~* 4.5 Stars *~ Beyond the Darkening is a very good novella - quite possibly the best of that length I've ever read. There's a lot here that Kerry Alle...more~* 4.5 Stars *~ Beyond the Darkening is a very good novella - quite possibly the best of that length I've ever read. There's a lot here that Kerry Allen could've made into a full-length paranormal romance (and still could at any time [hint...hint]), because her take on vampires and the world they inhabit is intriguing and TRULY fresh. My only serious complaint - though perhaps unfairly, I admit - and the only thing that keeps this being a full five star read for me is the length restricts the flow of good world-building and prevents a lot of development of character - and the romantic resolution seems rushed. I believe I read at the back of the kindle edition book that this was the first in a novella trilogy. I will be looking for those. 4.5 Stars overall and again, possibly the best novella I've read at this length.
If you're unfamiliar with Mary Hughes' Biting Love series...well...rectify that as soon as possible, but don't start here. The series starts with Bite...moreIf you're unfamiliar with Mary Hughes' Biting Love series...well...rectify that as soon as possible, but don't start here. The series starts with Bite My Fire and continues with the stronger second installment, Biting Nixie, and they're fun, relatively light, but definitely sexy/steamy/erotic vamp romance novels that blend humor and danger together quite nicely. The Bite of Silence is a novella-length story within the world, though not necessarily considered a part of the series, and but it falls in the timeline between Biting Nixie and Biting Me Softly, the third book in the series. Hughes has managed to condense the best parts of her books and deliver a powerful, funny, sexual, and surprisingly complete tale in a much smaller package. I believe, however, that this story would definitely feel lacking to anyone unfamiliar with the series, so start from the beginning.
In The Bite of Silence, Nixie's best friend Twyla, Admin. Assistant for the mayor of Meier's Corners, is off to the Big Apple for a little New Year's Eve partying. When she boards the plane, however, she finds the object of her most delicious fantasies seated in first class. Niko is tall, dark, and destructively gorgeous...and Twyla's also pretty sure he's a vampire...but he has stubbornly refused to give her the time of day since he moved to town, so a two hour flight with the vamp is just what the vacation gods ordered. Niko's not as unaffected by the delectable and funny Twyla as she thinks, however...and her "vacation" surely isn't going to go as smooth as she'd hoped when she realizes that someone's trying to turn all the vampires in NYC into slavering, bloodthirsty beasts as the ball drops on the New Year and Twyla and Niko are the only two who can save a madman from destroying them all.
Points to Hughes for delivering a very well-rounded story in such a short format. There's even a bit more character development than I'd anticipated - and something that's so often lacking in stories of this length. Admittedly, I've read the first two books, so I'm already familiar with Hughes' world and vampire mythos, and I don't think that the book would read nearly as well for someone who isn't, so I rate it four stars for lacking any real world building at all. Other than that - very well told.
I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised by this novella-length story. Had an additional 100 or so more pages been added to flesh out the world bui...moreI have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised by this novella-length story. Had an additional 100 or so more pages been added to flesh out the world building and character development, this could have been a solid urban fantasy novel and the start of a strong series. As it is, there is enough here to be interesting and unique and it made for a very decent read.
In an alternate version of the U.S., shapeshifters came out of the closet in bloody fashion, resulting in a war that split the country from east to west, from sea to shining sea, and left humans struggling for any sort of cultural resurgence in the south while in the north, shifters flourish. Between them stands a wall, and on that wall stands Alexia Williams, a member of the Combined Human States Army, and known to the shifters simply as Death. She's the lone survivor of her family and after having watched her husband and infant son brutally slaughtered under the fangs and claws of shifters, she's got absolutely no love for their species and not much more in the way of tender feelings for even her fellow man. In fact, her loss has turned her into a cold killing machine and the only person she trusts is herself.
When a three hundred year old golden eagle shifter named Andor steps in and saves her life, then asks for her help in uncovering the truth behind missing shifter youth, shifters that are disappearing into human territory, it takes a lot to convince her to even start taking another look at shifters in general, and Andor in particular. Can a woman who has lost so very much ever trust a member of a species responsible for that loss, or will Death reign supreme in the end?
They Call Me Death is well written, given the constraints of the length of the story. At it's core is a compelling narrative about the importance of humane and ethical behavior, the dangers of corruption, and the truth that evil isn't restricted to species, breed, sex, culture, color, or creed. This isn't really a book about a kick-ass chick who goes all Deathy on the enemy. Truth is, Alexia has a core that's less tough-ass and more grief stricken...like she got stuck in the rage state of loss and never quite got over it. Beneath it, though, is a woman who loved her husband and son and led a fairly normal suburban life prior to the world going to such hell in such a spectacular handbasket. So when she starts to warm to Andor, starts to trust a little and heal a little, you realize she's got quite a capacity for lack of prejudice. I liked her quite a lot, and I enjoyed Andor too.
There's enough world building and character development to keep a moderately tolerant reader very happy, but in truth, if you tend to be exceedingly critical of shorter length novels, I wouldn't recommend They Call Me Death. I was left feeling the ending was a bit contrived and wrapped up a bit too patly, and there were some plot holes and questions that didn't get sufficiently resolved to my satisfaction. That being said, I also thought that the narrative (first person from Alexia's perspective) was rather well done in that it started out as cold and brutally clinical as Alexia herself was, then warmed as her character slowly changed - and that rate of change was realistic and seemed very organic to the story. If this was all the writer's intent, than kudos for the subtly drawn device that assists a reader in experiencing Alexia's change with her.
I would've liked to see more about her military compatriots, but I will warn easily upset readers that there was one thread about a co-worker, so to speak, that was extremely dark and disturbing and definitely chilling - I appreciated it from an intellectual standpoint for what it was and what it disclosed, but it was rough on an emotional level. Fortunately it didn't last long.
I don't know that I would recommend this particular story for just anyone, but I will say that I would reread it. There was quite a bit here I liked.
~* 3.5 Stars *~ Nifty Prequel Novella Fifty years ago an act of betrayal led to the death of the only man Amber Hale ever allowed herself to love. Now s...more~* 3.5 Stars *~ Nifty Prequel Novella Fifty years ago an act of betrayal led to the death of the only man Amber Hale ever allowed herself to love. Now she's on the run - again...still...always - and letting her guard down for just a blink of time almost seals her fate when the Hunters break into her apartment. She doesn't know why she's being hunted. For all that her mother instilled the deep fear of the Hunters long ago, Amber has never known why. She only knows she's been running her whole life...all one hundred or so years of it. She also doesn't know why she stopped aging when she was in her twenties, or why no matter the damage done to her, she can't be killed. A century of questions. No answers. Just endless running.
Until the night the Hunters broke in brandishing guns. She took out two of them, but there are more. As she maneuvers around to get a look at the rest of her small apartment, she's startled by the actions of one of the Hunters. He strides in and viciously attacks the other one. When he turns his head, Amber's ever-beating heart nearly stops. The man who she just watched slam a fist into the chest of a Hunter and rip out his heart...is Kai Warin. A man who was shot to death fifty years ago. The man she loved.
Eve Silver introduces readers to her Otherkin world with this action-packed prequel novella. While it's short on world-building, there's enough there to give you an idea of soul reapers and their backstory, and the smooth narrative and realistic dialogue shows off Silver's writing style and ability. The story arc was a bit condensed by necessity of length, but it still managed to be a satisfying read.
I was particularly pleased with how the romance was dealt with. I'm finicky about novellas that feature romances. Pushing characters together too quickly doesn't work for me. With the fifty year history between Amber and Kai, that issue was avoided and the relationship had a much more natural feel.
The ending of Sin's Daughter was abrupt, though, I have to admit. I wouldn't expect some long, drawn out ending for a novella, but in this case it was exceedingly short and choppy, and a bit anticlimactic on top of it. Most notably, it didn't come close to matching the intensity of the preceding action, and that was an issue that isn't impacted by the length of the novella. I also had one other slightly silly issue, but one I thought of often while reading. Amber is a century old, Kai would've been born sometime in the forties. Even if Amber wasn't born with the name "Amber" it's the one she used fifty years ago when she was with Kai and the one she's still using. Neither name seemed to fit with the time in which they were born and/or lived. They seemed far too modern. I feel almost ridiculous mentioning it, but for some reason, it was very jarring to me throughout the novella.
For a teaser, though, and a glimpse into the world of a series, it's a good effort. I was previously unfamiliar with Eve Silver's books, but based on what I read in Sin's Daughter, I'll be checking out the Otherkin Trilogy, starting with Sins of the Heart. I'm looking forward to seeing how Silver expands a plot into a full length novel.
Enjoy It For What It Is, But... Sydney Somers's Primal Hunger is one of those stories that disappoint me, not for what it is, but for what it could be...moreEnjoy It For What It Is, But... Sydney Somers's Primal Hunger is one of those stories that disappoint me, not for what it is, but for what it could be and yet isn't. Full of interesting mythos, a spunky heroine with a backbone, and an Alpha male to drool for, the building blocks exist to make this title a really fantastic paranormal romance. Unfortunately, the combination of the length of the story (far closer to novella than mass market paperback) and the focus on the sexual relationship between the two main characters, Kennedy and Tristan, kept this book from truly blossoming into a fully satisfying read for me. And that's a shame, because there really was a lot to like about Somer's writing style and creativity here.
Ultimately, there just wasn't enough story to raise my appreciation for the book higher than three stars.
I'm a huge fan of erotic fiction. I actually prefer my books with healthy, adult, explicit sex scenes that help define and enhance the romantic pairing between couples in paranormal romances, and I'm very open minded about sex in general. Flowery euphemisms and delicate wording are a turnoff - in life and in books. That being said, however, my preference is that the story comes first and the sex scenes be a part of that story, not the whole of the story.
In Primal Hunger, the sex (while steamy, hot, and very erotic) was the center of the story and the plot and mythos about the gargoyles, wraiths, Avalon, King Arthur, Fae, as well as the development of the emotional side of Kennedy and Tristan's relationship, were more like random leaves being tossed around in the cyclone of the sexual relationship. That was such a shame, because I love gargoyles and wish there were more paranormal romances that featured them, and Arthurian novels have always been an interest of mine.
By the end, I basically enjoyed Primal Hunger for what it is, but felt disappointed by all the missed opportunities to raise the bar. Still, I've got the second in the Pendragon Gargoyles series, Primal Attraction, so I'll be giving the series at least one more go.
~* 3.5 Stars *~ More Meat, More Satisfaction Eighty years ago, Cale watched his mate die at the end of a wraith's blade. For eighty years he's mourned t...more~* 3.5 Stars *~ More Meat, More Satisfaction Eighty years ago, Cale watched his mate die at the end of a wraith's blade. For eighty years he's mourned that loss, until one night a goddess' huntress comes for his head, branding him a traitor to Avalon and shooting poisoned tipped arrows at him to put him down. Cale doesn't defend himself. He can't even run from the threat. All he can do is stare as life as he thought he knew it alters in front of his eyes. The fierce huntress, the goddess Rhiannon's immortal servant, is Sorcha. His mate. And from the wicked way she's kicking his butt, it's obvious she has no memory of him at all.
He's got to get through to her. Has to get her memory back. The cat in him is roaring for his mate. Now all he has to do is convince a dedicated warrior on a goddess' mission to not make him all slicey and dicey, hold onto the dagger she's come to collect so he can save his brother, and live happily ever after. Piece of...really difficult cake.
This second entry in the Pendragon Gargoyles series is a bit more robust than its predecessor, Primal Hunger, while maintaining the level of skilled narrative and originality of mythos. My largest complaint with Primal Hunger, in fact, was that it wasn't long enough and it focused too much on the sexual relationship of the romance and not enough on the surrounding plot. I'm pleased to say that wasn't the case here. Somers gives the reader a much more balanced story that fleshes out the world a bit more and gives us a greater understanding of the series arc while offering up Sorcha and Cale's romance alongside it.
I thought Sorcha and Cale were fun characters to spend time with, and I'm really starting to enjoy Sydney Somers' writing style and her ability to create strong characters with flaws, peccadilloes, and insecurities in a realistic way that appeals when mixed with some quick witted dialogue and zippy repartee. And she does angsty drama pretty well, too.
Again, though, I found myself wishing for a longer story. There were several instances where scenes jumped in time and left out scenes that didn't directly include Sorcha and Cale - like Cale's pursuit of the sorceress to help with the spell to free his brother and Sorcha's search for him when he'd disappeared without warning that, had they been included, would have added depth and dimension to the plot and increased the substance of the tale. I also thought the exposition and explanation in this book didn't quite go as far as it could have describing the world, nor was it as detailed as I would've preferred. I would have liked a more comprehensive exploration of Rhiannon and her huntresses, too. I'll freely admit I'm greedy, but I recognize Somers' ability to create an original backstory with imaginative mythology surrounding fantastic creatures and I want to see that realized in a full, rich, vibrant novel that widens the scope of the series and further increases my enjoyment of it. Still have no complaints about the very erotic and emotional physical relationship between Sorcha and Cale. Somers doesn't disappoint in any way in that area.
I'm still hoping for more with the next in the series, Primal Seduction, but like I said for the previous book, I very much enjoyed what this book is...I just wish it was a bit more.
A Gem More Grim than Grimm The Grimm brothers have nothing on Shiloh Walker, who tells a mean tale. Literally. This grim twist on Grimm is original, un...moreA Gem More Grim than Grimm The Grimm brothers have nothing on Shiloh Walker, who tells a mean tale. Literally. This grim twist on Grimm is original, unique, and interesting, and Walker has penned another dark, rich novella to start an exciting new series. So much urban fantasy and paranormal romance is based around the idea that there's always a kernel of truth in all folk lore and fairy tales, and Walker not only embraces that ideology, she slams into it, tackles it to the ground, and hog ties it until it does her bidding!
In Candy Houses, Greta and Rip are known to children everywhere as Gretel of Hansel and Gretel fame, and Rip as in Van Winkle, but neither one of the fairy tales and folk lore that surround them do more than glimmer at the truth. Greta, as she prefers to be called now, and Rip, didn't get anything resembling a happily ever after like the stories say. They got an immortal upgrade and were given wings, becoming a member of the Grimm, a group of guardian angels that are here to help humanity and save them from the myriad of dangers from other realms, demons, and other assorted nasties. Their wings are more metaphorical than actual, of course, but their skill is unmatched, and they're very hard to kill. They have to be. It's a dark, often lonely, deadly life that takes its toll on its warriors.
Greta and Rip worked together about a hundred years ago and after a night of passion that rocked both their worlds, Greta fled, and hasn't been able to stop thinking of Rip ever since. And Rip knows that he may not survive another encounter with Greta, the woman he loved and lost after far too brief a time all those years ago. Could the fact that they've ended up in the same city at the same time, fighting what turns out to be the same fight be a good omen for them both? Perhaps Happily Ever After isn't out of the question after all?
Candy Houses manages to develop both Greta's and Rip's characters with a surprising level of depth and complexity as well as provide a truly taut and tense plot that moves quickly even as it offers a lot of world building and mythos creation to start this series. I'm impressed again at Walker's ability to use what length allowed in her novellas to provide such a full reading experience, and I think the twist on the fairy tale idea is brilliant.
The only caveat (IMO) was the final conflict at the end. With all the development and mythos explanation, Candy Houses is still limited to a novella length story, and there seems to have been a sacrifice made. There were motivations and explanations that didn't get explained, and the conflict with Big Bad ended up being a lot of hype with little hazard. It was a little of a letdown. Still, points for everything Walker manages to accomplish in this nifty little novella and I've already downloaded No Prince Charming so I can continue with these dark and delicious fairy tales.
Not The Fairy Tale of Our Youth Over three hundred years ago, a young noble woman named Giselle was swept up in a wild romance with a man she knew only...moreNot The Fairy Tale of Our Youth Over three hundred years ago, a young noble woman named Giselle was swept up in a wild romance with a man she knew only as Michael. She was the daughter of a baron, and unlike the fairy tale, she wasn't abused by her step mother, she wasn't hated by two step sisters - she only had the one, and that one was a friend and a sister to her. Also unlike the fairy tale, there was no happily ever after with Prince Charming for Cinderella. In fact, when she realized her Michael was the Prince Louis Michael III that had been betrothed to her step sister since they were both children, Ella realized the scope of her heartbreak. She'd given herself to a man who claimed to love her, but not enough to buck society and give up a well made match for such naive dreams as love. She ran from Michael and from their love.
And died doing so.
That night she rose again as a Grimm, a guardian angel that was tasked to go out in the world and save humanity from whatever evils threaten it. She never saw Michael again. And Michael never stopped loving her. He gave up his life for her, disappeared from history and from his family, and joined Elle on the side of the Grimm, and though he'd been told that one day he would get a chance to win Elle's forgiveness, and one day he'd be needed to risk his existence to save hers, he hadn't expected the wait to be quite so long.
Over three hundred years have passed. The call has finally come. Elle is on a mission to rid Sandusky, Ohio of a nest of succubi and incubi using a sex club as an all-you-can-eat buffet. She's called in her best friend and occasional lover, Ren, to assist her. She wasn't expecting the powerful Will, her boss and the Grimm's handler, to call an audible at the line of scrimmage...and she definitely wasn't prepared to see Michael for the first time in over three centuries. No Cinderella could prepare to see her Prince Charming after their chance at happily ever after had ended in agony, fear, and death.
I love this series and am so pleased with the originality of the concept behind it. Fairy tales we've loved as children have been brought into the present, their characters brought to life and their lives explained in new and fascinating ways. The Grimm brothers have nothing on Shiloh Walker, that's for sure. This dark, edgy series is ripe with sensuality and the depth of emotion that Walker portrays so well. I love the mythos she's created with her Grimm angels and think the twist on the HEA stories of old are unique and brilliantly imaginative. And Walker writes some smokin' sex scenes, too.
I got quickly hooked on this series when I stumbled across Candy Houses and quickly downloaded No Prince Charming when I finished it. I was blown away by Walker's creativity and couldn't wait to get my hand on more of it. I wish they were longer, though. They're not quite what I would consider full length novels, but they're longer than most novellas, and they are bursting with so much potential that I can only wish they were longer to see more of it realized in each story.
In No Prince Charming, I wish more time had been spent on the development of the plot conflict and explaining more of the world of Grimm's Circle. I felt Candy Houses did that a bit more comprehensively than this one did, but there's still room for more. There was plenty of relationship development between Elle and Michael, along with those glimpses of their past which I enjoyed, but that and the sexual relations overshadowed the issue with the succubi and inccubi and I felt that aspect of the plot lacked a little definition and depth. I wish there'd been more offered to broaden the Grimm mythos, as well.
The complex emotional angst between Michael and Elle and Ren was handled very well, and I couldn't help but feel deeply for Ren with his love of Elle. I wish his character had been fleshed out a little more, but I'm thrilled to know his story is coming up next. I'm still not sure exactly who he is, fairy tale-wise, but we'll see. I wasn't totally sold on the sexual relationship between the three of them at the club. Despite it being set up as necessary to capture the succubus queen's attention, I felt the scene compromised the development of Michael as a character. He'd been vehemently opposed to sharing Elle in any way, shape, or form and it had been well documented that his rage was mindless when Ren touched her before, so his active participation and his permission for Ren and Elle to enjoy each other for the time being seemed really out of character.
There were a couple of other contradictions and plot holes, as well. Elle had indicated her gift as a reflector worked well on demons and humans but not on other Grimm. She could sense their emotion a little, but not reflect it back. Then she did several times with Michael. And Michael's gift of mind control somehow morphed into mental communication back and forth with Elle when needed. I found that a little convenient when he'd claimed he'd never even tried to use the mind control on a fellow Grimm before. There were a few other similar scenes that brushed against my ability to suspend disbelief, as well.
Despite those issues, I think Walker has a gold mine of opportunity with this series. The creativity and originality is unparalleled and I'm thrilled to see where the next road leads. Walker has never disappointed me when it comes to dark, gritty, emotional tales with complex characters and layered motivations, and this series is really showing off how impressive she is as an author both stylistically and creatively. I hope it continues for a good long time.
I would caution sensitive readers that while I don't consider this novella an erotica romance (there's more plot issues and relationship issues than sex), nor a menage a trois story, the sex is graphically described and the novella contains scenes of unconventional sexual acts as well as scenes of multiple partner sex and sexuality.
"They called her vicious. They called her vindictive. They called her violent, volatile... But Graeme Lawson, arrogant bastard...moreDark, Powerful, and Erotic
"They called her vicious. They called her vindictive. They called her violent, volatile... But Graeme Lawson, arrogant bastard he was, he had simply called her his..."
This novella packs an emotional wallop that supersedes genre labels. Full of damaged, flawed characters leading damaged, flawed lives, you have to look really hard to find any good in the tragic lives of Vixen and the man she loves...the man she murdered...Graeme. With a sort of nebulous nod towards a more traditional mythology than normally exists in paranormal romance, the setting is simple and the plot deftly focused to encompass the shorter length of the book. Graeme is dead. Vixen killed him three years ago. She's the woman he loved - loves still - and he's relegated to an afterlife in what could be considered a purgatory of sorts, until a cowled being comes to him with a test and a task. If he succeeds, salvation and redemption for the woman he loves and for himself; if he fails, hell.
Sent back to a body that's not his own to save the woman who murdered him, Graeme is tossed back into a world of assassins and drug lords, killers, rapists and thieves. Vixen's boss pushes his deadly weapon closer and closer to her damnation with a job to kill an innocent, and Graeme fights to keep her firmly on this side of that line - as he fought all those years ago to get them both out of the game of death and pain. He can only pray that this time will be more successful than the last.
For its length, this book is surprising for it's sexual and primal power and the emotion it evokes. The plot has been bare-boned, to be sure, and there's not a lot of world or character development, but you don't really feel that lack when you're reading it because the relationship between Vixen and Graeme - seen through snippets of the past as well as experiencing it real time with the characters - is so intense and written with such dark decadence that any lack of either is easily ignored.
It was simply compelling. These are not terribly nice people - especially Vixen - and yet there is at their core a sense of vicious honorableness about them that makes them sympathetic. Any minor issues I had with the story weren't significant enough to detract from my enjoyment of the book and hardly merit a mention, but I will say I'm actually glad this wasn't a longer novel, as it was powerful enough at the novella length and anything superfluous would've detracted from the dark, emotional impact.
I didn't love it - it wasn't exactly that sort of book for me...too dark and the characters a little too flawed...the reading experience a bit too visceral...but I'll remember it. Keep in mind, this is an erotic fiction and the sex scenes are graphic and explicit, but in part because of the plot and the characters, and in part because they were very well written and searingly hot, they blended better with the story and the characters' natures than anything I've read for the last good long while. Really well done all around.
Not What I Was Expecting Doctor Jake McCoy has been in love with Dana Cochran since they were young. They've had an on again, off again relationship th...moreNot What I Was Expecting Doctor Jake McCoy has been in love with Dana Cochran since they were young. They've had an on again, off again relationship that's frustrated Jake beyond words. He doesn't dare tell her. He knows her too well. Whenever it comes to deep emotion, Dana keeps everyone at arms length. Playing, however, is her forte, and one night when a storm has taken out the power on the street they live on, Jake walks across to check on her, only to find her and her boyfriend in the back yard in an intimate situation. Dana comes off the porch to stand in the rain in front of him, and her entreaty is too much to resist. Ignoring his possessive nature and his dislike of her casual boyfriend Mason, he gives in to the woman he loves and joins them.
Dana knows that Mason is just a good time, that Jake is forever, but she's just interested in playing, enjoying her sexuality now that she has two men who will share her. She plays with them both, unconcerned, until one encounter with Jake changes her life. When you know you're going to be a mother, you start to realize either playtime is over...or you have to start playing for keeps. And telling Jake and Mason takes that to a whole other level.
What started out as a relatively simple menage a trois erotica romance novella with Walker's classic intense romantic angst takes a turn after that and becomes a much more serious and emotionally powerful and poignant story of love and unspeakable loss. I have nothing against the first part, really, but it lacked a bit in depth and character development for my tastes. The second part was so intense, however, and the emotions so vibrant and real as Jake and Dana try to survive a tragedy that shakes them to the soul, that it utterly eclipsed the beginning and made it seem shallow.
I can't say I enjoyed the second part - it was very dark for the genre - but it was very well written and felt very emotionally honest. I have to give Walker credit for the courage and strength to write something so personally devastating. I also have to admit I loved the end and appreciated the hope and joy and promise that was reintroduced. I may not have been expecting the breadth of the story in Playing for Keeps, but I'm glad I read it.
Points for Creativity and Sarcasm I have to admit, there were a few rocky patches in Zoe Winters' Kept, but there was also quite a bit to like, most no...morePoints for Creativity and Sarcasm I have to admit, there were a few rocky patches in Zoe Winters' Kept, but there was also quite a bit to like, most notably the snappy dialogue ripe with sarcasm and sardonic humor between the cat therian (don't use 'were,' they find it offensive) Greta and the big bad sorcerer (who's not nearly as bad as everyone thinks) Dayne. With a surprising amount of exposition that defines an intriguing world and unique mythos, Kept is rather an unusual novella. Most short stories and novella's I've read either focus more heavily on the relationships between the characters and are softer on plot and backstory, or focus almost exclusively on the plot and provide only sketchy ideas on the characters and the world around them. This novella fell into the in between.
Greta, bookstore owner and cat therian (turns into a domestic short hair) is just days away from the first full moon of her 28th year, a very important year for shifters, when a terse call from her mother draws her into spying on a conversation between her mother...who she finds out isn't her real mother...and her step father Simon...who is actually more than her step father and the leader of their tribe. What Greta learns there and what the woman she's always called mother tells her when Simon's back is turned has Greta fleeing to her best friend's house for some clothes before racing across town for the protection of the most powerful sorcerer in town, Dayne. But Dayne and Greta's tribe have an acrimonious history and Dayne isn't much in the mood to get played by another were, no matter how long and luscious her legs are. Greta is right, though, they each have what the other needs. Dayne has the protection and Greta has the blood, and if they could learn to trust one another, they'll both find real magic.
It's a great premise, and I really got a sense of the world Greta and Dayne live in, which surprised me, considering the length of the novella. I was equally surprised when I found myself chuckling now and again in several scenes between Greta and Dayne as well as their inner monologues. They were fun characters. Neither one were completely consistent; Greta especially flipped back and forth between independent, powerful woman and trembling potential victim with startling frequency, but I enjoyed spending some time with them.
It's just when anyone else was in the scene that the problems began in this novella. Greta's conversation with her best friend Charlee when she was first on the run from Simon seemed stilted, unnatural, and unbelievable, and conversation between Greta and Simon late in the novella was cliched and a bit too absurd to be truly threatening. That entire final confrontation seemed very ill conceived and oddly non-threatening, actually, and I had a hard time maintaining my willing suspension of disbelief through the final few chapters.
The relationship and dialogue with Greta and Dayne didn't have the same issues, though I do think there were parts to that I wish had been more fully developed and written out, as the sex scenes felt perfunctory and unsatisfying and the budding romance virtually nonexistent, but more importantly, lacking any sense of lasting emotion beyond embarrassment. I think the novella would have benefited from more time given to their relationship and certainly would have preferred it over the contrived conflict at the end.
I can't say this was the best novella I've ever read, but there certainly was enough promise to continue the novella series, and parts of this one I did like very much. I just hope the author continues to develop the character aspects of a story and fleshes out interactions between them. There's potential there and I hope to see it thrive.
Picking up where Kept ended, more or less, the vampire Anthony is reeling from the drugs he drew out of Greta when he came to Dayne's aid. In his flig...morePicking up where Kept ended, more or less, the vampire Anthony is reeling from the drugs he drew out of Greta when he came to Dayne's aid. In his flight from the circle in which Greta had been nearly killed he comes across Charlee's house, blitzed out of his mind and at the mercy of his demon. When he's near Charlee, the scent of her fear heightens senses already pushed to the brink and he feeds from her - almost drains her. Mindless with blood lust, he manages to keep from killing the young woman he's always enjoyed verbally sparring with, but when he wipes her memory of the event, Anthony accidentally wipes her entire memory. Charlee wakes up the next day with no idea who she is, where she is, or what's going on.
Charlee uses some deductive reasoning to hook up with Greta, who takes her to Dayne, who calls in Anthony. Over her friend's objection, Charlee goes with Anthony, who needs to protect Charlee from Linus, an ancient vampire in town for the centennial tournament to determine the king of the vampires for the country. Anthony's by no means a boy scout but Linus is pure evil, and he likes collecting mistakes like Charlee for his own nefarious purposes. Problem is, Charlee's memory might be gone, but she's not stupid, and she doesn't trust Anthony even before she finds out he's a vampire. After...well...lets just say she's got faith and a cross and isn't afraid to use either.
This is the second novella in the Blood Lust trilogy, and I was a little leery of it because I wasn't too fond of Charlee's character in the first one. What I did like about Kept, though, was the original and intriguing mythos and world building that Zoe Winters managed to expound on to pleasantly surprising levels and the sarcastic banter between the two lead characters.
I had similar hopes for Claimed, and some of them were realized. I again give credit to Winters for her ability to flesh out a world and define a species and its culture, in this case the vampires, in a way that's more comprehensive than some full length novels I've read. I also liked the widened scope of characters here, with Greta and Dayne playing a part in the beginning, and later seeing the addition of others that added to the plot development. I liked Anthony the first time around and appreciated the closer look I got of him in this one, as well.
I still think the narrative is a little choppy, especially at the beginning, and I had some problems with the dialogue throughout, though again, much more heavily towards the beginning. It too often seems stilted and inorganic to the characters or to any natural conversational progression. Internal monologues didn't suffer in quite the same way, though, and that was an improvement. I wish the beginning had been conceived differently, because I really had some issues with it, and didn't think the novella really started to grow on me until Charlee and Anthony were back at his place.
The biggest problem I had with Claimed, though, is in no way a critique of the story or the author, and really isn't anything that can be changed. I couldn't stand Charlee. That happens sometimes, personal preferences in characters sometimes just aren't met. It doesn't mean that someone else wouldn't like her, because it's totally subjective, but she represented quite a few of my own personal bugaboos for female lead characters. When suffering from amnesia she came across as too weak and easily led, and even her brief flashes of temper seemed more petulant than independent, and after the amnesia was resolved, she alternated between horrified and bitchy, neither of which I found attractive. I only wish there had been a detente with Anthony prior to the events in the Tournament, because without it, the change in their relationship seemed a bit too abrupt. Further details withheld to prevent spoilers.
I wish there had been more banter between Anthony and Charlee, because Winters did that really well in Kept, and I wish I didn't detest Charlee quite so much. I still have Mated to read yet, though, and I'm looking forward to it.
Fast and Fun Light Read Aidan is a futuristic transport pilot on the hook for her brother's gambling debts. Warwick is masked muscle for a corrupt busi...moreFast and Fun Light Read Aidan is a futuristic transport pilot on the hook for her brother's gambling debts. Warwick is masked muscle for a corrupt businessman as he saves up for the revenge of the death of his parents. When they meet up, sparks fly and worlds tremble.
Icy Heat isn't going to win any "best written book ever" awards, but I really liked it. And I don't usually like or read futuristic SciFi novels. Definitely character driven, this story is way more about the people, Aidan and Warwick, than it is about world building or plot development - and that's okay. I wasn't expecting it to be heavy in those areas. But what it is is surprisingly good with the characters.
Aidan is a control freak and has a history of not caring at all for physical contact. She's got a deep love and sense of obligation for her brother Zach, who is addicted to gambling and racking up big debt. I like that she's strong and smart without being a total bitch, and I was actually impressed with a particular scene in which she has to deal with the reality of killing a man. It wasn't focused on for long, but that there was any thought at all given to the complex emotions such an action stirs up, however accidental the killing, was a surprisingly fresh change on the kick-ass and almost conscienceless killer heroines of most urban fantasy/SciFi stuff I read.
Warwick is scarred and damaged from those scars, keeping his face and body hidden as his cold heart and colder life is given over to exacting revenge on the man responsible for his parents death and the scars he keeps hidden. When he meets Aidan and starts to spend time with her, his vulnerability shines through and makes him eminently likable. He really is what made me like the story as much as I did. The childlike confusion and wild hope when Aidan accepts him, scars and all, was so endearing.
There were huge gaps in the plot and I would've loved more definition in the world building, more glimpses of Aidan's and War's past, but it's a short book, novella length, and for what's there, I was satisfied that the core of the story was well represented. It also had quite a nice mix of action and danger that was pretty deftly written. The sex scenes were steamy, too! All in all, a pleasurably satisfying, if not extraordinary read.
Erotic Paranormal Prequel Aliyah Carter is being hunted by poachers, hunters that are a part of a smuggling ring that brings African predators to the m...moreErotic Paranormal Prequel Aliyah Carter is being hunted by poachers, hunters that are a part of a smuggling ring that brings African predators to the mountains of Colorado and releasing them to be slaughtered. Snatched in her cheetah form six months ago, the shifter Aliyah is racing for her life when an arrow pierces her flank. She manages to evade the poachers but is found by Duncan Kennedy, local sheriff, who is quite surprised to find a cheetah in his mountains, let alone one so grievously wounded. When one of the poachers sneaks up on Duncan while he's trying to aid the wounded feline, he's rescued by the surprising actions of the cheetah, and manages to get the large cat back to his cabin. But the surprises are just beginning when the top predator he leaves in his mudroom - arrow still sticking out of her flank - turns into a gorgeous female...with an arrow sticking out of her thigh. The world as Duncan knew it has changed forever, and Aliyah, feline to female and gorgeous with it, claws her way into Duncan's heart, then his bed. But the threat to her life and the threat to Duncan's mountain may tear them apart forever.
This short novella is a bit light on world building and character development, but the narrative is smooth and the plot quick-moving. The big game poaching is a relevant topic in this day and age and I liked that subject being addressed. I wish there had been a bit more care given to the development of the emotional relationship between Duncan and Aliyah, and that it had been given as much attention as the sexual relationship. I'm familiar with erotic paranormal romances, and prefer that their be a better balance between the sexuality and the emotion. That is the only complaint I had about this nifty little prequel to Maya Banks' Amber Eyes.(less)
Nice Set of PNR Holiday Novellas All I Vant for Christmas: Connor Drake's deepest holiday wish is an old fashioned Christmas the likes of which he fond...moreNice Set of PNR Holiday Novellas All I Vant for Christmas: Connor Drake's deepest holiday wish is an old fashioned Christmas the likes of which he fondly remembers from his humanity, full of family and love. His reluctant and recalcitrant younger brother and sister, however, can hardly be bothered. As a favor for her good friend, vampire matchmaker Angelina Ricci sends him Jillian Parker, a young...and human...event coordinator starting to make a name for herself. Jillian understands intellectually that vampires aren't the bloodthirsty monsters of books and movies, but working for one, being in his house, makes her decidedly nervous...the fact that Connor is gorgeous, intelligent, kind, and gorgeous (it bears repeating), makes her feel something else entirely.
With Jillian, Connor may get a much happier holiday than he'd ever dreamed, but only if the young woman can become comfortable with his vampire nature.
A Vampire in Her Stocking: Vampire Vivian Harrison is heartbroken when her boss Sean Spicer tells her he's dying. She's been in love with him for years. The announcement spurs her into wild waters and before she knows it, she and Sean have shared a single desperate moment of passion. The gaping loss following their time together threatens to crush her, until one evening, an unconscious and bow-wrapped Sean Spicer shows up on her couch, sporting a couple of fang marks on his neck and a new undead status...with a card from best friend Angelina Ricci, matchmaker and meddler, wishing her a Merry Christmas.
He never knew she was a vampire; she had no doubt he didn't want to be one. He may be the best present she's ever received, but Vivian has no illusions that Sean will have any interest in decking her halls when he finds out what's happened to him.
It's a Wonderful Bite: Despite the holiday cheer and comfortable life, despite the love of her long time lover Ian, matchmaker Angelina Ricci felt a yearning for more, for the tinsel on the tree, so to speak. As friends around her have found their mates (thanks to her), she feels an odd sort of need to have Ian take their relationship to a new level. But the vampire cop isn't exactly a hearts and romance sort of guy, and he's got no use for human traditions like marriage.
Waking up on Christmas morning is a shock, though, when Angelina realizes that she's stuck in a nightmare. She's human, and so is Ian. They're partners...but not in life. They're cop partners and Ian is married with children - he's someone else's husband, someone else's father. She's his lover on the side. And from all indications, that was her own fault. When their job...and she shudders at the thought...puts Ian's life in the gravest danger at the fangs of a group of rogue vampires, Angelina has to rely on skills limited by her human shell to save them both. Hoping all the while that the horrific nightmare will soon be over.
These three heartwarming and solid novellas are loosely connected through the character of Angelina Ricci, and Heidi Betts has done a good job instilling her romances with holiday warmth and a sensual heat. Betts is deft with character definition and does reasonably well providing three complete, satisfying stories with a limiting length. None are terribly complex in plot, nor are the characters overly complicated, but they don't have to be to be lightly entertaining and romantic.
The second title, A Vampire in Her Stocking, was my least favorite of the three. I didn't like the beginning and it took me a long time to warm up to Vivian, who I found to be a bit whiney and drippy, and Sean, who I thought was a bit thoughtless in his treatment of Vivian. Still, it was the first title, All I Vant for Christmas, that I felt was the least complete within its own pages, ending rather abruptly with several questions and plot threads dangling, though there were some very pleasing resolution and wrap up provided in exposition in the final story.
I enjoyed this set of holiday PNR romances. Each story had a very unique flavor and the plots were different enough to provide genuine variety, even with the thread of loose connection through them all. Overall, I found myself impressed with Betts, who I'd not read before, and interested in what she could create within the broader scope of a full length novel. She showed off a nice talent for plot creation and pacing, smooth narrative, sensual romance, and heated sexuality that would really shine in a longer-length format.
As a forensic accountant who has Friday night plans that include nothing more exciting than a bottle of wine and her couch to cap a hopelessly bad day...moreAs a forensic accountant who has Friday night plans that include nothing more exciting than a bottle of wine and her couch to cap a hopelessly bad day, Makenna James was desperate for that helping hand that was holding the elevator for her as she struggled with her bags in her rush to get out of the building. She didn't even get a chance to look at the Good Samaritan who was so patient before the elevator jerked to a stop and they were pitched into utter darkness. Perfect way to end a perfectly crappy day, that's for sure. In fact, the thought makes her laugh.
The laughter of the put-together redhead he had waited on was the only thing that kept Caden Greyson from tripping over into the panic attack that always hit him when he was caught in enclosed places in the dark, a phobia deeply instilled after a horrific childhood trauma. All he caught before the lights went out was the sweep of hair and a tight bottom, so he didn't even know what she looked like, but if he was going to make it out of the elevator sane and whole, he was going to have to depend on her soothing voice and inherent kindness.
Two strangers alone in the dark, needing the other to get through a trying time, and finding that when the superficial preconceptions that are the pitfalls of physical appearance is stripped away, all that's left is the heart of the person. And that heart can be just what you never knew you so desperately needed.
Short, sweet, and so very sexy, this novella by Laura Kaye was passionate, emotional, and satisfying. In a rather stunning way, I was captivated by these two characters as they reached out in the darkness and bared their souls. It's a simple story, really, but told with such poignancy and honesty that it touched me on an emotional level long before it heated up and thrilled me on a different level entirely.
The whole story felt truly, wonderfully genuine, and I loved how Makenna and Caden learned each other, how Makenna was the one who had to calm the troubled Caden, how his insecurities were just as apparent, not to mention deeper and more prevalent, than hers. That was a nice role reversal, and yet it didn't diminish the significance of Makenna's own insecurities. I especially like how simple yet almost profound it seemed that Caden's fears were raw in the dark, but Makenna's rushed forward after the lights came back on. That spoke to me as a surprisingly spot-on acknowledgement of one of the many intrinsic differences between men and women.
The sensuality and sexuality truly made this novella shine. It's been quite a long time...if ever...that I've read sex scenes that were just as emotionally moving as it was physically passionate. I freely admit I'm greedy. I wish this story had been longer. I just adored Caden and Makenna together and would really have loved spending more time with them. The ending though, was as poetic and hopeful as it was perfect for a conclusion. It capped a truly spectacular reading experience that just made me hungry for more of Laura Kaye's work. I'll be watching and eagerly waiting for more!
I'm Glad My Siblings Are Brothers Katie McCormick knows all about the concept of adding insult to injury. Not only is her spoiled younger sister marryi...moreI'm Glad My Siblings Are Brothers Katie McCormick knows all about the concept of adding insult to injury. Not only is her spoiled younger sister marrying Katie's ex-boyfriend in a four day event that is destined to make her stomach turn, but her mother is pushing her into accepting a date for the interminably long weekend with the son of her mother's best friend. Howie. They'd met once when Katie was thirteen and Howie about sixteen and the scrawny, nerdy brainiac didn't exactly endear himself to her. Her mother, though, is intent to torture her...though she's couched it in concern for hard family questions about her still-single status.
Howard Jackson Kent, who goes by Jackson now, is equally disdainful of the idea when his mother pushes onto him the idea of accompanying Katie as her date. He remembers their one meeting years ago. Katie intimidated the heck out of him and threatened to beat him up. It was a less than auspicious beginning that he had no intention of seeing go any further. Nobody, however, can manipulate like a mother, and he reluctantly agreed as he girded himself for a weekend of torture.
When they meet again, however, it's blatantly clear to both that the years have been kind. Katie's turned into a real cutie and Jackson's the definition of eye candy. As they get reacquainted and find out they have quite a lot in common, a new friendship and sparks of attraction fly fast and hard. Maybe their mothers weren't such horrible tyrants after all. And maybe it's true...love is really always in the last place you look.
I had a pretty good idea very early into this novella that I wasn't going to be as happy with it as I'd hoped. Katie's sister not only stole her boyfriend, but is marrying him a year later. That's just skanky. And while Katie is now over it, I couldn't help but genuinely loathe her sister for that...and for every single scene she was in. The spoiled, petulant witch needed to have her bouquet stuck somewhere far less pleasant, let me tell you.
But the story isn't about her sister. It's about Katie and Jackson. They were fine characters, though a little two dimensional. There's not a lot of time to develop characters in short novellas such as this, though, so I'm pretty forgiving about that. I'm less forgiving about the cliched aspects of the plot (five minutes in and I knew exactly when I'd see Katie and her ex come face to face), and as a reader, I hate romances that shove strangers together and have them falling in love and getting engaged days after meeting (or, as in this case, re-meeting). I'm all for Happily Ever After, don't get me wrong, but it's so hard to maintain a suspension of disbelief in those cases. It didn't work for me at all.
The wedding festivities were, admittedly, over the top with the hijinks, but there was also plenty of humor there and I did appreciate how Jackson handled some of Katie's less than pleasant relatives and a few dicey situations. In fact, I don't have any complaints about either of them as characters and am forgiving of most of the constraints that the novella-length story put on the plot. It was the overall concept of the plot, the wretched sister from hell, and the completely implausible culmination of their weekend that I didn't like.
~* 3.5 Stars *~ When Detective Gage Corwin finds out that his best friend has ended up married after being given a love potion sold by alleged white wi...more~* 3.5 Stars *~ When Detective Gage Corwin finds out that his best friend has ended up married after being given a love potion sold by alleged white witch Kole Trillion, he made it his mission in life to nail her for fraud. He doesn't believe in magic, the idea of love potions is absurd, and Kole has to be a slick con artist to take such advantage of her gullible patrons. Problem is, he can't seem to find one single person to say anything bad about the woman, much to his annoyance. In fact, every person Kole has "helped" does nothing but sing her praises, including his best friend, who has never been happier. It's driving him nuts. Kole drives him nuts. He can't stop thinking about her but he doesn't trust her as far as he could throw her.
Kole is secure in herself and her power, happy with her business, and other than having distressingly strong feelings for a cop who holds everything she is and does in contempt, lives a deeply satisfying life helping as many people as she can. And she's content to go right on doing that until Gage takes things one step too far and gets himself shot by Cupid's arrow for his impertinence. Of course, the stubborn mule blames her.
Love isn't supposed to hurt like this, and unless Gage can start seeing the truth behind that arrow in his heart he may very well lose the best thing that hasn't happened to him yet.
Treading the line between short story and novella, this simple but sweet romance with a touch of magic appeals on a lot of levels. There's not much room for a significant amount of character development or plot, but O'Neal has a pleasant writing style and an ability to flesh out her main characters quickly enough that they still pack an emotional punch.
The premise is a little silly, the plot a bit predictable, and Gage is sort of a ninny through most of it, but it's just light, fun entertainment that ends on a happy note. I do wish Cupid had played a more visible role throughout and I thought the ending was jarringly abrupt, but there was enough to provide a few fluffy bites of pleasure regardless. It also got me interested in what O'Neal could do with a longer format. I'll be looking for more from her.
Emotional and Thorough Novella Evan Carlton, Earl of Westfeld, deeply regrets his bullying past and the emotional wounds he inflicted on Lady Elaine Wa...moreEmotional and Thorough Novella Evan Carlton, Earl of Westfeld, deeply regrets his bullying past and the emotional wounds he inflicted on Lady Elaine Warren. At nineteen, he had been drawn to her vibrant laughter and effervescent personality, but was awkward with his affection, and to get her attention, he needled her, picked on her, pointed out her flaws. His contemporaries, members of a waspish high society, thought him hilarious and fell on her like a pack of wolves, pushing her, embarrassing her, attacking relentlessly.
When he realized how far the abuse he started went, he tried to stop it, but he watched in horror as Lady Elaine became more and more reticent, more withdrawn, until she no longer laughed, or smiled, and a chilling disconnected politeness had replaced her effervescence. He left England as a result, and after a decade has finally returned to the soil of his birth, still riddled with guilt for damage he caused a woman he admired...a woman he still loves.
For ten years Lady Elaine has kept her spine straight and her back pressed tight against the wall, mingling in society as her family position dictated, but trying to avoid the vicious harpies of the ton as much as possible. Then the source of all her pain steps back into her life after ten years and starts spouting lies shaped like apologies and regret. Believing him would be the height of folly. Trusting him is beyond her capabilities. He can't undo the damage he's done. Ever.
Milan's Unlocked is the most thorough, comprehensive novella I've read to date. I was amazed by the depth and breadth of the story, and impressed by the intensity of emotion it encompasses. It's not even a terribly long novella, yet the character development was complete, the plot robust, and the romance a sweeping and heart-gripping journey that defies the limiting parameters of its length.
Evan's backstory was intense, his emotions genuine, his actions in the past reprehensible but the ammends he tries to make are touching and inspire respect. The wounds Elaine carries are realistic, her actions believable, her frustrations, the scars on her heart and soul ultimately sympathetic. There was so much emotion imbued into these characters and a stunning amount of development given to the journey from pain into forgiveness and love.
This very well crafted novella is one of the best I've ever read, and it provides incontrovertible proof that a story doesn't have to be long to be well rounded and completely entertaining. Fans of romance would do well to give this one a try, and as I'm not a particularly large fan of historical romance, I can state with authority that it satisfies even beyond genre preferences. Very well done and a must read.
~* 3.5 Stars *~ I Wanted More From This Novella Ciara Liung is a Finder for Karmic Consultants and her services are contracted out to the FBI to find st...more~* 3.5 Stars *~ I Wanted More From This Novella Ciara Liung is a Finder for Karmic Consultants and her services are contracted out to the FBI to find stolen jewels. She's got an 85% jewel recovery percentage rate but a 0% bad guy capture rate, and that's a bit of a problem for her new handler, FBI guy Nate Smith, who thinks Ciara is crooked as hell. No one's that good on recovery and that bad on helping secure arrests, and the bogus psychic crap is a joke. Gorgeous shut-in who's only psychic when she's naked and floating in water? Not in Smith's world.
But Ciara's on the up and up, she really is psychic and she really does need the water and the absence of clothes when she's Finding to focus her gift and prevent psychic dissonance. She's spent the last ten years stuck in her home, unable to touch people and unwilling to risk psychic feedback if she goes out in public. Nate's belief or disbelief matters little to her, until he starts rattling her cage about her being a criminal.
The theft of Monaco's royal jewels threatens to blow up into an international incident, and Nate's planning on using the theft to prove Ciara's guilt. He drags her along with him when her gift points them to Atlantic City, but things don't quite go as planned. Instead of uncovering a mess of dirty little secrets and proving her guilty, Nate starts to believe. And believing is infinitely more dangerous for them both.
I'm a huge fan of this Karmic Consultants series, and I get more and more impressed with Vivi Andrews as I go along. This is a quick, funny read with two characters who strike a lot of wickedly fun sparks off each other. The narrative is smooth, there's lots of witty repartee between the characters, and the characters were pretty well developed for the short length of the novella.
I'm disappointed this wasn't a full length novel, though. I loved The Ghost Exterminator and The Sexorcist. Both of those were novel-length and provided all the sexy fun, romance, and plot a fan could hope for. The Naked Detective suffered from the limitations of its length.
The biggest problems I had were with the too-quick change of heart Nate goes through and the sudden about-face of Ciara's gift while they're together in Jersey. Neither were well supported in the plot or satisfactorily explained, and both could have been handled much better with more room to develop than they were given. Of lesser concern, but a concern just the same was the perfunctory and abrupt development and climax of the plot thread with the jewel thieves. I was very disappointed in that.
The Naked Detective isn't a bad novella. Vivi Andrews writes characters with shining personality and puts them in situations, or has them thinking or saying things, that make me chuckle. Overall I liked what was there in this novella; my issues were with what wasn't. The main characters are likable (well, they are once Nate yanks that cane out of his...um...yeah) and the set up for the story was sound, with lots of juicy character and plot development potential. I would have really enjoyed seeing that potential more fully realized in a novel.
Mostly Empty Calories French chef Luc Tessier's ego is second only to his sexual appetites, and his mastery in the kitchen...over food and lovers...is...moreMostly Empty Calories French chef Luc Tessier's ego is second only to his sexual appetites, and his mastery in the kitchen...over food and lovers...is legendary. English food critic Daniel Sheridan isn't nearly as enamored of either the food or the legend. In fact, Daniel has been openly critical of Luc's cooking in several media forums. Luc hates the man with a passion. That doesn't mean that his pride would allow him to do anything but rise to the challenge when he's informed that Daniel was coming to his restaurant to critique the menu, the food, and by default, the chef.
With images of dominating the faceless foodie stiffening his swizzle stick, Luc cooks each course to his exacting standards, determined to wow the critical critic. When his maître d' informs him that the man has arrived, and Luc gets a look at him, he almost gives himself a serving of his own tongue. How could he not have known that Daniel Sheridan was the most gorgeous man he'd ever seen?
With his reputation on the line and his lust unbridled, at the end of the meal Luc finally comes face to face with his adversary. Domination fantasies still flying in his mind, he offers Daniel a tour of his kitchen, then proceeds to show the critic just how good he is in it...to their mutual pleasure. Shocked by the intensity of the experience, playboy and manslut Luc is suddenly dealing with an emotion beyond his own arrogance, but just as he's ready to admit that his time with Daniel was much more than a one-off, Daniel slaps at the chef with his own pride and sweeps out in a huff.
One captivated chef with entitlement issues, one uptight food critic who is no man's amuse-bouche. The path to happiness has never been quite so calorie-laden.
I enjoyed several aspects of Scarlet Blackwell's series debut novella. This is my first experience with Blackwell, and as a fan of all sorts of cooking shows (can't cook, don't want to learn, love watching - ah, the wonderful contradiction that is me) I enjoyed the setting and the characters' occupations quite a lot. The writing was polished and the story flowed nicely. It was short, and as an erotic novella the focus was on the sexuality of the story. The development of the relationship between the characters was very limited, but Blackwell showed off some skill with a smooth narrative that captured my attention. The sex scenes were explicit and graphic and very sexy. If it weren't for one tiny problem, I would have loved that aspect of it.
Unfortunately, the lead characters were the problem. They were odious. Luc's complete arrogance and slut puppy ways were problem enough. I sure wouldn't eat in his restaurant knowing how he treated his cooking surfaces. That's just unhygienic! And just as his character started to improve and I started finding his over-the-top determination to woo Daniel sort of endearing, Daniel - who I found a bit bitchy but not too bad at first - became a complete ass when he met up with Luc the second time.
I never bought for one minute that this romance was based on affection, as both characters were almost completely unlikable to me and even to each other throughout most of the story. Maybe had their been more time to display a more organic about-face on Luc's part and someone had pulled the gigantic stick out of Daniel's derriere (bopping his head with it a few times once removed wouldn't have hurt, either), I would have enjoyed this story a lot more. As it stands, Just Desserts is just too full of empty calories to satisfy.
A Toasty-Warm Read For Any Cold Night Still crippled by grief from the loss of her husband two years ago, Megan Snow is holed up alone in their...her m...moreA Toasty-Warm Read For Any Cold Night Still crippled by grief from the loss of her husband two years ago, Megan Snow is holed up alone in their...her mountain cabin. Christmas is the worst, the two year anniversary of his death, and being with family and friends is unthinkable. Alone is better. Marginally. Or...as the pain of loss threatens to crush her, pushing her out into the snow, nearly compelling her to exhaust herself just so she can sleep, maybe alone isn't the best thing at all.
But she did get a snowman family made while she was out there. The sight of which, father, mother, and child snowman representing the family that she would never have, made her break down completely. Her tears soaked into the largest of the three as she crumpled against it, lost, alone, and in so much pain she couldn't see straight.
She'd made it back inside before the blizzard hit, the fierce storm battering the cabin and pounding the snow against the outer walls. It was the sort of storm that could kill if you're caught in it, so when Megan hears the sound of something slam down on her porch, she's horrified to open the front door and find a man, unconscious and freezing, lying there.
Owen Winters opens his eyes to the concerned gaze of Megan Snow, the woman whose tears and grief had cried out to him and drawn him to the corporeal plane. As a god of winter he has until the next thaw to endear himself to her if he has any hope of remaining. Unless Megan falls in love with him as he had her before he even spoke to her, he'll lose her and any hope of becoming human.
The one constant between the three vastly different Laura Kaye books I've read is this: they've reached into my heart and squeezed. Her books are full of sweeping emotion that run the gamut and her characters are so believable that I can't help but be drawn into their lives, feeling for their loves, their pains, their miseries, and their joys. Her books are a sure bet for emotionally satisfying entertainment.
In this paranormal romance series debut, Kaye also thrills with some genuinely original mythos and unique world building, providing both a fresh sense of fun and relief from a market glutted with vampires, werewolves, angels, and demons. I loved the introduction to the Anemoi, and thought the blend of mythology and real world global climate issues was a brilliant element that added a particularly appealing layer of logical plausibility to a wildly imaginative world.
Megan and Owen were solid, likable characters. Megan's grief and guilt were poignant and painful, and Owen's enthusiasm for life...and for Megan...was infectious. They had great chemistry. I would have preferred the evolution of their relationship to not be quite as condensed as it was, though. My reading preferences lie in a slower, more organic romantic relationship development. Less than a week between Megan's sobbing grief and her willingness to embrace both the supernatural elements of Owen's existence and a new love in her heart seemed a bit of a stretch, even for the romantic in me.
I liked Owen a lot. He was charming and cute in a totally endearing sort of way. I have to admit, though, I prefer my leading men to be a little more intense alpha male. For all that I enjoyed him, there were times when he reminded me more of a big, enthusiastic puppy than a sexy winter god. His love of ice cream was cute. Making an igloo was cute. Hell, even his mismatched eyes and aw-shucks personality were cute. Cute just doesn't totally crank my personal engine for male romantic leads.
The storyline may not have had a lot of surprises, as it followed a fairly predictable formula, but the creativity of the world building, originality of the mythos, and the appeal of the characters more than made up for it. I'm excited to see what Kaye comes up with next in this wonderful world she's created. I have no doubt it'll pack an emotional punch. I have no doubt it'll be a thoroughly entertaining read with both sweet and sexy moments. I have absolutely no doubt that when I read it, it'll leave me feeling good. That, beyond all else, is what Kaye books do, after all.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Entangled Publishing, LLC via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
~* 4.5 Stars *~ Fun, Funny, and Sweet Losing her mother to cancer robbed Deri Crandall of the only family who ever loved her. The only family she had, r...more~* 4.5 Stars *~ Fun, Funny, and Sweet Losing her mother to cancer robbed Deri Crandall of the only family who ever loved her. The only family she had, really, until she tracked down her father - who had been little more than a sperm donor to begin with. His side of the family called her "The Mistake," but still she'd do anything to be a part of them, to be accepted and respected. They were all she had left.
That's the only reason she told her grandfather that she'd spy on the family's largest corporate rival. It's why she agreed to sneak in as an employee and turn over whatever she could find to the family she's trying to impress. She didn't intend to actually do it, of course, but she thought, maybe, if she showed she was willing, they would at least see her as valuable. It's not like her low-level internship with their rival is likely to make her privy to many company secrets, anyway. Especially after getting hurt on the job and falling on of one of the company workers, a gorgeous man named Cole. His obvious interest in her makes her pulse pound and thrills her beyond belief.
It's too bad when she finds out he's the head of the company she'd been sent to spy on.
Young owner and company CEO Cole Harrety had loved starting his business and building it into the cutting edge market-driver it had become. He was just a little bored with running it now that the challenge was gone. That is, until the curvy, sexy, and sweet Deri Crandall literally fell into his lap...almost breaking an ankle in the process. The force of her personality and the guilelessness of her smile flips a switch for Cole that he hadn't known existed. Sweet, pretty Deri just totally does it for him. Even though he has a strict rule against dating his employees.
There's just something about Deri. Something he wants to further explore. And he will...if she'd just quit running away from him...
I loved this novella so much! I adored Deri and Cole and thought the beginning was fabulously fun. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for stories that make me literally laugh out loud, and this one gave me several chuckles most of the way through it, so I couldn't help but be hooked quick and hard.
Deri, for all her neediness and weakness in relation to her "family" - usually big stumbling blocks for me - was a charming delight who tickled me to no end. She's quirky and clumsy, doesn't have the best self image, and lets her family walk all over her for whatever crumbs they deign to dish out. Still, she's inherently honest, despite all contrary evidence, intensely self-deprecating, and has a sunny disposition and a huge heart. She made me laugh at all the trouble she manages to get herself into. I would have liked her to be a bit more honest with Cole from the beginning, but I at least understand her reasons for not doing so, and I respected her for walking away from Cole when she realized who he is. Or for trying to anyway. Cole certainly didn't make it easy.
Cole was a charmer, that's for sure. I adored that he could see beyond the clumsy, less-than-perfect Deri and appreciate her for her warmth and heart. I loved how quickly and totally he fell under her spell. And I thought his frustration at her gentle rejections was cute and endearing. I was less than fond of something he did late in the book, though. That was pretty reprehensible to me, given the situation at the time, and honestly, it was the only element in the book that gave me significant problems. I don't think he grovelled enough to make up for his hurtful behavior.
I would have liked Deri to stand up for herself more in relation to a family that obviously had no respect for her whatsoever, but her yearning for family was sympathetic, even if her choices weren't the mark of a woman with a healthy level of self respect. I also wasn't convinced that Deri's grandfather's reactions in the conclusion were organic to his nature and the situation at the time. Beyond those minor issues, and the one major one with Cole, I couldn't help but be completely enchanted with this lovely little bite of contemporary romance.
It's light, fluffy, sexy fun, sure. Exactly the sort of tale I consider brain candy. Believe me, I was desperately in the mood for some yummy brain candy just like this. It hit most of my Happy Reader buttons, and left me smiling wide and feeling quite pleased about the whole of the read.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by the author for review. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
~* 3.5 Stars *~ Cute and Lively Slap any name on it you want, but Jake Taggart has been captivated by the woman who lives in the house beside the site o...more~* 3.5 Stars *~ Cute and Lively Slap any name on it you want, but Jake Taggart has been captivated by the woman who lives in the house beside the site of the road construction job he's supervising. He's seen her every day for the three days he's been on site, and it's like a piece of her essence has staked out real estate in his brain or something. He thinks about her. He looks for her. And yeah, okay, maybe there's been a fantasy or two...or ten. Who could blame him? She's gorgeous, and she has an air about her, about the way she walks...the way her hair shines and bounces...the way her lips curve when she smiles...
Damn, he's becoming a mooning fool over a woman he hasn't even spoken to. That's actually a little disturbing. Then, out of nowhere on the morning of the third day, she steps in to save him from a brutal, crushing death and his definition of disturbing becomes a lot more...complicated.
With only five weeks until her twenty-fifth birthday, Kat Richetti had resigned herself that her family's magical legacy would pass her by. She hadn't had the vision that would identify her soul mate and lead her to her destiny, and she is perfectly okay with that. Kat's comfortable with her power and abilities as they are and enjoys using them to both help people and build an enterprising business. She was so sure the family tradition would pass her by, in fact, she'd recently applied for a loan to expand that business. She certainly doesn't have time for soul mates and destinies.
Then she runs into the handsome man who has been working next to her townhouse the past few days and she's hit with the vision. Seeing the impending accident before it happens, Kat manages to save his life, but even as she high-tails it away from the shaken man that morning, she knows. Destiny had come knocking, after all. Now, if she doesn't convince a complete stranger that they are soul mates before she turns twenty-five, she'll not only lose out on the potential increase in her powers, she'll lose all of her magical abilities and both she and Jake will be doomed to never know peace again.
As Kat's carefully planned future starts to spin out of control, she knows one thing. Five weeks isn't very much time to convince a love-weary man that not only is magic real, but a meddling destiny has changed both their lives forever.
One of the things that I liked most about this cute romance was the thorough world-building and the delicate attention Mennen gives to establishing a lovely, realistic background and solid family connections for her characters. In my experience, that's a rare thing in novella-length fiction. The creativity of the mythos and the its explanation in the narrative were handled well, and the story has well-rounded and nicely fleshed out secondary and ancillary characters who add depth and weight to the main characters' lives.
I loved the beginning. Jake was so cute as he argued with himself over his attraction to Kat, and I thoroughly enjoyed Kat's reaction to her destiny. I'm fairly ambivalent about HEAs via the destined soul mate scenario - it's a little overdone in paranormal romance for my tastes, but there was just enough spin on it in this story that I found it appealing. Kat and Jake were both likable characters and they fit nicely together as a couple. Plus, Jake is a single father and I have a fondness for them in romance fiction.
For me, the arc of their romance wasn't as successful as I would have liked. The depth and richness in the world-building, the many secondary characters, and the evolution of Jake's paradigm shift were given so much page time and thorough construction that the actual romance threads between him and Kat didn't have the room they needed to fully satisfy me.
Instead, the progression came in snapshots and glimpses of scenes, condensed as time passed. There was plenty of relationship conflict inherent in Jake's new world view, but not enough of the story focused on Kat and Jake alone together to really allow me to fully embrace the story of their path to love and HEA. It's a shame, because there was so very much to really love in this series debut. The love story elements just weren't among them for me.
Given how much I enjoyed Mennen's breezy writing style and the tongue-in-cheek humor she wielded so efficiently, as well as appreciated the depth and creativity in the non-romantic elements, I certainly enjoyed this one enough to want to continue with the series. Especially as it's not uncommon for subsequent books to have more room to focus on character relationships when the world has already been established. I foresee great things for Mennen and her Enchanted Destiny series.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Entangled Publishing via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Short but So, So Good Medium Rachel Miller is pulling double duty, serving Vancouver in her job as a member of the Order of Rescue Mediums and acting a...moreShort but So, So Good Medium Rachel Miller is pulling double duty, serving Vancouver in her job as a member of the Order of Rescue Mediums and acting as a supernatural sensei to newbie rodach Kit Eckeles, the young man she saved from being exorcised a few weeks previously. Of course, the ORM doesn't know she has the sometimes-wraith living with her. That would definitely be awkward to explain.
It's also the least of Rachel's problems, because three bodies have turned up at the Vancouver General Hospital morgue. Nothing unusual with that on the surface, but their cause of death is a problem. Each victim had their souls violently ripped out and eaten, and each were members of the supernatural community.
Vancouver had a reaper on its hands, a voracious killing machine that may just be stronger than anything Rachel can throw at it. And that's if she can keep from being its next entree.
It makes no sense that the short novellas of this series are so damned kick-ass good, with their rich world building and well-developed tales, but Hoar has a true gift for packing a hell of a fictional punch in very small packages. This is the second in the urban fantasy novella series, and I am absolutely a total addict. I love the plot, I love the world, and I am totally wild for the characters.
Despite the short length, the backstory, mythos, and plot threads are finely crafted and delivered in such a way that the story feels like it's a lot longer than it is. Hell, I've read full novels that don't have the same level of detail and complexity of world and characters, so this is a true treat.
There's even a lot going on in the background, characters with their own agendas working for and against Rachel as the main plot arc of the story unfolds. That sort of sub-plotting and subtle foreshadowing is virtually unheard of in stories of this length. I wouldn't have thought it could be done quite so well if I hadn't read it myself. Plus, Rachel is a great main character, strong, independent, and capable in her job, so she makes an excellent heroine. There just isn't anything that I don't love about this story or the series.
Oh. Wait. Yes, there is one thing. This second installment is it for the foreseeable future because there are only two published stories in the series, and according to the Hoar's blog, the third is a work in progress. Who knows when or even if it'll be available any time soon. What?! NO! I need more of Rachel and her ghost-kicking, rodach-teaching, Vancouver-saving life! What a total bummer it will be, not to mention waste of spectacular writing ability, if this awesome series doesn't continue soon.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Carina Press via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.(less)
~* 3.5 Stars *~ Fun, Actually Calapooya College grad student and tutor Paul is an intellectual elitist and a cynical bastard who loathes jocks on princi...more~* 3.5 Stars *~ Fun, Actually Calapooya College grad student and tutor Paul is an intellectual elitist and a cynical bastard who loathes jocks on principle and is no more fond of frat boys. It's a wonder the guy ever gets laid.
Booted from his old apartment for treating his former roommate's new boyfriend like the jock boy toy he is, Paul is stuck tutoring lunkheads all summer long. He needs the money to get out of the dorms and into his own place before fall session starts. Then he gets a specific request for his tutoring services from the new head coach of the Calapooya woman's softball team.
No. Absolutely not. Paul has a strict "no athletes" policy, and he has no qualms about meeting with the coach and explaining that to the man. At least he doesn't until he actually gets into the guy's office. Then there's all sorts of qualms. And maybe an emotional meltdown or ten.
Calapooya's new softball coach is former Major League Baseball player Trevor Gardiner, the man who betrayed and humiliated Paul back in high school, back when they were boys...and earnest boyfriends...until he and Trevor were caught in an incriminating position and Trevor threw Paul under the bus and out of the closet to save himself.
Everything, absolutely everything Paul had hoped and dreamed about Trevor died a horrifically disillusioned, brutal death that afternoon. And now he's at Paul's school. Retired from baseball and out of the closet, Trevor claims to want nothing more than to make up for the mistake he made nine years ago. He claims to want to try for something real between them again. And he claims to be so very, very sorry.
Yeah, well, there's no way that Paul is going to fall for that line, no matter the hoops Trevor is willing to jump through. It would be emotional suicide. The only way he would be insane enough to even consider risking it would be for love...hypothetically.
This followup to Tenino's charming Frat Boy and Toppy isn't a perfect read. Beyond some pretty extensive editing issues that I hope are polished out in the final version, it's also got some story issues that caused some problems for me. The story is short, even for a novella, and there were a few scenes that I felt could have better served the tale had they been focused elsewhere. Like on character development.
Paul's character is pretty limited in nature to the prick he's always been, but at least he felt familiar to me from his introduction in the first book. Trevor isn't even that lucky. There is almost no page time given to fleshing out or defining his character at all. Readers who prefer depth in character should be warned. There is little to be found here.
It was impossible for me to even consider Trevor a main character, actually. He wasn't in as many of the scenes as I was expecting. Unfortunately, that limited the relationship development between him and Paul quite a lot. I also thought the end of the story was a little rough and too abrupt, and felt the frat house tie-in seemed a bit awkward and forced.
Thing is, though, this story still worked for me. I was not a fan of Paul in the first book, and I don't particularly care about the reason given in this one to explain his prickish behavior and attitude. I don't think just knowing his caustic, bitter personality is born from pain and betrayal redeemed his character. It explained it, yes, and I certainly felt for the boy he used to be. It didn't redeemed the man he is now, though. Not for me.
Something else did that. And that's when I started to notice how much I was enjoying this read. Tenino has this gift for capturing awkwardness in her characters and making it endearing. She did it with Brad throughout the first book, Sebastian towards the end of it, and when Paul's not being an utter ass (which is, admittedly, often), she manages to flush out his tender little underbelly here, too.
Paul's scene with Toby in the bar, that whole hypothetical situation they discussed as Paul battles ice cubes and citrus garnish, was flat-out cute. The scene that really put it away for me, though, was the one in Sebastian and Brad's apartment. It wasn't just the conversation between the three men that appealed, though that was stellar, but also the internal goings on in Paul's head, the thoughts and feelings he's having while they're conversing. I absolutely adored that whole scene to the point that it elevated my overall appreciation for the entire read.
Keeping in mind the length of the tale and accepting the story for what it is helped me enjoy this one. I am really starting to dig Tenino's writing style and her sharp, sardonic wit. Her characters aren't quite the most individual I've ever read (Sebastian and Paul seem pretty interchangeable in a lot of ways), but there is something very appealing about them. And their stories. It helps that Tenino is absolutely no slouch in the yummy sex department, too. So...any chance we'll see Collin's story? I'm still waiting on that one.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Riptide Publishing via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own. ~*~*~*~ Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.(less)