Natalie Porter is a Ph.d student of history who has been working two restaurant jobs to help pay for private investigators in Russia, searching for heNatalie Porter is a Ph.d student of history who has been working two restaurant jobs to help pay for private investigators in Russia, searching for her father, whom she's never met. She's lost contact with the latest investigator, Zironoff, but hasn't given up hope of tracking down her dad.
While out one night at a bar with her friends, Nat sees a man who steals her breath. Everything about him screams "danger", from his dark looks, brooding glare and tattoos. But he's far more interesting than all the jocks in the place, with that sexy Russian accent, so she makes an approach only to be shut-down swiftly. It's a shock, then, to find him in her apartment later that night.
Aleksandr Sevastyan - nicknamed "The Siberian" - is in America to guard Natalie from her father's enemies; only now does he make his presence known because his orders are to get her on a plane to Russia immediately. Her father, Pavel Kovalev - known as the Clockmaker in his own circle - is high up in the Mafia and his enemies, having discovered the existence of a daughter through Nat's last PI, are closing in on her. Sevastyan is Pavel's right-hand man, an orphan he took in when just a boy and raised like his own. Pavel's excited to learn that he has a daughter, and trusts no one but The Siberian to bring her "home".
I'm a major fan of Kresley Cole, but I have to admit I wasn't sure about this one when I first heard about it - or even when I started reading it. It's all so ... outlandish. But then I remembered: it's romance. It's almost always outlandish, especially the good ones. Unless there are really noticeable flaws and plotholes and stupid decisions in the story, it's easy to go with it and enjoy. And I need not have worried in this case: this is Kresley Cole, after all. She writes so well, she can overcome even the most outlandish of premises (I mean, since when did the Russian Mafia become sexy?!).
I'll put aside my real thoughts on learning that Pavel, Natalie's father, is a lovely man who became a crime boss in order to protect people from the other crime bosses - he's a little bit too good to be true. He lives in a real palace, centuries old, one rescued and renovated, on a vast estate outside Moscow. His nephew and Nat's cousin, the incredibly handsome Filip Liukin, is living there as well - he seems to have a gambling problem as well as a flirtatious eye for Nat. There's also the slight implausibility of Nat being okay with her father being a crime lord, though granted she didn't have much choice in relocating. But she's certainly putting aside any ethics (or morals, for that matter) and getting on board with the whole thing.
But like I said, I put all that aside and just went with it, and as a result got a highly enjoyable story full of steamy scenes and fraught with sexual tension (and I'll admit, the Russian Mob angle is very exciting and a nice change for me). Cole's skill at writing stories you can really immerse yourself in, and characters who don't drive you nuts, comes to the fore. Her trademark humour is present, though not quite so much as in her excellent Immortals After Dark series. There's enough detail for realism but the pace is tight, smooth and fast ("that's what she said" - sorry, couldn't resist!). There's a hint of danger and tension - not from without, as we haven't seen it yet, but from within; I'm much more alert than Nat, clearly, and am picking up on something suspicious in the air. I'm expecting betrayal any moment, though not from Sevastyan.
Mmm and isn't he a dish? Certain descriptors may sound a bit cliched - the tats, the leather clothes, the dark brooding glare - but somehow Cole makes it all feel fresh and exciting. Nat, despite being a virgin, is sexually experienced in every other way and doesn't resist her attraction to him. This is erotic romance (not erotica, that's a different kettle of fish entirely and not half so fun as erotic romance), so the sex scenes are steamy and edgy; Sevastyan likes it a bit rough and intense, and Nat's learning that how much it turns her on, as well. Another trait of erotic romance (as opposed to other forms of romance) is the proclivity of sex scenes, or steamy scenes - even within this novella, there are plenty to keep you satisfied. And it's only just getting going.
Where the story will go from here I don't know, but I can't wait to find out with Part 2. I'm not a big fan of serialising romance stories, but it does seem to be the new "thing" for e-books, and I can understand the appeal to publishers. It's hard for readers, though, to get so far in a story only to have to wait to keep reading the same story. But once all the e-book parts are out, the complete novel should be printed. That's how it worked with Beth Kery, another erotic romance writer I love reading, so I hope that's how it will go here as well.
My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book via Netgalley....more
Devadas is a warrior and the younger prince of Catiscal, but when he is captured by neighbouring Horvald, he is put in The Pit, there to fight HorvaldDevadas is a warrior and the younger prince of Catiscal, but when he is captured by neighbouring Horvald, he is put in The Pit, there to fight Horvald's warriors-in-training until he dies. No one knows he's a prince, and as far as Devada is concerned, he is dead to his country and his parents as soon as he was captured. He maintains his own code of honour in a warring country that he sees as wanton: they keep slaves, the women walk around practically naked, and the people have an open attitude towards sex and sharing partners.
When Lissa, the young princess of Horvald and the king's only child, takes an interest in Devadas, he took the opportunity hoping to find a way to escape or somehow exploit the situation. But Lissa wants only a fit man to train her in the arts of love making, and Devadas has a month, at first, before she's married off. Those plans don't eventuate, and instead the two explore each other in depth, Devadas learning as much about how to pleasure a woman as Lissa learns from him.
When her father, the king of Horvald, takes Devadas along with the other warrior slaves to join his army in his latest venture, Lissa is distraught. From long exposure to Devadas, her attitude towards her people's cavalier slave keeping has changed, and when a storm comes through with her father absent, she ditches forever her luxury and her frivolous clothes and joins the people in rebuilding the town and planting new crops, negotiating with neighbouring Catiscal which also suffered in the storm. When her father returns and tells her he killed Devedas along with a number of other slaves who attempted to escape, she grieves deeply then locks her heart away, planning to stay chaste forever.
Ten years later, the growing empire has decimated her father's army and killed him; its leader, a general who calls himself Lord Death, comes for Lissa. In shock, she recognises Devadas, but he has changed - and worse, he plans on exacting revenge on Lissa for the long months she took advantage of him, rather than finding a way to free him and the other slaves. His demands of her are terrible, and she is humiliated by the finely made gold chains he makes her wear - and especially by the leash - but bargains the safety of her people and their fields in exchange.
When the new king of Catiscal, Devadas' older brother Anton, arrives in Horvald, thinking to take it for his own and Lissa for his bride, Devadas decides to marry her himself. But Anton plays dirty, and it takes seeing how he treats Lissa for Devadas to realise just what she means to him, and how abominable his behaviour towards her was.
Between the new Harlequin/Mills & Boon romance e-book imprint, Escape Publishing, and Penguin Australia's new romance e-book imprint, Destiny Romance, my Kindle is suddenly chokkas with great new romance fiction. I picked this one from Escape because it combines erotic romance with fantasy, two of my favourite genres, though I didn't realise until I started reading it that it's actually a fairly short novella. I like novellas, but I think in this case, as well written as it was, it would have been a more satisfying novel if it had been, well, novel length.
Everything that needed to be there was there, from some general world-building (put together in your head from minor details and bits of info scattered throughout), to character motivations and some good plot developments. But it's the characters that you want to read romance for, in whatever form it comes in, and in the case of Chains of Revenge it skimmed along a bit too lightly, without really delving deeply into their psyches. Individually, I felt like I understood and could sympathise with the characters, no problem, but together, I wanted a bit more chemistry, especially in the beginning. It rushed through those months and then told us they were falling in love with each other, without really showing it (or showing them holding back, since their positions - mistress/princess and slave - is a perfect relationship obstacle).
Things heated up considerably when they meet again ten years later, and the story became more interesting too, but the problem of developing things between the characters remained a bit stunted. They just never quite built up momentum, and that was disappointing. I don't mind the lightly sketched in world-building, for a novella, and I don't mind a fairly uneventful plot - but the most important thing in a romance story is the romance, right? and building up chemistry between the characters. Developing that more deeply at the beginning would have given the rest of the story a really solid footing, and strong past history that would have added mouth-watering tension and gut-clenching sexual chemistry.
Otherwise, I enjoyed it and found parts of it particularly fun and juicy to read. The chain harness was a nice erotic touch, but one of the things that stood out for me was how much I liked Lissa. She grew and matured and changed quite a bit, rising to a new challenge and coming to realise that, much like in a democratic system, a leader is nothing without healthy, happy people to lead, and so she puts them first, over her own wants and needs. Devadas has a lot to learn, too, and is not a straight-forward character. So while I didn't find that their chemistry sizzled as much as it could have, the potential for it was there, and I could believe in them as people and lovers....more
Jessica Randall is an accountant with several disappointing and unsatisfying relationships in her past. Returning home from a trip to Tampa for a dateJessica Randall is an accountant with several disappointing and unsatisfying relationships in her past. Returning home from a trip to Tampa for a date with a man she'll never see again, her car hits an armadillo in the rain and goes into the ditch. Alone on the dark country road, the only signs of life is a house she passed further down the road. It's a mansion with a formidable giant of a man at the door, who seems reluctant to assist when she asks for help. Returning with the handsome Master Z, the door guard, Ben, lets her in.
But this is a private club, and before she can be allowed any further than the entrance she has to read and sign the rules. Tired, freezing and dripping, Jessica can barely make out the words, but how bad can it be? It's just a rich person's club in the country. So she signs without understanding just what kind of club it is.
Her introduction to Club Shadowlands, a very private and select club for those who enjoy practicing BDSM, is a bit of a shock to gentle Jessica's system. But Master Z takes her under his wing to show her around and teach her the rules - and hopes for something more from her. After a night of opening her senses to a new world, and the desires she's always had but never realised, will Jessica ever return? Would Master Z want more than a brief D/s relationship?
This short introductory novel into the world of Club Shadowlands, the first in a series, is fun in a distinctly titillating way. It doesn't waste time with filler or too much dithering introspection, which I could really appreciate. It is romantically inclined - the Dominant men we're introduced to don't want just another sub, but something more long-lasting and meaningful: love, and whatever comes with it.
That said, we don't really get to know Jessica or Master Z - Zach - in depth, but we do get a good sense of their characters, and come to like them, from their interactions. The Doms aren't sadists, they're more romantically inclined, patient and follow the idea that bondage and whipping etc. is for the sub, not the Dom. Pleasure in pain, that kind of thing. Jessica's not into the pain, but she learns that she enjoys being dominated and tied up. In her tour of the club, she sees that there are many different ways of exploring BDSM, and learns that the subs, whether they're women or men, are willing participants. Doms who go from giving what the subs need to actually being abusive or violent with them, are quickly kicked out and banned from the club. For readers curious about the lifestyle, this is a good guide, though for readers like me who've read plenty of BDSM stories already, it's a bit too familiar.
There is an added element to the series: some of the characters have paranormal abilities. Master Z can read people's emotions, which puts him in an excellent position of running a club like this - and being a popular Dom. This gives him an edge and is what enables things to move quite fast between him and Jessica. Especially considering Jessica is almost as naive as Anastasia Steele from Fifty Shades. Almost, but thankfully not that bad.
Being short, the novel does lack a deeper level of emotional involvement and tensity, leaving it almost a bit too cute and simplistic. But I did enjoy it, and wouldn't mind reading more in the series....more