I really love this series. That being said, this does not work as a stand-alone. There is too much explained in previous books for that to work here.
FI really love this series. That being said, this does not work as a stand-alone. There is too much explained in previous books for that to work here.
For the first time, we get the story from Nickel, the oldest of the dragon kits from the series, instead of from the parents, Dane and Mercury. Nickel has been working with Dane at his detective agency, and was part of the whole evil scientist shenanigans that happened in the previous stories.
Nickel has long been one of my favorites, and so getting to see his story as he falls for the newest dragon we've met. It's a much darker story (the whole series has been getting darker as it goes), and the stakes definitely are getting higher. The characters are still great, and I enjoy the story, but I do wish that they were longer. Each installment has seemed a bit too short for the story it's telling.
That being said, I still highly recommend these. ...more
Hayden is a bit of a wanderer, a do-gooder, and a quiet kind of guy. It just so happens that two out of three of those things are helped along by LilyHayden is a bit of a wanderer, a do-gooder, and a quiet kind of guy. It just so happens that two out of three of those things are helped along by Lily, his fairy. Or rather, since he is her assistant, his boss. This complicates things a bit when they are embroiled in a Cinderella story, being chased by a knight of the realm under suspicion of unlawful magic, and pretty darn attracted to that same knight.
The story is short but sweet, like many of Miller's stories, and the fairy tale elements are immediately recognizable, but it's still a new and interesting take on them. Basically, I really enjoyed it.
I loved how oblivious Hayden was, especially considering how he's in the center of all the action, as it were. The Cinderella part of the tale drives the plot forward, but Hayden remains the main character the whole way through. It never feels like he's inconsequential....more
At this point, I will happily take any Megan Derr book home with me. This was no exception.
Although I haven't (yet) read the first in this series, I hAt this point, I will happily take any Megan Derr book home with me. This was no exception.
Although I haven't (yet) read the first in this series, I had no trouble following poor Prince Istari, political prisoner of sorts in the country he had done a lot of damage. Istari has never really had anyone to care for him, so when his brother sends him away as a political hostage, and his fiance follows that up with a Dear John letter, he is understandably adrift. Soon thereafter, however, he meets young Lord Teverem, who has been thrust into the court after his brother's death, and the two hit it off. Teverem is the first to be anything more than coldly polite to Istari, and it means the world.
Soon thereafter, however, Istari finds himself embroiled in a possible kidnapping scheme, in an arranged marriage with Teverem, and in the possession of three very precocious children. And while he cares for the kids, he's a bit lost as to what to do next, and how to actually solve the problem he's confronted with - Teverem's sudden aloofness.
I'm already a fan of the whole arranged marriage plot device (what can I say, it's an oldie but a goodie), but it was actually probably my least favorite part of the relationship between our two heros. Ironically enough, the kids (which are usually a pet peeve of mine) actually worked pretty well. I was worried they'd be annoying plot moppets, but nope, they were cute, annoying, underfoot kiddos. Approve.
I think the reason the whole arranged marriage thing didn't work for me this time around was that Teverem fell a little...flat, especially at the beginning of the story. He's all naive wide-eyes, and there doesn't really seem to be much to him other than that. Istari loves how he's needed, that the other man is so sweet, but Teverem, well, we never really get inside his head. I think if there is any flaw to this particular book it's that only one of our two heros was particularly interesting, and the other was just...there.
That being said, Istari may now be my favorite Derr hero. He's sweet, and an artist, but also a general and a sharpshooter, damaged both mentally and physically, but tries everything he can to rise past that. There's a scene towards the end where his ex-fiance approaches him, and it could have easily gone horribly, horribly wrong, but Istari manages to remain firm and angry without being a dick about it.
Now that I've read this one, I need to go back and find myself a copy of The Engineered Throne, the first in the series. And apparently, there will be a book three as well. So I'm definitely a happy camper!...more
This is definitely a series I really enjoy, from an author now on my watchlist.
I read this immediately after the first in the series, but it isn't reaThis is definitely a series I really enjoy, from an author now on my watchlist.
I read this immediately after the first in the series, but it isn't really necessary. Both books stand alone well, and I actually think this was the stronger story. Will and Hunter both are so mentally messed up, and it's not reeeeally addressed, but the relationship between the two of them works so well.
Hunter comes across as being pretty emotionless, but having this glimpse into his head gives him some much-needed humanity. And while I was on the fence about Will for quite some time, by the end I was definitely rooting for the both of them.
Like I said in my review of book 1, apparently spy thrillers staring gay men are now my thing. And book 3 is due out in a few months, so please excuse me while I go and reserve my copy....more
So I now have a new thing - hot spy thrillers starring gay men. Can we make this a thing? Cause I want more.
The story starts right in the middle of thSo I now have a new thing - hot spy thrillers starring gay men. Can we make this a thing? Cause I want more.
The story starts right in the middle of the action - we have Fisher, CIA agent extraordinaire, operating out of London, as he discovers that not only has his home been broken into (the home he kept secret even from his fellow agents), his lover, Zach, has been kidnapped. Knowing it could be any number of enemies, Fisher and his partner Nathan head follow the trail, only to find that the trap is a bit more than it seems. I don't want to get too into it, even though all this happens within the first 20 pages, but there is action, danger, and definite spy thriller story from start to finish. With a quick break or two for some "I hate you but I want you" sex, and the occasional "How are we still alive?" sex. I'm honestly not sure which is hotter.
Since going more deeply into characterization will just spoil things for you, I will say this - both Fisher and Zach are great characters, and I'm sad their story isn't longer here. But! We get more of Hunter, a side character from this one, in the next book, so I'm still pretty excited for that!...more
Two years ago, I declared Larissa Brown’s Beautiful Wreck was one of the Best Books of 2014. Last year, we raved about her novella, Tress. And I was so excited to read So Wild A Dream, set in the same world as Beautiful Wreck, that when I got the chance to review it, I was literally breathless. Maybe that anticipation was my downfall, though, because while I enjoyed the story, it didn’t completely blow me away....more
Okay, so a vampire-like necromancer does not your typical romance hero make. Not only does it work, Rochus is a hero I can definitely get behind.
In thOkay, so a vampire-like necromancer does not your typical romance hero make. Not only does it work, Rochus is a hero I can definitely get behind.
In this world, necromancers are chosen by lot to practice that form of magic. They are thought of as being half-spirited, only half alive, and the prejudice against them has "normal" people recoiling in fear. But traveling to the capital, he stumbles across a young man who won't take no for an answer. After spending the night together, Rochus continues on his way, only to find out he's been chosen for an arranged marriage. With the man, Tilo, who slept with him on his travels.
Apparently, Tilo has been asking for assistance from the necronancers and the palace for ages, but has received no response. As young as he is, he has no idea what to do next. Which is how he came up with the arranged marriage plan. It isn't a bad one, as plans go, but he certainly didn't think it through.
Tilo comes across as so freaking young, I'm not surprised that he didn't think his plan through. Not to mention, he didn't see what was going on behind the scenes. At 400, Rochus is not only much older and wiser, he is methodical and determined and well aware of his limits.
Oh, and did I mention Tilo is a dragon shape-shifter?
Overall, I really enjoyed this story, and would definitely read more of this couple....more
Basically, this is a super sweet Cinderella story. Myka is our Cinderella, working hard to keep a roof over his head. He could have been more successfBasically, this is a super sweet Cinderella story. Myka is our Cinderella, working hard to keep a roof over his head. He could have been more successful financially, but chose his ethics instead. He was left without an apprenticeship, and technically wasn't able to legally work his trade, weaving spells into clothing, so had to take what work came to him. His favorite patron drops an invitation to the royal ball, and Myka weaves a glamour and attends himself.
I love the magical twists the story takes, and it really is just a sweet romance. It's not super angsty, doesn't have a lot of dramatic tension, but definitely works. I love the idea of literally weaving spells into clothes, spells for glamour and bravery and silence. It's an interesting and surprisingly subversive magic. Nothing flashy, but it doesn't have to be.
Of course, I'm a fan of Megan Derr, and have yet to find a story of her's I don't like. Derr has a very realistic touch to magic - the worlds she creates aren't fully fleshed, but they don't have to be. Everything is treated as "of course it happens like this" which is a nice touch....more
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this. The social differences between the two heroes definitely caused tension, and their romance was really interesI was surprised how much I enjoyed this. The social differences between the two heroes definitely caused tension, and their romance was really interesting as a result....more
Another adorable book in the Supernatural Consultant series!
I adore the world that the author has created, an almost-urban-fantasy setting, but with aAnother adorable book in the Supernatural Consultant series!
I adore the world that the author has created, an almost-urban-fantasy setting, but with a much brighter world view. Not everything is perfect, of course, and there is definitely evil, but there is a sense of lightness and hope that makes this feel more like a full fantasy novel. The dragon kits are adorable and by this point, they pretty much all have distinct personalities. I love that we are getting more of them as they grow.
Dane's mother is a new character for us, as she has come to visit her son, his new partner, and their dragon children. She is a fabulous character, very strict and proper, and incredibly intimidating. But she also makes adjustments for the kits, which was heartening. I hope we get more of her in the future!
Same with William, the territory leader for Canada. He is fascinating! Intimidating and ruthless, we also see a softer (though dangerously protective) side of him. I do hope we get to hear his story at some point.
So the only reason this isn't getting all 5 stars is because of it's length. This, like the books before it, is a novella, telling only a portion of the story of Dane, Mercury, and the dragon kits. While I have no problems with novellas, I think this particular series would be better as a single volume - they are all working from the same over-arching nemesis, the lab that is both experimenting on dragons as well as imbuing humans with powers that aren't their own.
On a side note, I'm also not sure how much time has passed in the stories. I think it was 5 years between books 1 and 2, but I'm not sure where exactly book 3 falls. Has it been over 5 years, and Dane never told his mother that he had kits now? I know they aren't close, but that seems a bit much....more
Beauty & Cruelty is an interesting take on the classic fairy tale characters. Their worlds are dying as fewer and fewer people believe their storiBeauty & Cruelty is an interesting take on the classic fairy tale characters. Their worlds are dying as fewer and fewer people believe their stories, and Talia, also known as Sleeping Beauty, has taken over, trying to get their belief back before the fairy tale world is completely destroyed. Rue, or Cruelty, Talia's curser, has been living in our world for ages, and knows Talia's plan needs to be handled on a larger scale. Even if she doesn't want any part of it.
This is a solid story with good writing, but it is so introspective that it tends to drag a bit at times. It feels like it's trying too hard. I like the concept, but am having a bit of trouble with the execution. I think there needed to be more action, more dialogue, to move the story forward. We spend a lot of time in Rue's head, and she feels...apathetic at best. It leaves the reader in a similar mood.
But, that being said, it definitely had potential, and I will have to try something else from the author before I write them off. The idea behind the story is just too interesting to ignore....more
Alexandra Bock, a young ER nurse, has discovered aliens are real. She discovered this by being kidnapped by them as they were destroying her planet’s population. But there’s more to it than just aliens taking over the Earth. And although Alex has reason to deem aliens untrustworthy, she finds herself interested in Gryf Helyg, one of her rather attractive cell mates. And oh, yes, he’s blue.
Turns out, there are good aliens and bad aliens, and the blue Matirans are definitely the good ones. They’ve been protecting Earth for thousands of years, are responsible for the myths of the lost city of Atlantis; and if you look hard enough, you can find more than a few of their words that were adopted by the ancient Greeks. But they weren’t able to stop the invasion, and now Gryf is working alongside Alex to try and fix things.
Oh, and the two of them are the soulmates of an old Matiran prophecy, fated to turn around dark times....more
think I picked this novella up because of the interesting mix of paranormal tropes - we have bond (soul) mates, shapeshifters, the fae, and more, all packed into a nice, short novella. Fans of the Alpha Pack are practically rabid in their enjoyment of the whole series, so I was excited to see a M/M entry into what has been an M/F world. The problem is that all those tropes combined with a whole boatload of gay stereotypes just doesn’t work.
Noah Brooks knows and loves his fated bondmate, Phoenix Monroe. Unfortunately for Noah, Nix is determined to ignore their bond - he is strictly a ladies’ man, thank you very much. But that doesn’t stop either of them from caring. And it certainly doesn’t help when Noah, a nurse in a community full of shifters and other paranormal citizens, is attacked by a confused patient who shifts into a tiger and mauls him.
While this certainly brings out Nix’s protective side, it doesn’t take care of the underlying issues. Nix’s father was violently homophobic, and although he’s no longer in his life, Nix can’t help but bring those issues with him, and keep his own desires a secret. That doesn’t work so well once Noah’s hurt, though, since Nix feels the need to actually have them live together. And if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s an evil lurking around that is definitely interested in taking Noah away.
The basic premise is good. The problem is, everything happens so quickly. The end result is that instead of feeling action-packed or romantic, it book just feels rushed. I feel like I blinked and Nix got over most of his issues, then turned the page and Noah was upset about something again, and then Nix’s issues were all back in full force a couple of paragraphs later. It’s confusing....more
In The Other Side of Winter by G.B. Gordon, our two heroes, Bengt and Alex, are being reunited after a year apart, hoping that their week-long romance was enough to keep them together now that they are in the same place. Alex is one of many refugees from Santuario, a poor and corrupt nation, hoping to find a new home. Bengt is a homicide detective, and wants nothing more than to take care of Alex, and give him anything he could possibly want. Unfortunately, both Alex and Bengt are alpha males, and Alex pulls away each time Bengt tries to reach out.
Alex’s reactions to Bengt and to the whole new culture he finds himself in strike me as pretty true-to-life – he’s obviously suffering PTSD, and actually sees a therapist! That was wonderful! And the power imbalance (especially since both of the heroes are fairly dominant) was the most interesting part of the story (and led to a lot of angry sex. Like, most of it, actually). The problem is the entire plot is based around this, and it’s just not enough to keep the story moving. There’s a murder mystery that occupies a large part of the story, but it actually pulls the reader out of the whole sci-fi genre bit.
I cannot harp enough on the importance of world building, especially in sci-fi and fantasy, and sadly, that’s where this one failed for me. It literally took reading the spoiler tags on the publisher’s website to confirm that yes, this book is sci-fi, is actually on a different planet and in the far future, and not in some made-up Scandinavian countries. I honestly thought we were in Iceland or something.
I’d be interested to read the prequel to this, and try the author again, but while it was an enjoyable read, there wasn’t anything particularly great about it....more
You know, I always thought Richard was an asshole. I'm so impressed with K.J. Charles, that she always manages to make the most unlikable characters sYou know, I always thought Richard was an asshole. I'm so impressed with K.J. Charles, that she always manages to make the most unlikable characters sympathetic, and get the reader on their side.
Richard, like all the other characters in this series, is so clearly a product of his upbringing. He is, at heart, decent, but he so strongly believes in the differences in society, and things like status and appearance. He and David have basically been in love with each other for years, but Richard refuses to do anything, because David is his valet. It's a combination of David being in his employ (and so not able to say no) and David being a servant (and so below him in station). It's kinda dickish, and I frequently wanted to smack him upside the head.
David doesn't want to do anything because not only does his current position depend on it (though pretty much any other gentleman will happily hire him as valet - he is, after all, the best), he doesn't want to jeopardize his relationship with Richard.
The best thing about this story for me, honestly, was seeing Richard humanized. All we get to see of him in the previous stories was basically the perfect gentleman, living on top his pedestal. But Richard makes mistakes and screws up repeatedly and David calls him on it. It's just great....more
I’m really torn about The Infamous Heir, guys. Really torn. One one hand, Ms Michaels writes well, and her handling of mystery and angst is really satisfying. On the other hand, I absolutely hated the heroine for the first half of the book, and kept wondering if our hero, a pugilist, had taken a few too many hits to the head.
Lady Roselyn Grey has a plan. She’s going to marry the lord next door, Trevor Moore, give him an heir and a spare, and secure her place in society. Everything is set. And then her almost-fiancé’s brother shows up and spoils all her well-laid plans. Ethan Moore is finally back in England after being disowned by his family years before, and he finds himself absolutely captivated by the woman ro whom his brother is engaged. But then when Trevor is murdered, and Roselyn is convinced Ethan did the deed to get the title, Ethan’s life is thrown upside-down.
After spending a month in mourning, Ethan heads off to London to try and uncover the identity of the murderer. But every time he turns around, Roselyn is there. Ostensibly in town for her first Season, Roselyn, still convinced of Ethan’s guilt, starts following him as he goes about his business. So now Ethan has to figure out who murdered his brother and why, all while keeping Roselyn safe from both the current danger and others from his past.
The story itself is fascinating and intricate and fun - you have your romance, a murder mystery, and a plot twist I really didn’t see coming. I love the author’s writing style, but in many ways, that made reading the book that much harder....more
Raise your hand if you think grave robbing is sexy and romantic. No one? Yeah, me neither. But it was definitely a staple of medical students and full-fledged doctors in the 1820s. Somehow, the author of Dark Economy makes both the mystery and the characters shine on their gothic backdrop. I’m not sure how the author did it, but I sincerely hope that we get more. Lots more. Preferably of these characters, because I’m kinda in love.
Cadell Meredith is a medical student, an apothecary worker, and a grave robber. The grave robbing thing is really only to support his medical studies, so it’s okay, right? Well, not really, it’s still illegal, but at least he’s not killing people to sell the bodies. But then as he’s working on one particular corpse, he begins to notice discrepancies - this isn’t some pauper, but a gentleman, possibly a lord even. And it’s fairly obvious that this gentleman has been murdered.
With a sense of guilt, basically haunted by the corpse of the young man, Cadell takes it upon himself to try and discover who exactly he was, as well as who killed him. Unfortunately, he’s also being dogged by a police officer, Breton. Every time Cadell turns around, there Breton is. It’s maddening. And arousing, apparently, since Cadell can’t think of anything else half the time. But he’s got to figure out the murder to assuage his own curiosity and guilty conscience, and do it without Breton catching on to the multiple laws he’s been breaking.
So it starts out a little slow - and it’s absolutely ages before we get to anything resembling romance - but it is definitely not boring. Cadell is trying to negotiate med school, a job, and an illegal night time pursuit, and then adding dodging a particular and persistent officer to the mix? Fascinating. We get to see some of the beginnings of forensic science, and how the laws shaped the study of medicine. We ride along with Cadell as he traverses all rungs of society, from the family of the young lord to the gutter he’s more familiar with. Cadell is of modest means, at best, and Breton isn’t much better off than that.
And oh, the sexual tension! It was actually making me tense as I read it, as the characters were working through their rather drastic differences. And I think what I liked best about it is that the building tensions and romance between the characters didn’t mess up the mystery. Cadell was inspired to work even harder to figure out what he had stumbled upon, especially since Breton seems to be lurking behind every corner....more
I’ve decided - Megan Derr is one of my new favorite authors. Tournament of Losers is a bit on the short side at only 67K words, but definitely tells the complete story of Rath, dock worker and former prostitute (well, still an occasional prostitute, but at 33, it's not really a full-time gig anymore), who needs cash fast. The only way to get the amount he needs, in the time frame he needs, is to join the Tournament of Charlet, not-so-affectionately known as the Tournament of Losers. This Tournament is supposed to bring new blood into the nobility by testing the commoners for basic traits like common sense, heart, sense of self and sacrifice, etc, but is generally thought (known) to be rigged.
Rath starts this book waking up rather violently to his father's creditors, and having to kick his evening company out. That company, however, doesn't stay gone; Tress (once Rath learns his name), is actually a noble of some sort, but won't tell Rath who exactly he is, especially once Rath enters the Tournament. Any interference from nobility can get the contestant disqualified, and Rath needs the money too much.
The plan, though, is to just last long enough for the stipend. Somehow, though, Rath not only succeeds in the various tests and quests, but excels.
The thing I enjoyed the most is just how down-to-earth Rath is. He's kind and hard-working, but also wonderfully snarky. There's a moment where he's supposed to take a certain amount of money and use it to get the best deals at a variety of businesses in the city. And he gets pissed - why waste the day shopping when he already knows what the best deals are? After all, he's dealt with all the shops personally as a laborer. And he snarks all over the guy who had given them the challenge. And he wins....more
We have all heard of 50 Shades of Grey, but how many have heard of 50 Ways to Sin? In Caroline Linden’s Scandalous series, the heroines are all introduced in some manner to the rather titilating tales from this series of pamphlets, and use their new-found knowledge to their advantage. In this short novella, we meet what is quite possibly the cutest couple ever, and while the mentions of 50 Ways to Sin might be few, it obviously makes an impact on our heroine.
Lady Samantha Lennox is absolutely terrified of her father, the Earl of Stratford. And now that she has to go and tell him she stole from him and lied about it for years, she, and her mother and brother, are beyond worried. For good reason, too - once told, her father decides to betroth her to an absolutely repulsive and cruel man, with absolutely no way for Samantha to back out or change his mind. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, when Samantha decides she needs some air, takes a walk, and impulsively boards the public carriage for London.
When she gets there, she ends up rather lost, and then practically kidnapped by street thugs, most likely looking to sell her to a brothel. Luckily, she had captured the attention of a young man who followed them, rescuing her from the brigands and bringing her back to his lodgings to the warmth and care of his landlady. Surprisingly enough, the gentleman is one Lord George Churchill-Gray, son of the Duke of Rowland. Lord George, generally known as Gray, may be the son of a duke, but his passion is art - his dream is to have his paintings exhibited by the Royal Academy. When he first sees Samantha, all he can think about is how he would love to sketch her. After spending some time with her, however, he very quickly finds himself falling for her.
I can’t say I blame Gray for how quickly he develops feelings for Samantha - she’s sweet and scared, a combination sure to bring out the protective instincts in anyone, especially a man of the times.
I have decided that Samantha and Gray are the cutest couple in the history of cute. They are absolutely the sweetest couple I’ve read in quite a while. At one point, Gray is asking Samantha if she can draw or paint - after all, most ladies of the time do - and she quickly sketches a little bunny. His response? To add a skunk, obviously courting her bunny. It’s adorable....more
The literary world is absolutely ripe these days with retellings. Retellings of fairy tales, retellings of classics, adding vampires, demons, zombies, what-have-you. Jane Steele, instead of adding zombies to the source material, uses the classic Jane Eyre as an inspiration to a new story and a new Jane. A Jane who also happens to be a bit of a murderess.
Jane Steele, like the heroine of her new favorite novel Jane Eyre, has had a rough childhood. Her aunt sent her off to boarding school, where she and her classmates were basically starved and abused by their sadistic schoolmaster. Jane has been called wicked more than once, much like Miss Eyre, but in Jane’s case, it might just be true. After all, the ones who torture her are frequently found dead.
After all, she says herself, “Reader, I murdered him.”
Jane finds herself a fugitive, trying to make a living, when she sees an ad for a governess at her former home, Highgate House. She finds herself negotiating her past while trying to unravel a mystery that has presented itself - what are the members of the household, Mr. Thornfield and others, running from? And what secrets does Sahjara, the young ward, hold? On top of that, how will Jane deal with her burgeoning feelings towards Mr. Thornfield, when she can’t share her past and her secrets?
If you are looking for a direct retelling, this is not a story for you. Instead of using Jane Steele to retell Jane Eyre, Ms. Faye has created a brand new story, obviously inspired by the classic, but not a copy. Even if you aren’t a Jane Eyre fan, or haven’t read the book, the basics are pretty much laid out for the reader. Our narrator, Jane herself, remarks on the similarities of their stories, but takes us far, far past the source material....more
There’s something quite satisfying about an enemies-to-lovers romance that just works. The dynamics between not only the two main characters, but on a larger scale, including friends and families, make for some really interesting plot options. There's nothing like a wedding to solve a feud, right?
In Highland Spitfire, The Robertsons and the MacPhersons have been feuding for generations, and the Queen’s Regent is done with it. Tricking the two families to appear at the same time before him, he blackmails Ailis Robertson, the laird’s daughter, and Bhaic MacPherson, the other laird’s son and presumptive heir, to marry immediately, lest their entire retinue be shot. Neither wants to wed, but Ailis takes the first step, wanting her father to live more than she doesn’t want to marry Bhaic. And what can Bhaic do but step up to the challenge? And perhaps they can simply get married and then seek an annulment later. It’s not like they are attracted to each other.
But the wedding is only the first step, as Ailis discovers to no one’s surprise. She now has to live in the keep of her family’s enemy, who view her as the embodiment of evil and the cause of the deaths of more than one MacPherson. But Ailis is determined to rise to the challenge, and Bhaic can’t help but notice.
And that right there is why I enjoyed this book. Ailis is smart, strong, determined, and competent, and she doesn’t need to be feisty or rude in order to make things work the way she wants them to. She simply accepts the situation and steps up to it. She is brilliant. She’s the woman I want to be (and frequently struggle with). Even when faced with serious opposition, with people who literally want her and everything she represents dead, she succeeds in rising above it. She’s not perfect, which keeps her from being boring, but she’s perfect for this story....more
Magic and m/m and Victorian London. Yes, please. This is my basic response to just about everything by K.J. Charles these days. I adored her Charm of Magpies series, and the whole world she’s built, and this newest one (which looks to be the start of its own series, perhaps?) fits in perfectly.
Crispin Tredarloe is an accidental warlock. Really. He never knew that the magic he learned, graphomancy to be precise, was illegal and could (and did) kill people! Now that he’s discovered just what he’s been taught, Crispin is trying hard to learn to do his magic in a more appropriate style, but it’s beyond difficult for him because he just can't control it any more. And the only person on his side is Ned Hall, his friend and lover, who wants absolutely nothing to do with the magical world, believing it to be nothing but trouble. And he’s only proven correct when people start dying, and something evil is trying to find it’s way back into the world.
I admit, I haven't read A Queer Trade, the prequel to this story, although I don't think it's completely necessary. Those familiar with the Charm of Magpies world will have little trouble following along, though I would recommend that those who are new to the series go back and start at the beginning - it makes a lot more sense that way. (Also, Stephen Day is much more likable. Otherwise, he comes across as more than a bit of an asshole.)...more
It’s been a long time since I’ve read any romances published in the 1980s. The purple prose that seems to have been so abundant in 80s historicals gets on my ever-loving last nerve. Luckily for me, Wild Bells to the Wild Sky is definitely not a bodice-ripper, nor is it like your typical 80s romance. Instead, I just finished a richly described historical with realistic characters, a storyline that takes a decade, and a romantic couple that, while I’m not in love with them, intrigues me.
Lily Christian, her mother Magdalena, and family friend Basil Whitelaw were stranded on a deserted island after their ship, captained by Lily’s father, was brutally attacked by a fleet of Spanish ships. After seven years, the birth of her younger brother Tristram, and her half-sister Dulcie, followed by the tragic deaths of their mother and Basil, have left Lily in charge of their little family. When a ship appears, captained by Basil’s brother, Valentine Whitelaw, her first reaction is to hide, but that only works for so long. Taken back to England by Valentine, Lily quickly falls for the handsome man, even if he only sees her as a child.
But then, as Lily grows up, the secret behind the Spanish attack comes to light, and there’s treason and espionage afoot. Lily, with Valentine’s help, must unravel secrets from a children’s story, locate an old journal on the long-left island, and bring the real traitors to light.
First of all, the spy game in this was top-notch. Scholarly Basil is asked by Queen Elizabeth herself to pay attention when he travels with his good friends, the Christians, to the Carribean to visit Magdalena’s family. What he discovers leads to the attack on their ship, and decade-long consequences. The premise and much of the story is surprisingly dark (being hunted across the country for murder and witchcraft, for example), but told in a way that feels more like a fairy tale.
I love the whole lost-at-sea premise (I basically grew up watching and re-watching Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson), and Wild Bells combines all the best things of the Robinsons with a hint of The Blue Lagoon (just without, you know, the incest). It’s unsurprising but still sweet when Lily falls in love with Valentine when he arrives, rescuing her and her siblings....more
I’m always a bit hesitant to start a new series - almost everything seems to be in a series these days. What interested me in this one was that first, it’s listed as the The Adventurer’s Quartet, promising that it won’t be forever ongoing. Second, we start well after the romancing has taken place, something rather different from your typical historical. And once I met the characters, I was pretty well hooked. Luckily, this story held up its end of the bargain, and I found myself quite enjoying the mystery.
Declan Frobisher is in love with Lady Edwina. Luckily, he already caught her, and they were married just three weeks ago. Now, though, the problem is figuring out how exactly their marriage is going to work. Edwina wants a full partnership, to help him at home and in business, to establish themselves as the couple in society. After all, as the daughter of a duke, she is educated and popular, above reproach. She’s also headstrong and determined, which doesn’t work out so well for Declan. The Frobisher family has a secret. The information they trade is more undercover spy work than anything else, hidden within their shipping empire, and Declan wants Edwina to have nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, Declan doesn’t seem to have much of a say in the matter.
When, during their honeymoon, Declan is called in for a mission to West Africa, he is adamant that Edwina stay behind, even as he convinces her of the safety of the short voyage. Well, he must have convinced her a little too well, because Edwina smuggles herself aboard and, when she finds out about his mission, insist on helping him. And it’s a good thing she does - there’s more going on than originally thought.
It’s really interesting to see a romance novel that starts mid-honeymoon, especially when it’s an historical. Normally, the plot is about how our intrepid couple falls in love, but here, that part of their story is almost unimportant. As it stands, this book is much more mystery than romance, although it lacked a certain sense of...urgency. The common historical plot points (getting the couple together, working through dislike/family issues/unscrupulous past, etc) are nowhere to be found. Instead, the relationship drama is solely because of Edwina’s more adventurous side clashing with Declan’s attempts to keep her out of danger. While it gives the reader the chance to see their relationship deepen, I felt like we were told that their marriage matured and that they grew as a couple, instead of actually seeing it. By narrating quickly through the voyages between London and Freetown, we miss a lot of their romance.
Luckily, the characters make up for the lack. First of all, Edwina is smart. Really smart. And we get a lot of evidence of that, from basic dialogue to her practically solving the puzzle before them in West Africa. For example:
“Just so I have this issue clear, as long as my intention is to protect you, then you’ll accept whatever decisions I make?” She raised her head, met his eyes, and smiled -- gently, reassuringly. Then she stepped closer, came up on her toes, and lightly touched her lips to his. Drawing back, her hand on his chest, she stated, “I accept that, in seeking to protect me, you will make such decisions.” (p. 63)...more
There are so many tropes in historical romances, it’s no wonder that readers find themselves tripping over the same ideas over and over again. The thing that makes a story interesting, however, is not being free of the tropes. Instead, it is using them fully, and creating something new. As I was reading Susana and the Scot, I couldn’t help but notice how many of the same ideas were there - the gentlemen’s bet, “I don’t want her, but I don’t want you to have her either,” and the independent-to-a-fault lady of the manor to name a few. But Ms. York has taken those tropes and turned them into a story that was sweet and hot and funny, and that I would definitely read more of.
Andrew Lochlannach made a bet. Normally, this wouldn't be much to speak of, but this bet? Who can be the first to kiss one hundred women. And he's just added number ninety-nine by kissing his sisters-in-law's sister. Oops. And now he's being sent to provide warriors and security to his sister-in-law's other sister. Well, that isn't going to be awkward at all, is it? But when his brother - the Laird - sends him on a task, he will fulfill it. Whether the recipient wants him to or not.
Susana most definitely doesn't want it. She doesn't want the help, the additional men in her keep, or Andrew taking over the defense of her land, which has been her responsibility for years. She certainly doesn't want her young daughter, Isobel, looking up to him, especially since this is not the first time Andrew and Susana have met. Of course, Andrew is the only one who can't see what is, literally, right in front of his nose, and Susana has no problems taking advantage of that fact, even after they begin to regain some of their previous...intimacy. Of course, neither of them are planning on dealing with a conspiracy that extends to the lands around them, right on up to the Prince of England.
I absolutely love that Susana, though relatively unschooled in sex, takes charge of her own sexuality with no second thought. There are definitely bits of a Dom in her, which would be interesting to see play out further in their personal storyline. And I definitely love that Andrew, big, strong, independent warrior that he is, has no problems letting her take the lead. In fact, he gets off on it. The flipping of conventional bedroom roles helps make an otherwise predictable romance just that much more interesting....more
I've been reading Aiken's Dragon Kin series for ages now, and one of my favorite romances is What a Dragon Should Know, the third book. But for some reason I'm not sure of - too many characters, a more and more complex series plot, I don't know what - as the series progresses, I find my interest waning. I had hopes for Feel the Burn, and overall it wasn't bad, but it was lacking that certain something that had me loving the previous books.
Kachka Shestakova of the Black Bear Riders of the Midnight Mountains of Despair in the Far Reaches of the Steppes of the Outerplains - is displeased. And not because her full name takes a full breath to finish. She's displeased because the people of the Southlands are spoiled and decadent and she has nothing to do but hunt. She and her sister Elina are Daughters of the Steppes, brought up as warrior women in a society that values only women (men are for procreation and taking out the trash, as we hear repeatedly), and in the Outerplains, life is hard and painful and the Daughters like it that way. Annwyl the Bloody, the Southlands queen, sends Kachka off on a mission to destroy a cult that's ravaging temples across her lands, which first sends her back to her homelands to gather a war party (all misfits, much like herself), and then into the path of Gaius Lucius Domitus, Iron dragon and the one-eyed Rebel King.
Gaius is on a mission of his own, to destroy the rest of his extended family. After a lifetime of abuse from his father and other family members, he and his sister are running the Provinces. They still have enemies though, and Gaius is determined to keep his sister safe by destroying them all. His mission meets up with Kachka's, and he decides to tag along with her group, both for the information and for the woman. Well, if he was being totally truthful with himself, it's mostly for the woman.
Kachka is kinda fabulous, in her stark, barbarian sort of way. She certainly doesn't curb her tongue, and has no problem letting those around her know her thoughts and feelings on basically any matter. Unlike her sister, the one who brought her to the South, Kachka is having a hard time in the Southern lands; all the people are too soft, and the "useless men" have positions of power, something unheard of by the Daughters of the Steppes. She calls my personal favorite, Gwenvael, "beautiful but useless dragon" instead of his name in conversation. She (and the others we meet from the Outerplains) are about as literal as they come, which makes for fun conversations.
And speaking of the others from the Outerplains, Kachka's little band of fighters is pretty entertaining in general. Who can dislike Zoya Kolesova, the cheerful barbarian? Well, other than the others of the Steppes, that is. Apparently "cheer" is a bad word. I love that each character, like Zoya, has a full personality, and I can easily see any of them as the main character of a future book. Plus, each of the Daughters owns her sexuality, which is something I've been looking for in my romance novels. Gaius makes for an interesting hero, if only because he is outside a lot of the action of the story. The reader jumps back and forth between Kachka, Gaius, and Annwyl for the first part of the book, and then Gaius becomes almost more of the classic "fool" character - he follows Kachka on her mission, as it is part of his own, and provides commentary and communication with the other dragons in the story. One thing I have always enjoyed is that Aiken doesn't rely on classic romance characterizations based on gender. The individuals have strengths and weaknesses that have little to do with their genitalia....more
There’s a balance to contemporaries that I look for, that perfect mesh of sweet romance and actual plot movement. I’ve been staying away from this particular subgenre for a while because I have such a hard time finding it. I was hopeful with The Harder You Fall, and it almost worked. The first 300 pages of the story were just what I was looking for. And then it all fell apart as it tried to be every genre of romance ever. So close. And actually there’s a quote in there that perfectly describes this book, as well as the romance found within: “That’s both sweet and wackadoodle at the same time.”
Lincoln West, millionaire video game creator, has a dark past that heavily influences his present, up to and including his dating regimen - he chooses a new woman each year, dates her for two months, and then breaks up with her. The end. Full stop. On the other hand, we have Jessie Kay Dillon, reformed party girl and town slut, who turned her life around after her sister almost died. She’s been working with her sister’s catering company, and trying to put her past behind her, but a lot of the guys in town still view her as community property - not a great start for anyone. But even though Jessie Kay has slept with both of West’s best friends (now her sister’s and best friend’s fiancees), he can’t stop thinking about her, and decides she will be his next conquest. But first they have to get over the anger and bitterness that fills their current relationship (for example, “She wouldn't say she hated him, but she would maybe probably definitely unplug his life support to charge her phone.”)
And let me tell you, that dark past of West’s? Yeah, it’s a stinker. His mother OD’ed when he was young, and he is a product of orphanages and the foster system, much like his two best friends. And the foster family lottery was not at all kind to him, leaving him with more than his fair share of neuroses. Jessie Kay didn’t come out of childhood unscarred either, though not to the same extent. But basically, both of them have to work through their pasts in order to have their HEA.
As for the sensuality, well, as I was reading it, it felt very much on the sexy side of things. Looking back, though, it’s mostly flirting and one hell of a sexual tension between Jessie Kay and West up until the last . And running through all of that was an absolute tangle of feelings that the two were trying to sort out. It turns a sweet read into a sexy one really quickly, let me tell you. Of course they get together, and do their best bunny impression, but the UST from the first half of the story is the best part....more
I fully admit - I’m not the biggest fan of mystery novels. When I saw that Murder on the Last Frontier was set in Alaska, I was curious. When I saw the amateur detective was a woman in 1919, I decided to give it a shot. When I finally read the blurb for the book, and saw the heroine was a suffragette and journalist? I was hooked. And while the mystery itself wasn’t that difficult to figure out, I loved the entire process.
Charlotte Brody really wasn’t planning on causing any trouble in Cordova, the small town in Alaska her brother works in as a doctor. She was planning on starting a new life, writing articles to send back to New York for the women’s newspaper. She certainly wasn’t going to get involved with a murder case within the first few days of her stay. Unfortunately, the best intentions don’t always prevail, and Charlotte hears something outside her window one evening. Early, the following morning, the body of a prostitute is found not far away. Charlotte is left with guilt over the murder, thinking that if she had just gotten up, looked outside, maybe she could have prevented it. And she is determined to come to bottom of the issue, with or without the approval of her staid brother. Or the rather handsome deputy marshall in town.
I really enjoyed this. The end. Okay, well, not quite the end, but still. It’s a historical mystery, that reads a bit like a western, since Alaska really is a sort of final frontier for America. There's a hint of romance, a strong (and headstrong) female character, and the background of supporting characters actually feel like they are real. Each individual we meet in the town of Cordova feels like he or she has a backstory, and is the star of their own lives. I find that missing in a lot of my romance reading, and it was an absolute joy to have that here....more
Emma has never been my favorite Jane Austen novel - that title belongs to Pride and Prejudice (with Northanger Abbey coming in at second place). EmmaEmma has never been my favorite Jane Austen novel - that title belongs to Pride and Prejudice (with Northanger Abbey coming in at second place). Emma always seemed like a spoiled brat to me, and I never really connected with her as a heroine.
What the manga did that the original did not was make Emma a relatable character that I actually liked. By literally seeing her expressions and reading her thoughts, she turned from a spoiled brat into a more misguided character who was actually trying (for the most part) to do the right thing.
What makes it a great romance is that Emma, as fallible as she is, is honestly likable, and it's easy to understand why Mr. Knightly has fallen for her.
Plus, we get to see more of Mr. Knightly, as he realizes his feelings, and deals with jealousy and concern. It's great. I love Mr. Knightly.
What I like the most is that the illustrations fully enhance the story, rather than just retell a classic.
4.5 out of 5 stars - would have gotten all 5 if Emma was truly my favorite....more
Welcome to Noman, a planet colonized by humans, settled as an Old West series of towns, and overrun with dragons. Yeah, I wasn't sure where the author was going with this either. But, as we've seen before, space cowboys are pretty interesting characters, and so I was willing to give it a go. I'm glad I did. Not only did I get my space cowboys, I got a coming-of-age story with shapeshifting dragons. And it actually made sense.
Jeremey Jasper is a pretty miserable guy. His parents were killed by a rycha, a wild beast on Noman that is easily the most dangerous of the myriad of dangerous creatures that make the planet their home. After the death of his parents, he was sent to some relatives in another town, and turned from the mischievous Tom Sawyer-like kid he was into the quiet, somber lad he is now. But today, as our story opens, is an important day. Today, Jeremey is going to become a dragon rider.
Of course, first he has to get a dragon, go through training, deal with his new co-workers - who are unhappy both that he is there and that their dragons follow his - and figure out what exactly his place is. But he has his dragon named Promise as a physical reminder of the promise he made to his parents, to protect others as he was unable to protect them. And then he sees a couple of crashing spaceships and stumbles across a conspiracy and galactic war, something he wants to bring to an end. Jeremey and Promise leave Noman to pursue this aim, and he also finds out the secret of the dragon, something kept from the human settlers for years; not only are they intelligent creatures, they are a race of shapeshifters.
Jeremey made a brief appearance in the first book of the series, In the Hours of Darkness, and I was looking forward to reading more about him and the dragons. I wasn't disappointed. Jeremey and Promise make a great team, both before and after Jeremey finds out the secret of the dragons. When Jeremey meets Lieutenant Harry Alonzo Longbaugh, one of the soldiers from the crashed ship, he starts to get a view of the universe outside his home planet, and it's pretty fascinating. And complicated. So very, very complicated. Apparently, since Noman has basically been off the grid, the Galactic Federation has been at war with the Vek, a militaristic, alien race. There is something on Noman, however, that their bodies can't handle, and the dragons suspect the secret lies with them. Which is how Jeremey finds himself on the capital planet of the Federation with offers of military backing and a future home....more