The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic is a difficult book for me to review. I was drawn to the title and premise, but ultimately found the first to be misleading and the second to be far more exciting in blurb format than in reality.
To begin with the good, Emily Croy Barker has developed a world of magic that is filled with promise. The magicians – chiefly Aruendiel – are an interesting lot and I’d have loved to have delved deeper into their characters. Unfortunately, there was a lot of missed opportunity in The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic. Our guide throughout the story is Nora, the titular “thinking woman” who really doesn’t use her brain as much as she ought to. Nora is from our world and I believe she’s supposed to be the character we all identify with, but she seems to lack common sense or the ability see anything from a viewpoint other than her own (Annoyed that people in this magical, medieval-type world aren’t as progressive or “enlightened” as you? *Sigh*). I didn’t mind this in the beginning of the book, when she was enchanted by the story’s villain, but I expected Nora to grow as a character in the ten months or so she was Aruendiel’s world. That she was so easily fooled by the villain near the end of the story pained me to no end. Aside from learning a few spells and parlor tricks, Nora really didn’t seem to learn much on her journey.
I could forgive Nora’s flaws if The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic were at least interesting. Sadly, we spend most of the book’s nearly 600 pages following Nora as she does her chores and follows Aruendiel about. There seems to be no real point to much of this, and the book could have been halved without losing anything. Near the end things do pick up, but much to my dismay, the book ends with a cliffhanger of sorts. Not an interesting cliffhanger, mind you, simply one that made me double-check my book because I thought I was missing pages. None of the major plot points are resolved, and since we spend so much time watching paint dry (figuratively speaking) I felt extremely cheated as a reader.
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic isn’t an entirely bad story, but it is one that suffers from a frustratingly obtuse heroine and a lack of any real direction.(less)
King Gaspar is determined to rid the people of his kingdom of their superstitious beliefs. To this end, Gaspar decides to throw an extravagant ball that lasts three days leading up to the end of October to take his subjects’ minds off of ghosts and onto seeing Crown Prince Neville married.
Amidst the opulence of the nighttime affairs, Sylvain, the king’s younger son, meets the mysterious Roslyn. Roslyn is everything Sylvain desires – strong, handsome, and somewhat otherworldly. As Sylvain begins to fall for his newfound love, it becomes apparent that things are not at all right in his father’s kingdom. When Sylvain discovers the truth, will he be the one to pay the price for his father’s actions?
I must begin by saying that Opulence at Midnight is quite unlike anything I have read in a very long time. It’s both lovely and haunting, and while the story didn’t leave me with a smile on my face, I was nonetheless left fully satisfied and have not been able to put the tale out of my mind since. I’m afraid not much can be said about Opulence at Midnight without giving away the entire story. I found the book to be intriguing, taking twists and turns that were hinted at, but nonetheless I wasn’t sure it would take. Renee Manley is an author I have not read before but who I am definitely going to be on the lookout for from now on. For a change of pace that is sure to engage, I can recommend no better than Opulence at Midnight. It’s sensual, evocative, and I was completely enthralled from beginning to end.(less)
After centuries of having a countless number of women in his bed, Poseidon yearns for the one thing he has never had: real love. With the help of Aphrodite herself, Poseidon finds himself in Cancun where he meets the woman of his dreams. The problem is, Mila’s a mortal with a secret. One that could end their time together before love has a chance to bloom.
I never tire of reading a new spin on the Greek gods of old. Susan Hanniford Crowley starts Poseidon’s Catch off with a bang, giving the gods of legend all flashy personalities. Unfortunately, everything about Poseidon’s Catch was flash-in-the-pan. The story was crammed with multiple plot threads that were rushed, giving Poseidon’s Catch a choppy feel. I never felt that I truly got to know Mila or Poseidon, which was a pity because they both had potential. Poseidon’s Catch is a story that would benefit from being at least double, if not triple its length. It’s erratic and lacks emotional impact because of this. The pity of it is, there’s potential within the madness that is never capitalized on. Ultimately, Poseidon’s Catch simply wasn’t the story for me.(less)
Anna Miller is used to, if slightly frustrated by, her father constantly bragging about her. His exaggerations bring a stream of suitors to her doorstep, but Anna, who had long ago given her heart to Prince Thomas, refuses them all. When one of her father’s overblown metaphors captures the attention of Thomas, who is now the king, Anna finds herself in a whole lot of trouble. Thomas, so different from the young prince Anna once knew, demands that she spin straw into gold. If she fails, her father’s life is forfeit.
Rescue comes from the most unlikely of sources, in the form of a goblin. The nameless, shunned creature has no idea who he is or why he is constantly drawn to the castle, but he knows he cannot leave the lovely Anna in peril. A more unlikely pair than Anna and the goblin there can never be, but lust and love are the strongest of equalizers. But if Anna wants to escape the king’s clutches and find her happily ever after with her goblin, she must first break the spell…by saying his name.
Tatiana Caldwell takes the classic fairytale Rumpelstiltskin (and its English fairytale counterpart Tom Tit Tot) and turns it on its head in the sexy Say My Name. Ms. Caldwell drew me in from the first and I found the entire tale utterly engaging. Both Anna and Goblin charmed me, while King Thomas is suitably dastardly. There were a few points where some more modern expressions drew me out of the story, but on the whole I adored Say My Name. It has that inexplicable element of enchantment that can only be captured in an excellent fairytale combined with the divine sensuality of an adult romance. Say My Name is a delight through and through and I can’t wait to read more of Ms. Caldwell’s work!(less)
It’s been a year since Alexi O’Brien’s twin, Alice, disappeared, but Alexi isn’t giving up hope of finding her sister. Even being pulled through a looking glass and finding herself in a magical world doesn’t faze Alexi for long. Nothing will take her focus off finding Alice…except perhaps the handsome, dominant King Darronn.
Darronn, King of Spades, is used to women submitting to him. Getting Alexi’s submission, however, will be a challenge; one Darronn revels in accepting. A battle of wills begins between the two, but it’s not long before Darronn finds himself falling for the woman who will be his mate. The question is, will he be able to convince Alexi to stay with him when she finds out he’s been keeping a very important secret from her?
Watch out for the sparks that fly in Claimed by Pleasure – they’re wickedly hot! Jaymie Holland knows how to make both her characters and readers sweat, and it shows. Passion and emotion run extremely high in Claimed by Pleasure, which makes the book feel like it’s moving at lightning pace (which isn’t a bad thing).
Alexi is a strong, stubborn woman, one many readers will be able to relate to. She doesn’t feel that she fits in the world of Tarok, though she clearly does. The skirmishes between her and Darronn give Claimed by Pleasure a different feel from the first Wonderland book, Taken by Passion. What I loved most about Claimed by Pleasure was that both Alexi and Darronn had a lot to learn about relationships. Compromise is a word neither likes, but once both of them are on the same page, their relationship is electric!
Claimed by Pleasure is the second book in the Wonderland series but it can be read as a standalone. But both Alexi and readers of Taken by Passion are sure to be delighted that Alice, the heroine of Taken by Passion, appears in Claimed by Pleasure.
I absolutely adore the Wonderland series and I cannot wait for Annie and Awai, Alexi’s cousin and aunt, to meet their matches in Darronn’s brothers in Bound by Desire and Kept by Seduction. If you’re looking for great erotic fantasy, the Wonderland series is not to be missed!
Note: Claimed by Pleasure by Jaymie Holland is a reissue of Wonderland: King of Spades by Cheyenne McCray.(less)
Alice O’Brien is having a record-breaking bad day which is topped off by her coming home to find her fiancé cheating on her. Her day takes a strange turn when a trip to Golden Gate Park sends Alice tumbling down a rabbit hole where she lands in a fantastical land…and in the path of a devastatingly handsome king.
Jarronn, the King of Hearts and High King of Tarok is in a bind. The fate of his kingdom rests on he and his brothers defeating the mind-spell cast by their enemy. Jarronn knows he must pick a mate who is not of his world, and fate makes him set his sights on Alice. She’s everything he could want, both as a mate and as a queen. But what will happen when Alice learns Jarronn’s true purpose in bringing her to his kingdom?
Get your fans ready, readers – the Tarok kings are here and they’re hot enough to burn! Taken by Passion is a hedonistic delight that I devoured in one sitting. I flat-out love Alice. She’s a kind, beautiful plus-size woman who’s been put down and made to feel insecure all her life. It takes a trip to “Wonderland” – aka Tarok – for her to find the love, passion, and relationship she needs. Jarronn loves the way she looks and he won’t settle for anything less than Alice seeing how gorgeous she is. It was wonderful to watch their emotional journey from blinding lust to love…with explosive amounts of lust, of course.
It’s impossible to talk about Taken by Passion without discussing the erotic content. Ms. Holland pulls out all the stops and it works. The sexual content is extremely high but never feels overdone and isn’t repetitive – not an easy feat. Ms. Holland also makes every delicious moment memorable, for which I applaud her.
If passion and emotion weren’t enough, a dangerous villain adds an element of danger to Taken by Passion and adds intrigue to the Wonderland series as a whole. Finally, you cannot ignore the fact that Taken by Passion is simply fun. I laughed at some of the quirks of Tarok that made Alice think of the story Alice in Wonderland. All in all, Taken by Passion has everything you could want in an erotic fantasy romance and it’s the perfect book to curl up with for a few hours. I love Taken by Passion and I can’t wait to revisit Tarok in the next Wonderland book, Claimed by Pleasure.
Note: Taken by Passion by Jaymie Holland is a reissue of Wonderland: King of Hearts by Cheyenne McCray.(less)
Unlike his siblings, Hades, God of the Underworld, lives a solitary life. Or rather, he does so until a naked woman falls right into his lap. Hades doesn’t know Persephone from Hera, but he can tell she’s a powerful goddess. After years of protecting his realm from interlopers, that makes him suspicious of Persephone. Yet there’s no denying his attraction to the beautiful goddess and before long Hades believes her story that she didn’t mean to enter his realm. Since she can’t leave, Hades and Persephone are stuck in close quarters and it’s only a matter of time before they give into their desire for one another. But Persephone can’t stay in the Underworld forever. What will happen when she has to leave?
Alisha Rai gives the classic story of Persephone and Hades her own unique spin in Hot as Hades. This aptly-titled story is wickedly erotic, but Ms. Rai’s mix of mythology and modern day vocabulary constantly pulled me out of the story. I’ve read many books where Greek mythology is placed in a modern context, but in Hot as Hades, it just doesn’t work. I can’t put my finger on whether it was the characters, setting, or dialogue, but the rhythm of the entire story felt stilted. In addition, there was no real conflict. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, save for the fact that obstacles are presented and then immediately beat down with effortless grace by the protagonists. I give Ms. Rai high marks for heat and Hot as Hades did have its fun moments, but overall this retelling of a famous myth just didn’t hit the spot for me.(less)
All is not well in Socendor. Rumors abound that people are on the cusp of a war between humans and lithings and General Kalen Ysindroc has been sent to discover if there is truth to the whispers. But Kalen’s journey isn’t an easy one. He’s having dreams of dragons and fire, dreams that portend his life is about to change dramatically. The one constant in Kalen’s life is his lover, elven sorcerer Micheil Thierauf. Micheil can tell that Kalen is not fully human, but as the two begin to work out the mystery of Kalen’s family, they find that they’re not the only ones interested in Kalen’s blood. Assassins are out to get Kalen and the family he never knew he had is on his trail as well. Will the lovers be able to stay together in the face of Kalen’s destiny threatening to tear them apart?
Journey to a land filled with magic and adventure in this imaginative tale by Mychael Black. The Lost Son is a gripping fantasy that starts off the Secrets of Socendor series with a bang. The Lost Son is fast-paced, intriguing, sexy, and sweet. The heroes of the tale, Kalen and Micheil, are two males you can’t help but adore. Their love for one another is strong, and they’ll need each other and that love to help them make it through the obstacles they face. I don’t want to give away too many details, as I’d neither do the story justice nor would it be fair to ruin the excitement of the story by revealing what the Kalen and Micheil face.
An engaging mix of sensuality, tenderness, and danger, The Lost Son is not to be missed!(less)
Anyone who has read Elizabeth Hoyt’s work knows that she includes a fairytale in each of her books. The fairytales are told bit by bit at the beginning of each chapter and they complement or mirror what is going on in the book. Clever John is the fairytale Ms. Hoyt has written for her spectacular third Maiden Lane book, Scandalous Desires.
Even if you’re reading Clever John as a standalone fairytale, it’s a delightful read. Ms. Hoyt makes every word count in her stories, and though short, Clever John is wonderfully satisfying. As with many of Ms. Hoyt’s full-length books, Clever John is a story I’ll be reading over and over again.
The release of Clever John also makes me desperately hope that Ms. Hoyt’s publisher will make her other fairytales available. As much as I enjoy reading them in the books, it would be wonderful to be able to read the fairytales straight through.(less)