters. Plenty of swashbuckling adventure and fast paced action still exists yet the setting and characters involved are completely new and fresh, which only heightens the ever evolving world building. Each new installment that Meljean Brook’s writes for this series manages to invoke new emotions without deviating from the main arc.
I enjoyed watching our protagonists meet and get to know one another. Especially when their backgrounds are unveiled. Both Annika and David have issues that cause them to shy away from relationships. Annika was raised in a secluded secretive community that did not entertain the rigid social structures and taboos of the New World. When she leaves her settlement, she is constantly finding herself committing a new faux pas with each new port she visits. She longs to find her sister and go home but there is a small part of her that also longs to be accepted for who she is.
David Kentwess studies volcanoes. He and a group of fellow scientists are heading to Iceland to study the volcanoes and develop a way to forecast eruptions. David was injured in an eruption, which has resulted in his having to wear prosthetics. These prosthetics are not pretty to look at it and they form an invisible yet solid barrier between him and society. He sees the disgust and pity reflected on the faces of those he meets and chooses to rise above it rather than give into it. David wants two things in life. To fulfill a promise and find someone who can accept him for the man he is; beyond his prosthetics.
Annika had no idea that her meeting David was not accidental. Annika has something David wants. David strikes up a friendship with her, attempting to smooth the way for his request. When outside forces intervene, Annika refuses to help David. In anger, David betrays their friendship and is shocked by his feelings of guilt and pain when Annika dissolves their friendship and tells him to take a hike.
From this moment on, we see two storylines intertwining. One, the main conflict, which is as just as entertainingly complex as in the last two books, and the subplot which focuses on David’s & Annika’s journey towards finding themselves and each other.
“He touched her with reverence, as if she were the most incredible thing he ever beheld.”
Emotionally fulfilling and incredibly sensual in its telling, I found myself falling in love with both of them over and over throughout the story.
Wonderfully defined secondary characters engage and uplift this unbelievably realistic alternative world. Throughout the story, we are treated to more explanations of the political unrest that has affected the world since the defeat of the Horde and a more indepth look at how the surrounding countries dealt with the Horde threat. I found the villain not so much horrifying, but rather more misguided in their own attempt to redefine themselves in this strange, new world. The ending comes crashing over you like an emotional tidal wave and I found myself both elated and sad that my journey was over.
The only reason I give it a B+ instead of an A is that I did find the first part slow in reference to action. Mostly set up as an introduction, it was hard to get myself involved. However, once I was hooked, it engaged me to the very end.
Riveted is another fantastic addition to Meljean Brook’s delightful romantic steampunk series. I recommend this to any reader who enjoys strong, unique protagonists, witty dialog, delish romances, and engaging adventure.
Favorite Quote: “Is it inevitable?” “Only if you want it to be.”
Tish Everett has just come out of an abusive relationship. She is finally free after three years and has no plans to enter into another relationship that could take away her fragile new found freedom. When she attends the estate sale of a former patient, she finds an old locket that opens up to reveal the most delicious man she has ever laid eyes on. That night, Tish awakens, naked, to an alternative world and Criminy Stain. Criminy is a gypsy, magician, and a bludman. His owns and operates a traveling circus caravan, outfitted with the wonders of his world. Criminy claims that he placed a wish on the locket, a wish for his soul mate, and Tish is the answer to that wish. As Tish tries to adapt to this new world and to Criminy, she finds herself struggling to maintain a link to her old world. Criminy offers her a position in his caravan as a fortune teller when it’s revealed that his world gives her this talent. Glimpses into the future show her that she has some hard choices to make that could effect both their worlds if she isn’t careful. When her locket is stolen, Tish and Criminy set out on a journey that pits them against monsters, ghosts, bludbunnies; ultimately leading them to an evil that plans to use the locket and Tish to destroy Criminy and rid the world of his kind forever.
Wicked As They Come is the debut novel of Delilah S. Dawson. Ms. Dawson has a wonderful voice that hooks you with humorous sharp dialogue, smooth pacing, and descriptive details. An enchanting mixture of steampunk, fantasy, and paranormal romance, Ms. Dawson introduces us to a world that mirrors ours with some very interesting differences. Sang is a rich convoluted magical world where the past and future meet in a convergence of Victorian fashion and attitude, with dirigibles and submarines. Slight twists on normality give us cute fuzzy killer bunnies and humans (pinkys) and bludmen (blood drinkers) living side by side in a dangerous explosive environment of prejudice and fear. City names are just off enough to allow us to feel like we are home yet understand we aren’t. Though the world of Sang is a lush adventure begging for a more through exploration, it’s the characters who drive this story home. Charismatic and well drawn out, I like the effort Ms. Dawson takes to ensure that we not only know these characters but understand them. The beginning starts a little slow for me but only because Ms. Dawson spends a lot of time introducing the world and it’s inhabitants to us and Tish. Not that I objected but it’s not until the halfway mark that the action picks up and Tish’s adventure really starts.
There are three main characters in here. Tish Everett, Criminy Stain, and Jonah Goodwill. Tish Everett is a likable heroine whose actions and emotions are realistic for what she is going through. Called a Stranger, she is the rare human that travels to Sang through her dreams. Burdened with some heavy baggage and emotional scars, she finds herself somewhat overwhelmed by all that has happened. She has been dropped into an alternative world with a man who speaks to her at a level that scares her to death, she has no idea if she can go home, and she’s on the low end of the evolutionary food chain. Even the bunnies are more dangerous than her.
“Did you dream that?” he asked “The rabbit? Sure, I suppose I did. He’s a cutie. Probably represents my kindness. Or innocence. Something like that.” The rabbit sniffed my foot, nose twitching, eyes bright. I smiled. And then it bit me, sinking fangs into my bare ankle.
She is understandably upset. She adapts easier to the world and its inhabitants better than the romance. At times I found her fear of love and unwillingness to be honest with herself trying. She equivocates love with captivity and fights to avoid anything like that with a passion. While it’s understandable after what she went through, it’s still irritating at times. Even with her stubbornness, her intelligence, humor, and genuine joy of life is appealing.
Criminy Stain has to be the most delightful hero I have run across in a while. Born a bludman, he is like a vampire where he drinks blood but follows none of the other stereotypes. Though he is stronger, has a longer then average longevity, and can heal faster then humans, he is still alive. He can walk in the sun, and garlic, stakes, ect…don’t work on him. An alpha-beta mix, he is an naughty rogue who’s strong will, playful personality, and kind heart hides a romantic streak a mile wide. How can you not love a man who wishes for his own true love? And then waits forever for her to come, because his belief in her is that strong? When he finds Tish he instantly knows she has to be handled carefully. He delights her, confounds her, intrigues her and charms her. He knows he must keep her own her toes if his wish is to come true. I love he never demands but rather nudges her; wanting her explore and be everything she can without changing a single piece of her. Even if she chooses to leave him, he is willing to let her go because of that love. He’s not perfect but you can’t help but fall in love with him yourself.
Jonah Goodwill is a human and a Stranger like Tess. Having lived in Sang for 20 years, he has grown to hate it . As we divulge deeper into the story, his motives for hating it are given life.
The chemistry between Tish and Criminy is a sweet and romantic with a healthy dose of ribald humor. I love watching their romance unfold, never knowing what would happen. Ms. Dawson doesn’t make it easy for them but then as Criminy says, “Nothing easy is worth having.” There is a small love triangle that is a little bothersome but it is used more as a learning experience for Tish than anything else. There are some smexy love scenes that give you just enough then fade out and you are required to use your imagination. Thankfully, I have LOTS of imagination.
As we venture deeper into the plot, I found the adventure to be very appealing; sprinkled with action, suspense, and some lighthearted moments that keeps the story from becoming to serious. We see more of the war between the bludded and the humans which only further highlights the similarities between our world and this one. As I posted earlier, the first half of the book is world building and stage setting but the last half is non stop adventure as Tish and Criminy go in search of her locket and engage with a variety of characters and situations along the way that both help and hinder them. The ending is a mixture of danger and revelations as it answers some important questions yet leaves some things open to ensure we will be visiting this world again in the future. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Dawson’s work. If you looking for a unique character driven fantasy with a steampunk romance flavoring, then I wholeheartedly recommend Wicked As They Come.
When Captain Yasmeen tossed Archimedes Fox over the side of her ship in The Iron Duke for having the sheer gall of trying to commandeer it, she tosses him in a canal which shows Fox that she wasn’t trying to kill him per say, just give him a little wake up call. She also relieved him of a certain valuable sketch that he desperately needs back. Fox decides that the adventure and the Captain are too much to resist and once again barges back into Yasmeen’s life. Yasmeen agrees to help him recover the sketch, for a small fee, but laughs at his declaration of courting her. When an old friend of Fox’s approaches him for help, Yasmeen and Fox find themselves part of a rebellion in the middle of Horde territory.
Heart Of Steel is an exciting and stimulating read. Fast paced with plenty of humor and gripping action that grabs you at page one. While you don’t lose any of the swash buckling high seas, er, sky adventures nor Ms. Brook’s superb world building whose depth and heart makes this series; Heart Of Steel isn’t as emotionally dark as the first in the series- The Iron Duke. Which is perfect because these characters would never have survived that sort of story line. It’s not often you can find a couple who complement each other as well as these two do. Yasmeen and Archimedes are a fantastic couple whose chemistry and dynamics are off the charts. Their steamy sexual games last well towards the end end and provide us with plenty of entertainment. The best part? They become friends. I love when a couple can freely express passion and sexual desire but still laugh and joke together at the end of the day.
Yasmeen has spent her life making sure that no one disrespects her or questions her right to captain her ship-the Lady Corsair. She is hard but fair. Serious yet able to find the joy in life from smoking her cigarillos to bar fighting. She’ll never give her heart, for she learned the hard way that when you give your heart away, someone always takes it and crushes it. When Fox declares his intentions to fall in love with her, she is startled and confused. While she doesn’t mind sharing her bed with him, she doesn’t understand his need to fall in love.
Archimedes Fox is a risk taker. An adventure seeker who lives to experience all life can offer him. He comes off shallow in The Iron Duke but in here you learn the reasons for his vivacious life style. When he was sick, he received a blood transfusion from someone infected with nanobots to save his life. He then fell under the Hordes control and lost his emotions. When he regains them, Fox vowed that would never happen again so he embraces every experience; good or bad, and feels lucky for the experience. When he tells Yasmeen he is going to love her, he sees it first as another “experience” to try. Even the thought of her breaking his heart doesn’t faze him as it will just be another strong emotion to embrace. By the end though, he realizes that real love is far more dangerous then he expected.
“Ah, “ she said watching his face. Her sneer mocked him. “It is easy to fall in love with a woman who is always making you feel more of a big powerful man. You ought not have picked me, after all.
“That isn’t it.” He didn’t question his abilities. “It is simply difficult to know I offer nothing at all to the woman I’m falling in love with.”
As they sail the skies, searching for a lost lost artifact and fighting off zombies & pirates; each of them comes away with a valuable lesson. Yasmeen learns that love is not a restrictive bond but rather a freeing experience that can uplift and strengthen you. Fox begins to understand that the greatest adventure of all can be had when you let yourself go and accept who and what you are.
“Because I cannot believe I almost lost you today, because it still hurts, and I only have to close my eyes to see that door shattering.”
“Then don’t close your eyes.”
“How can I not? Without that pain, how could I have ever known?”
Wonderfully complex secondary characters engage and uplift this unbelievably realistic alternative world. Throughout the story, we are treated to Yasmeen and Fox’s backgrounds and also some explanation of the political minefield that has engulfed Europe since the defeat of the Horde. The ending comes at you in a blaze of heroic glory; leaving you happily satisfied but ready for book 3.
Heart Of Steel is anther fantastic addition to Ms. Brooks delightful romantic steampunk series. I recommend this to any reader who enjoys strong protagonists, devilish dialog, delish romances, and engaging adventure.
Timeless is the last installment in Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series. Timeless picks up two years after Heartless. While the main conflictTimeless is the last installment in Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series. Timeless picks up two years after Heartless. While the main conflict was admirable with it's trademark humor, crazy antics, and indestructible heroine...I found I missed the individuality of the characters. Biffy was abit disappointment in both his actions and his POV. Plenty of romance flowed through the story, though I would have preferred more Alexia and Conall and less everyone else.
Ms. Carriger does a fabulous job ending this series and manages to explain all the loose ends in the series and wraps it all up in a neat tidy bow. ...more