When trouble comes to Atlanta, you can always guarantee Kate Daniels is smack dab in the middle of it, swinging her sw...moreJoint 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.
Favorite Quote: This is your life. This is your destiny. You must wrap you your feelings and fears and tuck them away in a box.
Night’s End is the last book in Yasmine Galenorn’s wonderfully dark and decadent urban fantasy series-The Indigo Court. *SOB* Fans of the series have watched in awe as Galenorn twists and manipulates supernatural legend and lore into a well crafted story of love, loss, betrayal, redemption, and destiny. Heavily character driven, strong and dynamic characterization have uplifted this series from a run of the mill urban fantasy into something unique and wonderfully entertaining. Smooth writing combined with dark world building immediately engrossed me into the storyline and the characters that inhabit it. The world that Galenorn originally introduced to us has evolved in leaps and bounds; extraordinary in it’s simplistic yet complex layout.
Night’s End picks up where Night Seeker leaves off. Cicely and Rhiannon each wear the crown to their respective kingdoms-Rhiannon holds the reign of Summer while Cicely holds firm to Winter. Myst has recovered from her last defeat and is rising swifty, destroying everyone and everything in her path. Queen Cicely and her allies know that this is their last chance to destroy the Indigo Court and it’s Vampiric Queen for good.
As the Queen of Snow and Ice, Cicely has grown remarkably in the series. A child forced to survive on the streets, caring for her drug addicted mother has become a woman more than worthy to wear the crown. Galenorn has chronicled Cicely’s journey in a remarkable manner, allowing her to make mistakes and and gain knowledge (sometimes at a harsh price) on the path to her destiny. I adored Ciecly. She is the perfect balance of strength, intelligence, and wit with a strong vein of vulnerability within her. She is trying so hard to be the strength her court needs and demands while controlling her own fears. Her tightly wound control is almost broken in here when Ciecly gets her first test as monarch when a traitor is discovered in their mists and Cicely must make some harsh decisions in uncovering them. Decisions involving her friends that shows Cicely how much her life and the choices she makes are no longer her own.
The romance, while always a low key but important aspect of the storyline, unravels itself out with her marriage to Grieve. I loved the reincarnation storyline used to explain their unbreakable bonds. Grieve is perfect for Cicely. His quiet strength, inherent goodness, and warrior status makes for a wonderful grounding agent against Cicely’s more interchangeable nature. Cicely needs someone as strong as she is to stand beside her but also someone who loves her all her sides.
“You’re my shooting star…my my dark queen in the middle of the night sky.”
Lannan Altos, Regent of the Crimson Court, has also played an important part in Cicely’s life and in here we understand exactly how and why. Though their relationship has been a long road filled with pain and humiliation, there is an aspect of his personality that allows Cicely to show her darker nature without any recriminations. Lannon understands her need for pain as it mirrors his need to inflict it. Lannon has also been experiencing some growing pains of his own that in sense, mirroring the changes Cicely is experiencing.
“Lannan fed the darker side of me, the side I didn’t want Grieve to go near. If Grieve stepped into those shadows, then my rock would vanish and I would be fully swallowed up by the abyss.”
The secondary characters are dynamic building blocks in this unfolding saga as each one has had a secret destiny waiting to be revealed, adding suspense and tension to the story. An engaging plot line and multiple sub plots feed upon one another as each revelation brings us closer to the end. Galenorn digs deeper beneath the surface, answering questions from the beginning and placing Ciecly exactly where she needs to be, despite her doubts.
Night’s End and the series as a wholeis a captivating urban fantasy that will appeal to both readers who love a strong female protagonist, non stop action, tense plotlines, and a bittersweet romance that leaves you astounded with each delicious installment. An altogether satisfying read that reaffirms Galenorn is a multi-talented author. Though sad this series had to end, I am left secure in the knowledge that there will be more fantastic adventures from Galenorn to come.
Favorite Quote: “Oh come on, I’ve seen you two together. It’s like watching a nature documentary on scientists trying to get the two most socially awkward people in the world to mate.”
Deacon Whitney, software mogul and billionaire, hires a group of professionals to come to his private island and renovate his family estate. Known as the Crane’s Nest, this family jewel, nestled along the New England coast, has been the focal point of murder and mystery since the death of Catherine Crane; supposedly at her husband’s hands.
Nina Lindon is hired by Deacon to landscape the estate and jumps at the chance to use this job to jump start her business. A victim of a malicious co worker, Nina has had to start again from scratch and this is her chance to get herself back on her feet.
Upon meeting, Deacon and Nina gravitate to one another; he sees a woman not after his money and she sees a man who will be careful with her bruised heart. Though, they may not get a chance explore their attraction when it becomes apparent that the house and it’s ghostly inhabitants have something against true love. Unless Deacon and his makeshift scooby gang can figure out how to lay these angry spirits to rest, these star crossed lovers may learn the true meaning of “till death do us part…”
I’ve always enjoyed Molly Harper’s writing. From her contemporaries to her paranormals, Ms Harper writes rich snark filled hilarious stories filled with strong females and slightly strange but smexy men. Better Homes and Hauntings is a delightful paranormal romance filled with tongue in cheek humor, endearing characters, and some crazy shenanigans. Her characters are hysterical and provide much eye rolling and snorts of laughter as you slip smoothly into their lives. The storyline is a wonderful mix of love and suspense with an easy flow and an enjoyable conversational writing style.
A naturally shy, unassuming, and slightly geeky woman, Nina has a well hidden streak of wickedly funny sarcasm and one liners. She zings them out of nowhere, startling giggles and outright snorts from the reader. A landscaper by trade, she was taken advantage of by her former partner who became vindictive when she left to start her own business. He systematically destroyed her reputation and her life. Down, but not out, Nina is struggling to recoup what she lost and try to rebuild her life and business again one job at a time.
Deacon is the perfect geeky beta. Smart, funny, and handsome; he has a boyish charm to him that appeals to NIna’s gentler nature.An action figure fan to boot- he delights, intrigues, and frustrates Nina to distraction. I found his social awkwardness utterly delightful; especially in his attempts to “woe” Nina.
Deacon snapped her out of her reverie. “You’re actually doing me a favor, you know.”
“If the whispering among my staff is any indication, this dance is probably serving as the office pool breaker for “Is Deacon asexual?’”
“That’s kind of insulting. How is that helping you?”
He shrugged. “I put fifty dollars down on ‘not asexual’”
“They let you bet?”
“Well, I bet under Vi’s name.”
The slow evolution of his and Nina’’s relationship is a fun journey filled with humor, snarkiness, and lots of steamy chemistry.
The supporting characters are just as eccentric and fun as our main protagonists. From Deacon’s flighty cousin who is determined to out the Whitney family secrets once and for all to Cindy, the head of Cleaning service. They have some wonderful banter between them.
“Sweetheart, I’m going to insist that you ride that man like a pony. [...] For the good of all mankind, technological advancement, and America’s place in the world wide economy. Think of the gadgetry he could come up with if he had a little stress relief.”
“You are all class, my friend.”
Cindy and Jeff (Deacon’s bff) have some past history which leaves you in stitches as they bicker and trade insults on their way to romance.
The conclusion of the conflict and sub plot was a action packed and engaging though I had figured it out fairly early in the story. The mystery of Deacon’s ancestors is finally laid to rest and the romance(s) flourish; delivering to us our happily ever after but with a few twists that adds to the overall enjoyment.
If you’re looking for a funny, sexy paranormal romance with a dash of mystery and suspense that will leave thoroughly entertained then I highly recommend picking up Molly Harper’s newest stand alone, Better Homes and Hauntings.
The last book of Dean Koontz's I truly enjoyed was One Door Away From Heaven. The last few I’ve read since then seem to be drift...moreDNF
I don't rate DNF's.
The last book of Dean Koontz's I truly enjoyed was One Door Away From Heaven. The last few I’ve read since then seem to be drifting away from the suspenseful & mysterious (of which I’m a huge fan of) and more into the spiritually introspective. The City bored me. I didn’t feel like I was reading a story but rather a historical text-book. Lots of purple prose, metaphors, and hyperbole drags the book down and the actual story gets lost in the clutter. Numerous characters and plot lines left me feeling overwhelmed and unsure exactly what was going on. I think from now on I’ll just stick to re reading his earlier works.(less)
Favorite Quote: “What was it that Pam from Archer says? Oh right, you could drown a toddler in my panties right now.”
Victoria (Tiny) Corielli is a low paid bike messenger who needs money now. Her mother’s cancer has returned and Victoria needs to secure them new housing and pay for the mounting medical bills. While doing some deliveries for her questionable step brother, Victoria meets the most incredibly sexy man she has ever seen whose charm and good looks makes her melt right there on the street.
We aren’t strangers. Somewhere, at some point, we must have made a connection and we’re now recognizing it again in this lifetime.
Victoria runs away because the reaction this man pulls from her just from their first meeting scares her to death. She has no time for romantic entanglements; there is just too much on her plate right now. Weeks later, her step brother sends her out on another job that leads her straight back to him. He claims her brother is helping him secure someone for a special job but when she offers up herself, he doesn’t want her help.
“Are you sure I can’t help you?”
His fingers close around the frame and tip me toward him until I have no choice but to brace my hand against the hard wall of his chest. His hand leaves my arm and comes around me like a shackle.
“Let me be perfectly frank with you, Victoria. There are lots of things that I’d like you to do for me. Some of them involve you on your knees. Others require you bent over a table. All of them require me to be between your legs. But I don’t pay for that.”
Victoria once again flees but soon, everywhere Victoria looks, there he is.
Watching. Waiting. Wanting.
Because what Ian Kerr wants…Ian Kerr gets.
I want to say right off that I think the blurb for Losing Control is misleading in that it gives the impression this is your typical overly alpha stalker billionaire chases the naive and charmingly inept “I will do anything for…’ virgin romance. In reality, the book is far more than that. It is a steamy, sexy, funny and oh so good and dirty love story about two people whom fate has arranged to meet one another and their sparks light up the world around them. A certain Cinderella-esque feeling permeates the book as Ian steadily and at times bull doggedly pushes his way into Victoria’s life though Victoria is anything but a compliant princess looking for her prince charming.
“I’m not a toy. You don’t get to put me in Barbie’s expensive town home and play with me until you’re bored. I’m a fucking real person, and my mom’s a real person. And we don’t need this shit right now. I say who I sleep with and whose bed I’m in—and right now, you aren’t even in the same conversation.”
Her strength is heart wrenching which is made evident by all she does for her ailing mother. She will do whatever it takes to make her mother’s life better. She’s strong, fearless, intelligent, and wonderfully down to earth and funny. She has learned the hard way that nothing in life is free and sometimes though the price is high, you do what you can for those you love. And Victoria loves her mother more than anything.
“I’d do anything to keep my mother alive.”
Ian, Ian, Ian. *laughing softly* Ian Kerr is the ultimate alpha with his arrogance, money, and rather autocratic way of taking charge with or without Victoria’s permission. He is a gorgeous, bossy, sexy, generous, irritating man whose obsession turned adoration for Victoria makes you forgive him rather quickly.
“I’m a big collector of things.” “Am I a thing?” “No, your my heart.”
And his mouth. Oh. My. God. This man’s mouth should be illegal. He says the most dirty and delicious things.
“You’re done when I say so. Your pussy still wants me.”
His long fingers are still stroking my post-climactic nerve endings, more gently now but still firm. His thumb caresses my clit lightly, and I shudder with each pass.
“You’re so wet and hot and fucking beautiful right now and I want you to come. Now.”
Though the beginning started out slowly, the pace picks up rather quickly as we divulge into the characters lives and what exactly Ian’s job for Victoria entails. The romance develops at a slow seductive speed, intertwining with the various subplots, and pulling it all together into one explosive mixture. Fredericks allows ample time for Victoria and Ian to connect emotionally and mentally before pushing them into bed, which works perfectly for their personalities and the story overall. Dynamic chemistry, witty banter, and intense dirty love scenes brought this couple to life and elevated them beyond the normal offerings we have seen in this trope lately.
“I think of you non-stop. When I get up in the morning, I wonder if you’ll like the smell of the soap I used. When lunch rolls around, I wonder if you’ve eaten enough. I wanted to delay making love to you until I was completely sure you were with me – mind, body and soul – because yes, Tiny, you are mine. And this isn’t for show.”
The ending, while inconclusive, doesn’t leave us dangling from a cliff. Victoria’s and Ian’s story continues in book 2, Taking Control, which releases September 16, 2014.
More Than Music is the first book in a new adult romantic contemporary series that revolves around an up and coming rock band-Villain Complex. Book one focuses on the developing relationship between two musicians who compete on a reality show together. Ms. Briggs uses her skills to paint an engaging and humorous coming of age story that addresses the expectations of ourselves, family, and the lengths one will go to for fame and fortune. Though told primary from the heroine’s viewpoint, we do get in depth dialogue between both protagonists, enabling the reader to get an entertaining story.
Heavily character driven, the story paces itself nicely, slowly revealing our protagonists’ backgrounds while building the storyline and subsequent romance. What makes this book more appealing is the maturity and straightforwardness of the protagonists. There are no dark or hidden secrets. The lack of over the top angst and emotional heaviness was refreshing.
The behind the scenes step by step look into a reality based show was interesting as Briggs delves into the competitiveness between the performers, the prima donna mentors, and often assumed but never voiced predetermined winners.
I enjoyed seeing Maddie gather her courage to take the plunge to live her fantasy. While she is a talented young woman, her strengths are buried beneath a deep well of vulnerability. Her mother’s issues concerning music and men have played a huge part in planning Maddie’ future. Being invited to audition and winning a spot on the show with the band is her dream come true. Plus, she’s always had a crush on Jared but assumed with his player status that he would never be interested in someone like her. Maddie tries to hide her attraction because she wants the band to win and doesn’t want any conflicts to ruin their chances.
“…I don’t know if I can do a casual hook up…”
Jared was a little harder to get a bead on, especially with the story being told by Maddie. We only see what she sees. There are essentially two Jareds-the rock star player before the camera and the quiet work focused Jared off camera that seduces Maddie with his soft words and kisses. Jared has worked hard to get his band where they are at now and his need to succeed wars with his need to see where things could go with Maddie. He gives off mixed signals which adds to the conflict.
“This was the trick to being an entertainer: pretending everything was great while your life was falling apart around you.”
The romance develops slowly between Maddie and Jared. In the the beginning, you get the feeling the attraction of Maddie’s end is her crush. It’s only when Maddie gets to know Jared, seeing a much different man than the one she’s used to hearing about, that her feelings and confusion deepens. Also, the reality show wants to play up Jared’s player status to encourage more viewers for the show so Maddie is hurt at times when she catches him flirting with fans. The chemistry between Maddie and Jared is potent and the forbidden aspect makes for some nice steamy inventive “quickies” around the studio.
”I’d lost myself in the show, in Jared, in the impossible dream and the beautiful lie.”
Lively secondary characters infuse the story with some humor and depth. Briggs’ tongue in cheek characterization of the reality show’s staff and contestants supplied some laughs and I couldn’t help but wonder who she modeled some of her characters after.
I did have a few qualms concerning the story. I wish we could have seen more interaction with Maddie’s mom and Jared’s parents. They all played a large role in the actions and career paths of their children and I found it odd that we barely interact with them. I felt the other band members weren’t as fleshed out as our protagonists but since this is a series, I suspect we eventually get to their individual stories. Also, the conflict was almost too predictable from the argument that forces our protagonists to look deep within themselves and make some hard choices to the rather pale ending.
Regardless of my misgivings, Elizabeth Briggs’ debut, More Than Music, is a quick comfortable read that is sure to appeal to music and reality show fans.
Janine (Jan) married Rod Stoddard during a low point in her life. Both her parents had been killed by a drunk driver and Rod became her anchor in the sea she was adrift in. It wasn’t until later that she realized she had married a controlling abusive man. After years of trying to become the “perfect woman” she knew she never would be, she takes advantage of his absence to escape the hell she has been living in. Helping her is an organization called Moving On (fictional) which arranges to secretly move abused women through a human network to safety. Jan chooses to go to Asheville in order to see her daughter and granddaughter before she disappears for good.
Harmony ran away from her abusive home and her mother refused to keep in contact with her for fear her father would find her. She is devastated when she sees her family home on the news, engulfed in flames. Unable to contact her mother, Harmony panics until a knock on the door reveals her mother.
Tyler, upon learning Jan’s story and her fears that Rod will come looking for her and place Harmony and her granddaughter in jeopardy, opens up her home to Jan. Tyler wants to continue on with her mother’s legacy of helping others but also feels this is the perfect way to pay back Harmony for the friendship she gave Tyler’s mother, Charlotte, before her death.
As Jan and Harmony work on rebuilding their relationship, Tyler opens her heart to another newcomer-Adam Pryor. Soon, their friendship blossoms into a romance, convincing Tyler that she is ready to move forward in her life.
No River Too Wide is the third installment in Emilie Richards’ Goddesses Anonymous series. A series built around a group of women who have created a safe place in the mountains of North Carolina to help women in need. This contemporary follows the lives of three women whose trust have been broken. A wife finds the strength to leave her abusive husband, her daughter guards her heart in order to not be caught in the same trap as her mother, and a single mother betrayed by love finally opens her heart only to find disappointment once again. When the lives of these three women intersect, old wounds are opened and lessons are learned in redemption, forgiveness, and hope.
A compelling story that takes an intimate look at domestic abuse from a survivor’s point of view; Richards’ has three strong voices in here that compete for our attention. The blending isn’t as flawless as I would have liked because of the strength of each of the characters. Each character’s story is just that-their story. Though Richards’ uses these mothers as a bridge to help understand the dynamics of the mother/daughter relationship and the hard choices one will make for the love and protection of a child, I couldn’t help but feel the bridge never truly completes and each woman remains an island unto themselves.
Jan struggles with her first taste of freedom, her fears that her husband could find her at any given time, and trying to rebuild a relationship with her daughter. A majority of the time Jan is in her own world and her interactions with Harmony are limited to short secret visits because she can’t be seen with Harmony. Harmony is angry at her mother for staying with her father all those years and essentially abandoning her while struggling to form keep a friendly relationship with the father of her child who she refused to marry. The interactions between Harmony and Jan are uncomfortable at times. I commend Jan’s strength in leaving her abuser and understand the reasons why it took so long for her to leave. It’s extremely easy to ask, “Why didn’t she leave,” when you are standing on the outside looking it Harmony is personable with a dry sense of humor and a strong sense of self. She understands her anger towards Jan and actively seeks to understand and forgive.
Taylor, also a single mother, allows Jan to live with her in order to help her keep Harmony and her granddaughter safe. Owner of a yoga salon, Taylor shares with us her struggle with having a child as a teenager, her own pain at mother’s abandonment, and her inability to forgive those she feels transgressed against her. Both Harmony and Tyler are alike in their issues. Tyler’s mother pushed her away when Tyler got pregnant in high school and refused to give up the child. Though Tyler and her mother eventually healed their breach, Tyler still harbors resentment of what her mother did and the fact they didn’t have much time together in the end. She also has residual anger towards her child’s father for how he acted when he found out she was pregnant though they too have reached a better place. I can’t say I really liked or disliked Taylor because I never really felt I got to know her. She had a place saver feel to her. I felt she was used more as a stepping stone to help bring in the suspense and mystery that surrounds her love interest-Adam.
The story bobs and weaves, giving us insight into the past and present, while moving forward. Richards doesn’t use emotional manipulation to make you feel sorry for these women. Rather, she digs deep and allows them to come full circle; each finding their own path to peace and serenity. I did feel after I was finished that reading the ones before this may have allowed me a better understanding of Taylor and Harmony.. Regardless, No River Too Wide is a quiet story of triumph and perseverance. The lessons learned show that life is a series of unknowns and that with the acceptance of help from others, you can rise above your circumstances to lead a life that is fulfilling and filled with wonder.
Every fan of Harrison’s Elder Races series has fallen head over heels for Dragos’ and Pia’s baby boy Liam aka Peanut. A hybrid Wyn with some impressiv...moreEvery fan of Harrison’s Elder Races series has fallen head over heels for Dragos’ and Pia’s baby boy Liam aka Peanut. A hybrid Wyn with some impressive powers, Liam is ready to go to Kindergarten even though he is only 6 months old. If you read Pia Saves The Day, the novella before this one, you know that Pia’s words to Liam to be a big boy precipitated his rather shocking growth spurt. This short novella picks up from there and presents beautifully a child’s first day of school; showing us the fear and uneasiness one feels when entering a new chapter of their life. Plenty of laughs and some angst made this journey a grand adventure and offers readers some hints into what Liam is slowly becoming.(less)
Favorite Quote: “You don’t need anyone to show you how to be good; you’re so much better when you’re bad.”
Shane ‘Bax’ Baxter has just been released from prison after doing a 5 year stint for grand theft auto. Back in town and more dangerous than ever, he is looking for his best friend, Race, who he thinks set him up to take the fall. Bax doesn’t know what happened or why, but he’s going to find out even if he has to burn the town and everyone in it to do so. Unfortunately, there is another person looking for Race and she refuses to get out of his way.
Dovie Pryce is also looking for Race but for different reasons. A good girl born on the wrong side of the tracks, she does her best to keep her head low and herself off the radar. She needs Bax’s help though and dogs him till he gives in.
Bax doesn’t need or want the responsibility for Dovie’s safety but when she dragged into the war brewing in The Point, Bax will have to lay aside his visions of vengeance in order to keep her safe. But who will save Dovie from Bax?
Welcome to the Point is a new series by Jay Crownover. Different from her Marked Men series, this one opens up a world of crime, drugs, violence, and death with a ‘hero’ who is anything but a good guy. Dark and gritty, Better When He’s Bad is a bleak look at life on the streets where only the strong can survive. Teeming with deception and betrayal; no one is exempt from judgement. A cast of interesting and dangerous characters who casually walk the line between good and bad and demand you pay attention as they help to lay the framework for the story. Fast pacing intermingles with various subplots, creating a well rounded entertaining book. Alternating viewpoints between our two protagonists allows us to see both sides of the events taking place, overlapping just enough for comprehension but not reiterating the same scene over and over.
Bax is over six feet of dark, intense, alpha delicious, tattooed sexiness. He is the bad boy your mama warned you about. The one you’ll give everything to and when it’s all over and you are left with nothing, you’ll steal to give him more. Growing up with an alcoholic mother and an absent father, Bax was forced to take the role of provider at an early age. Thus, his career in thievery began. Starting out small, he eventually caught the eye of the local crime lord and began to pull bigger jobs, leading to more trouble. Having spent a majority of his adolescence in and out of jail, Bax knows deep inside that with his last stint, he only has two choices from here on out-get out of the game or let himself be submerged fully into it.
“Sacrificing five years of his life for a bunch of bullshite has a way of leaving a mark on a guy…”
Crownover doesn’t sugarcoat Bax to make him more presentable or appealing. Rather, she uses his experiences and relationships to slowly peel back the layers and reveal the potential in him. He has issues that foreshadow his actions though he isn’t immoral. He has a set of rules he lives by and won’t compromise to appease anyone…that is until he meets Dovie Pryor. Dovie is a hard working college student trying to keep her head above water. Born to a drug addicted mother, she was thrown into the foster care system only to be saved A picture of innocence with her curly red hair and pale freckled skin, Dovie is far more street savvy than anyone gives her credit for. She needs to find Race and will do whatever it takes, forcing Bax into the protector role against his will.
“Having Bax act like a buffer between me and all the bad things in the world was a potent aphrodisiac…”
Bax and Dovie are a classic example of “opposites attract” A criminal and a saint who are forced into reluctantly helping one another. Dovie is the perfect match for him. Someone who is intimately acquainted with the harsh demands of life and family. She is seemingly his direct opposite but her own issues mirror his in ways, she is able to understand his motivations but still questions his choices. Not looking at Bax with lust struck eyes or as a future meal ticket, Dovie gets to know Bax and from there learns there is so much more to him then what he shows the world. I really enjoyed that she doesn’t roll over for him. She holds him accountable for his words and actions.
“I never trusted their motivations and I had seen too many girls abandoned because of pretty words rattled off a talented tongue.”
The romance and the main conflict build slowly, outlining the tension and fear our couple live with everyday. Bax struggles trying to keep everything separate and compartmentalized, only to lose it all when his past and present collide and all his secrets are revealed. Bax is forced to take matters into his own hands and commit the unexpected if he wants a life beyond the expected.
“Heroes have no place in this kind of fight. It takes nasty to fight nasty…”
This entire book is a speeding out of control roller coaster filled with twists and turns that will keep you clinging to your seat. An intricate game of cat and mouse that ends with some shocking answers that left me blinking in surprise. Better When He’s Bad is sure to appeal to lovers of bad boys everywhere. I look forward to the second book in this series, Better When He’s Bold, slated to release in 2014.
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.
As a huge fan of the organization, RAINN, I jumped at the chance to review and purchased some additional copies to send to friends. Summer Rain is a r...moreAs a huge fan of the organization, RAINN, I jumped at the chance to review and purchased some additional copies to send to friends. Summer Rain is a romance contemporary anthology filled with tales of love, loss, redemption, and most importantly…choice. A wide variety of voices come together, each giving us a snippet into a relationship and the dynamics surrounding it. While love doesn’t necessarily play an important part in every story in here, life and romance are the key components and each character is given the chance at finding it. I enjoyed seeing some familiar faces and meeting some new ones. Not every story worked for me but the anthology, as a whole, is well written and presented. I have heard there is a second volume coming-Winter Rain-and I look forward to reading it.
Redemption by Ruthie Knox. A somber story about a relationship where the only connection seems to be sex. Both parties are experiencing a rough patch and use each other to escape the troubles that seem to be hounding them. Enjoyable though I wasn’t enamored with the couple. C+
The Heart of It by Molly O’Keefe. A new to me author, O’Keefe offers us a delicate affair between two victims of abuse. Poignant and enlightening, we see how childhood abuse can affect people and the struggles they go through to move past it. B+
Sacrifice by Cecilia Tan. Another new to me author. Virgin sacrifices and sexy demi gods? Hoo Rah! Unfortunately, this one didn’t work for me. I enjoyed the backstory and the emotional evolution of hero but felt the story glossed over the actual jump from lust to love. C-
Real Feelings by Charlotte Stein. I adore Charlotte Stein and this story. Choice and consent are at the forefront of this sci fi romance when a woman buys a male AI only to discover that what she thought she wanted, pales in comparison to what she can have if she just learns to trust. A
Rainy Season by Mary Ann Rivers. A sweetly emotional story that deals with disappointment and having the courage to let go of the past in order to move forward. B
The Rain in Spain by Amy Jo Cousins. An honest look at marriage, communication, and the compromises that must be made in order to for both parties to connect on all levels in a relationship. A romantic journey through Spain only adds to the sensuality of the story. B
Fitting In by Audra North. Social acceptance and being true to yourself is the theme of this story by new to me author, Audra North. In here, the son of two gay parents finds himself reevaluating his choices in life when he meets the college pharaoh and learns that changing oneself begins on the inside. B.
Private Study by Shari Slade. An interesting look at sexuality and the shame that is often directed towards young women who seek to explore their own. Slade does a fantastic job of capturing the uncertainty and fear that often accompanies sexual curiosity in young adults. B+
Storm Warning by Alexandra Haughton. Second chance love is always a winner for me and Haughton does a fantastic job of addressing and offering realistic solutions to the issues behind the relationship falling apart. B
Favorite Quote: “…in this perfect moment, there is always fear.”
Emma Searfoss, a 22 year old engineer designer, has moved clear across the country to get away from her stepfather. Emotionally and physically abused by him since childhood, her victimization was made worse by her mother and two brothers allowing it to happen and not intervening. Blunt and in need of some anger management classes, Emma moves into a new apartment only to wake up the next day and find a strange man has made himself at home there.
David Calgaro is a 26 year old carpenter who, like Emma, grew up in abusive home. Contracted to replace the kitchen in her new apartment, his lack of boundaries infuriates then intrigues Emma. This outgoing and charming young man grounds her and soon their friendship blossoms into something more.
Emma feels safe with David, a first for her, and she falls hard for this mysterious man. But David has secrets. Dark secrets that involve his previous girlfriends. Emma knows David is hiding something from her but her attraction to him is strong and when he asks for the impossible…she must decide how far she is willing go for love.
How far would you go to prove your love to someone?
Would you lie for them?
Would you steal for them?
Would you kill for them?
Would you die for them?
Claire Wallis asks these questions and more in her debut NA novel, Push. A psychological romantic thriller that addresses the long term emotional and mental damage caused by childhood abuse and the lengths some will go to find peace and happiness. I use the term romance with hesitation because I don’t consider this a romance per say. It’s more of a love story steeped in tragedy and deception. Wallis uses an interesting set up in that the story opens at the end, essentially telling us what has happened. She then takes us back to the beginning to when Emma and David first met and begins to explain to us, in Emma’s voice, how she and David arrived at their point of no return.
Steady pacing peels back the layers of Emma and David, introducing us to two seemingly normal individuals whose similar backgrounds guide and attract them to one another. Humorous scenes, dry witty dialogue, and some very sexy sensual love scenes keeps the reader engaged as Wallis builds what looks to be a typical NA romance. As the book progresses, the tone changes. It’s a gradual feeling that you don’t realize is there until you feel the hair on the back of your neck raise. The very things that engaged you in the beginning take on a more sinister air. They mock you. Wallis digs deep into our protagonists’, giving us hints at the darkness that exists in both of them. Scenes from David and Emma’s childhoods only serve to further explain their idiosyncrasies while POVs from David’s ex girlfriends opens our eyes to something more insidious.
I have to say this book leaves you reeling once you reach the end. Emotions are jumbled as you try to figure out what you missed and when it all began to change. Did it actually change or was it this way all along but you just refused to see it? It makes you question your own judgement. Wallis does a fabulous job of twisting the plotlines; building upon a seemingly strong foundation, only to show at the end just how easily you can lie to others…and yourself.
“I know that we are going to be alright. I know because each of us consists of half lunacy and half absurdity-and neither of us is fit to be with anyone else.”
David and Emma are energetic protagonists. Wallis paints a vivid three dimensional picture of them; highlighting their flaws as well as their attributes in a manner that only makes them more appealing. Both come off strong, intelligent, and loyal. There is an interesting contrast shown here between Emma and David. Both are damaged but Emma seems to be better adjusted than David. She is able to express herself while David manipulates the truth and only comes clean when forced into a corner. Their relationship progresses fast; you can see an almost manic quality in the time they spend together. It’s as if they are clinging by the tips of their fingers, struggling to hold on. Their time together changes them. You begin to see them giving up some unhealthy habits and becoming more honest with each other.
“I admit that I am almost relieved to hear that his family is nearly as messed up as mine. I feel as if he’s less likely to judge me because of it, and that makes me happy”
Wallis doesn’t shy away from the sexual aspect as she allows Emma and David to enjoy a full and often consummated affair. Their chemistry is a palpable force felt throughout the book that only gains strength the longer they are together. I liked seeing that Emma isn’t slut shamed or forced to view her sexuality as a bad thing because of her past. This is usually a side effect in NAs when either protagonists has an abusive childhood. She initiates her and David’s first sexual encounter and it is enjoyed by both with no negative consequences.
“The phoenix is stretched out over my lap, rising and falling as he breathes.”
Though you think you know the ending…you don’t. Everything has changed and Wallis gives us just enough so we aren’t sure of anything anymore and leaves us in limbo; waiting for the next book. Though I thoroughly enjoyed this story, I do wish we could have gotten more of David’s POV in the present. As it was, I could only take most of what he said and did at face value since it was told to us by Emma. I am hoping that book two, title and release date to be announced, will be told in David’s voice and I can gain a better understanding of where his head was during all of this.
Push was a surprisingly fresh and unique treat to read. I recommend to all new adult aficionados who is looking for something new in this oft repetitive genre. I for one will be keeping a close eye on Claire Wallis in the future.
Favorite Quote: “There are some things [...] that are easy to forgive. And there are some things that are just unforgivable.”
The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu reminded me a little of Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why in the layout. Five students-the vindictive princess, the clueless jock, the outcast brain, the unintentional slut, and the scared social climber-all come together in a series of internal dialogue and memories, flashing between the past and present to explain to us how and why one girl was chosen to become the target of these students’ anger. Bullying and slut shaming are the main themes on which this story is built upon.
This is not a happy story. There are no clear cut lessons in morality. We aren’t given a villain and/or victim because each character is a combination of both. Stereotypical in makeup but unique in presentation, Mathieu calmly gives us the truth as seen through the character’s eyes. Written in a gossipy style conversational tone, Mathieu paints an engaging though strangely disconnected portrait of a high school girl whose reputation is systematically destroyed by rumors, innuendos, and half truths. Our villains are known from the beginning but with each scene, Mathieu peels back the layers and tries to explain to us (in their own words) the motivation behind their attacks. It’s an interesting look at the typical high school mentality and the narcissism that exists. It also shows how it only takes one small remark from multiple sources can come together to create a domino effect of infinite proportions.
"Alice Franklin is a slut"
Alice Franklin is your average teenager. Product of an absent father and uninterested mother, Alice is one of those people who exist firmly in the middle of the high school popularity scene. She isn’t a social butterfly but neither does she exist on the fringes. She has her own style and her refusal to bow to the norms both attracts and repeals. When the local high school hero is killed in an accident, Alice is blamed because of a rumor the boy started before he left. His best friend validates the rumor and starts a new one that she was texting Brandon, which led to the accident. From there, rumors and gossip begins to flow and Alice is doomed. Her confusion towards all the antagonism is palpable. From her best friend to people she has grown up with, she is suddenly the least liked girl in school. It happens so gradually that the damage is already done before she even realizes what has happened.
“…it had to be gradual. So people would get used to it. So it would become easy for them to treat me like shit. So my best friend since freshman year could justify dumping me [...] So they could have the slut stall and enjoy having it. So there would be enough time for me to become subhuman in their eyes.”
What was particularly heart wrenching is the reasons behind the rumors. You’re expecting something meaningful but they are rather miniscule. They’re ridiculous. They’re childish attempts to blame someone for their own insecurities and disappointments. Yet, Mathieu manages to invoke some sympathy in the reader. You may not agree with their actions or reasons but the author is brutal in revealing the humanity in these kids’ selfishness and self absorption. Kids are cruel for no other reason then they can be. Some kids pick on others in order to assure themselves a stronger place in the social hierarchy.
“If everyone had still liked her, I would have liked her too.”
The ending will not appeal to everyone. There is no happily ever after. There is no vindication or revenge. Rather, we learn that sometimes you are stuck with the hand you’re dealt and how you chose to deal with it is all that really matters in the end.
Favorite Quote: “As your friend, I can’t be concerned about your STD status?”
Camille “Cami” Camlin had to grow up fast due to her severely dysfunctional family. A junior at Eastern State University, she and her roommate tend bar at a popular college hangout. When her boyfriend cancels yet another one of their weekend getaways, she and her roommate decide to have a girls night out and Cami runs into the illustrious Trenton Maddox.
Trenton (Trent) Maddox was the king of Eastern State University until tragedy and guilt forced him to drop out of college and move back in with his dad. Now working as a tattoo artist and helping his dad with the bills, Trent feels like his life is finally returning to normal…then he sees Cami.
Though Cami has a boyfriend, she decides she can maintain a platonic only friendship with Trent and tries hard to stick to her edict. As she and Trent spend more time together, she begins to feel things for him that far surpasses what she feels for her always absent boyfriend. However, Cami has a secret. A secret that could tear the already damaged Maddox family apart.
Beautiful Oblivion is the first book in Jamie McGuire’s Maddox Brothers series; a spin off from her best seller- Beautiful Disaster. These books run parallel with Beautiful Disaster, giving us some interesting insights into Travis’s and Abby’s relationship from an external point of view. Both books focusing on with those super sexy Maddox boys was the only similarity between the two. Cami and Trent’s story was far more romantic, sexy, humorous and most important of all…more mature. Fans loved seeing Travis’s brothers-especially Trent and McGuire more than delivers with a well written story that touches on some serious subject matters with heart, heat, drama, intrigue, romance, and humor.
A fluid and engaging storyline ebbs and flows seamlessly as we are submerged into the lives of the protagonists-Cami and Trent. McGuire’s choice to build a friends to lovers scenario with the added spice of a love triangle works well in here despite my inherent dislike of that trope. McGuire has a gift in her ability to make her characters realistic and three dimensional. This gift enables McGuire to structure the storyline and main characters in a way we understand completely why Cami and Trent gravitate towards one another without the normal flavoring of emotionally draining, overly dramatic offerings that seems to permeate this particular storyline. They aren’t perfect and while we do see some drama and angst, it’s not a continuous onslaught or used as merely a plot device. She digs beneath stereotypical behavior and gives us the real story behind it. Witty dialogue, dynamic scenes, and a well plotted swoon worthy romance serve to make this story a delight to read.
Heavily character driven, we are instantly smitten with our hero and heroine from their first meeting. I loved Cami and Trent. Cami, with her four older obnoxious brothers, is extremely independent. As soon as she could, she left her abusive home and struck out on her own. She is strong, intelligent, loyal, and filled with snarky goodness.
“You’re missing your shirt.” [...] “Are you saying you don’t approve of my attire?” Trenton began to speak, but I put my finger against his lips. “Aw, that’s cute. You thought I was really asking.”
Though Trent is initially portrayed as the ultimate “player” bad boy like his brother Travis, he isn’t button holedinto the stereotypical role of the heartbreaker. He has a sweet compelling honesty that contradicts your first impressions of him.Though arrogant, self assured, and phenomenally determined to get what or in this case who he wants… we do see moments of vulnerability in him that appeals to the protectiveness in us all.
“I’m it for you. I know because you’re it for me.”
McGuire slowly builds the romance between Cami and Trent, letting them become friends first. Heavy sexual tension co exists with some truly memorable funny moments. She uses their personalities and personal lives to show us that they are more similar than they first imagined. Though the romance and it’s conflict remains a heavy part of the storyline, McCarthy intertwines it with the various subplots, to further elevate the romance and guide it along. There are no heavy dramatics or theatrics. No game playing. They both communicate their feelings; letting us and each other know how they felt and what they wanted. Character development is at a premium as we watch Cami and Trent both begin to realise that they can’t change the past but they can choose their futures.
Cami and Trent’s friends add depth, humor, and realism to the story. Cami has a strong support system through her friends. They give it to her straight but always have her back.
"You mind-fucked him so hard.” I sighed. “I didn’t mean to.” “It’s good for him. No man should get every woman he wants. Keeps their douchebaggery to a tolerable level.”>
Trent’s friend Olive practically steals the show. Cami’s family and the role she is forced into playing with them goes far in explaining her reluctance to be with Trent.I do hope we see more of them in the future and get some solutions to the events that occur in here.
Beautiful Oblivion is a bittersweet romance filled with laughter, joy, heartache, and hope. McGuire manages perfectly to avoid the dreaded series repetition and creates two fabulous characters whose personalities, emotions, and journey to happiness are 100% their own. I’m looking forward to meeting the next Maddox brother- title and release date to be announced. I hope it’s Thomas.
**spoiler alert** I just...can't. The blurb was confusing enough but once I started the book, it went from confusion to straight out "are you serious?...more**spoiler alert** I just...can't. The blurb was confusing enough but once I started the book, it went from confusion to straight out "are you serious?"
First off- I despise euphemisms for sex organs. A penis is a penis-not a sword, love sausage, throbbing hot member, a velvet sheathed lead pipe. It's a penis. Call it a penis. I can only seem to handle the nicknames in historicals.
Second-A pregnant virgin?? What is THAT? How can that even be? Is this an immaculate conception? The whole biological improbability is astronomical. And to have it happen TWICE in one family? Oy vey.
Third- I'm sorry but stupid over the top dramatic characters aren't appealing. I understand fiction grants leeway but there has to be some grounding in reality. None of these characters should procreate. NONE.
I feel it's just best if I and this book part ways. (less)
Banishing the Dark, fourth and final book in Jenn Bennett’s Arcadia Bell series, is the showdown we have all been waiting for. Arcadia (Cady) Bell, renegade mage and bar owner, is the Moonchild and has been in hiding ever since her parents tried to sacrifice her. At the end of book three, Binding the Shadows, readers were left with Cady almost fatally beaten and in a coma. Banishing the Dark picks up a few weeks later with Cady waking up from her coma and having a limited memory of what happened to her.
Cady has absolutely no downtime in here. Cady’s mother has found a way to cross the barriers of her magical prison and is now attempting to take over Cady’s body and soul. Cady learns she has to find the original ritual her mother and father used to conceive her and reverse it if she has any hope of defeating her mother. As Cady and Lon follow a twisted path filled with lies, deception, and betrayal, it will take everything Cady has if she is to survive the night.
Bennett’s Arcadia Bell series has been a whirlwind adventure that offers readers high octane action and magical suspense with some sweet romance and dry cutting humor from the very beginning. A perfect balance of power and vulnerability. We are not overburdened with emotional angst or ridiculous unbelievable feats. Multiple plotlines and ripe tension is tempered with everyday life events. It has been a thrilling ride as we have watched Cady grow from a solitary lonely figure to having friends, family, and a lover. Her personality has grown with each book. The world building has stayed fresh and exciting with constant evolution as we travel through an alternative magical version California.
Though romance isn’t usually a high priority in urban fantasy, Bennett uses a deft hand to build a believable romance for Cady with her lover Lon. Lon, a demon and member of the Hellfire Club has always had her back 100 percent though he does struggle with some residual guilt in here as her injuries were a direct result of a Hellfire Club member. A club he introduced her too. Their romance remains strong and for reasons I can’t divulge, let’s just say that while Cady is ready and willing, Lon is not and it makes for some very funny scenes. One particular scene has Cady texting Lon when he is about 2 feet away from her and she’s trying to tempt him into bed with her.
Sent 11:30 a.m.: What you doing over there?
MSG from Lon, 11:30 a.m.: Researching.
Me: You could do that over here.
Lon: You need to sleep.
Me: Don’t worry. I’m too tired to jump you.
Lon: A shame. But I don’t trust myself.
Me: Come to think of it, I don’t trust myself, either. Let’s not trust ourselves together. P.S. You smell really good. I mean that in a creepy way. Come over here and let me sniff your skin like some crazy stalker.
Lon: Are you feeling okay?
Me: Be feeling better if you’d just come over here.
Lon: Don’t make me call management to restrain you.
Me: I’d much rather you do it yourself.
Lon: Go. To. Sleep.
Various characters (new and old) come into play as their recollections are needed to help put the puzzle together. Jupe has to be my favorite character in the series. Though always a strong player, I did like that he was given a more active role in helping Cady overcome her greatest foe-her own mother. Having his POV provides some definite entertainment.
The beginning started out slow and tends to stay at that pace as Lon and Cady work to discover who told Dare about Cady’s true identity. About 90% of the book is Lon and Cady following a trail of clues to find the Moonchild ritual. Cady learns more about what happened during her childhood years and discovers her repertoire of demon knacks has increased. Jupe’s storyline intertwines and bringsmuch humor to the book. Bennett expands her occult mythology to help further explain Cady’s supposed destiny and bring it all home. There is a lot going on in here but Bennett’s clear and concise writing makes it easy for readers to follow along.
I did have issues with the conflict resolution. It resolves rather quickly with little fanfare. I expected more violence and combat since this is what the series has been leading us to since the beginning. On the whole, it was a little disappointing. As this is the end of the series, we are in luck that Bennett includes an epilogue that lets us know how Lon, Cady, and Jupe are faring in the future.
While I am sad this is the last we shall see of Arcadia Bell’s world, I do believe fans of the series will be pleased with the care and consideration Bennett used in her goodbye.
**Giveaway on the blog** Comment to enter to win one copy of Banishing the Dark. US residents only. You must comment on Smexybooks.com to be eligible. (less)