Publisher: Berkley Publish Date: 4 Feb How we got this book: ARC from the publisher
Driven to win. Drawn to love.
Fresh from university, Eliza Hardison is determined to crusade for worker’s rights until her cousin Dexter, the Makesmith Baron, prevails on her to represent Hardison House in the American Dominion Sky and Steam Rally.
The competition is fierce, but only one opponent really matters to Eliza. Dexter’s protégé, Matthew Pence, was always like a big brother to her. But now she’s grown up, and Matthew has made a break from Hardison House with his own business venture—and his own entry in the rally.
Matthew intends to win while keeping Eliza safe on the perilous route from New York to San Francisco. But as the threats escalate through treacherous skies and uncharted American wilds, Eliza and Matthew must work together, discovering a bond deeper than either could have imagined… but is winning the rally more important than winning at love? This blurb came from the author’s website.
E: I read and reviewed Dryden’t first steampunk Gossamer Wing last year and found it very enjoyable. So when I received Scarlet Devices for review I was excited. When I found myself making notes of quotes I enjoyed early in the story I knew I was in for a treat. I liked how this was set in the same world but took place in a different geographic area with threats outside of the spy game.
Marlene: I had heard so many good things about Gossamer Wing, that I actually bought it from Amazon, so when the the second book in the series came up for review, I decided it was high time I read the first one. Gossamer Wing was absolutely delicious. (Review at Reading Reality) The alternate history is a treat, and the author makes the “fake relationship” really zing! Scarlet Devices was just as much fun, but uses a different setting and new characters to explore a vast new part of her world.
E: Dryden combined the temperance movement, women’s rights, universal suffrage, and the steampunk equivalent of The Amazing Race as Matthew and Eliza learn who they are and what is really important. Eliza was interested in engine and tinkering with them but she focused her activities towards equal rights and protection for the common worker. Her efforts were rather futile and after a discussion with her cousin and his wife, Charlotte, she decided to take Dexter up on his offer and pilot his new vehicle in the American Dominion Sky and Steam Rally. She also agreed because winning would have the added benefit of annoying her cousin’s former apprentice, Matthew. Matthew thought he was rather enlightened and forward thinking but the last thing he wanted was Eliza participating in anything as potentially dangerous as the rally. Since he was unable to stop her, he decided he would watch out for her as best as he could but he wasn’t expecting the extent of danger along the race course. Watching them strike sparks off of each other as they worked together was very entertaining.
Marlene: The Sky and Steam Rally created a ton of opportunities for dangerous adventure and suspense, and the progression of Matthew’s and Eliza’s relationship fit incredibly well within the framework of miles raced, checkpoints and obstructions. As they traveled across the U.S., their own personal journeys, both towards each other and towards a decision about what they each really wanted out of life, proceed in tandem. Their relationship uses the trope about former childhood frenemies discovering they aren’t children any longer, while the race gave them each a chance to see what they themselves, and the other, were really made of. The dangerous conditions of the race, and the bonding between all the participants, also reminded me a lot of the Iditarod, the sled dog race between Anchorage and Nome. It is extremely dangerous, incredibly real, and even the losers get a prize because of just how difficult the race is.
E: I like those points you made regarding progression of the race and their personal journey. Now that you have brought it up, I can see the resemblance to the Iditarod. Like that race the updates tend to contain how many racers are left. As I was reading Scarlet Devices, I kept trying to count and figure out exactly how many competitors were left at each race pit stop. I thought the variety of different reasons people left the competition said a lot about the inherent danger of a rally along with some very effective sabotage. The mystery behind the sabotage was also fascinating on a couple of layers. It seemed as if the competitors while they were willing to form alliances were also on the look out for interference but were not expecting any outside concerns besides the unpredictable environment. Having a third player so to speak involved really increased the stakes for not just Matthew and Eliza but the other racers.
Marlene: The shifting alliances between the racers made it difficult to figure out what the big threat was, which ramped up the tension and sense of danger within the story. It made sense that they formed very loose teams, it seemed like a less formal version of the Tour de France teams. It added to the verisimilitude because it seemed logical. The deeper the logic layers, the easier to suspend disbelief on the parts that were less grounded in reality. The real mystery behind the interference with the race and with Eliza personally turned out to be a bit “out there”. I guessed who it was, and eventually why, but the evil dude himself was a bit past the crazysauce stage. Including the classic supervillain “I’m going to tell you my entire plot before I kill you spectacularly” speech. BWAHAHAHA
E: The overall villain was more of a parody of a villain especially in his final scenes. He certainly had extremely elaborate plans but I could see his underlying motivation was relatively solid. I did find myself very fascinated by the potential glimpse of one of his henchmen and what it could mean for the future in this series. As entertaining as I found the villain, I thought Eliza and Matthew’s mental and emotional journey was extremely touching. I loved seeing Matthew go from thinking, “Charlotte would make an excellent role model for Eliza: beautiful, unassuming, ladylike and comfortable in the role of administering a large, if unconventional, estate.” To realizing, “he wanted to keep her safe so he could have her all to himself and do wicked things to her.” And finally knowing Eliza was a trusted partner who didn’t need to cossetting. In the same vein Eliza moved from wanting to beat Matthew in the race because it would irritate him to realizing how much he meant when she thought he was dead. I also have to say that I loved how Dryden handled their sex scenes. They were full of humor, intensity, exploration, and shameless wonder.
Marlene: I did laugh out loud while Matthew was thinking what a great role model Charlotte would be for Eliza; from Gossamer Wing we know that Charlotte is considerably more than appears on the surface. In a lot of ways, Eliza IS following in Charlotte’s footsteps, she just isn’t aware of how much! But I agree with you that the emotional journey Eliza and Matthew make towards each other is the heart of the story. The rigors and danger of the trek make them see each other as adults, and not the children they used to be. Matthew goes through the stage of continuing to want to protect Eliza to realizing that she is a partner as capable, albeit in different ways, as he is. Eliza also has to come towards Matthew, she starts out fearing that any emotional attachment will make her “less than” the man she married, and law and custom still support that view. It takes the danger of the race, and the changes that Matthew goes through, for Eliza to trust that marriage does not have to mean subservience–with the right partner.
And oh my goodness are Eliza and Matthew sweet and sexy when they finally give in. (fanning self)
E: Yes, *pauses in memory* such wonderful scenes. The promise Dryden showed in Gossamer Wing did not let me down in Scarlet Devices. I thought the change in setting and main characters really expanded her world and kept me captivated. The mixture of challenges, threats, and personal growth had me rooting for Matthew and Eliza from their first scene together. I will admit I wish I knew how the events affected the rally organizers and the future of this race. Even though I thought the villain was overdone I enjoyed the overall story. With this second installment, Dryden has moved to the very short list of authors whose Steampunk is on my to-buy list. I give Scarlet Devices a B+
Marlene: Scarlet Devices certainly lives up to the promise of the series title: Steam and Seduction, because it definitely has heaping helpings of both! The world-building in this series continues to shine as we explore the vast North American continent and discover the differences from the world we know. The whole concept of seeing the Great Plains and Rockies from an airship while they are still unspoiled is enough to take your breath away. Or my breath, at least. But it’s the way that the relationships are developed that keeps you turning pages. The romance between Matthew and Eliza was beautiful because it took their personal growth into account; they needed to discover who they really were before they could be ready for each other. I love it when the romantic HEA is the icing on the cake for the heroine, and not the whole cake, and they both needed to grow up for that to be possible.
The villain was overdone, but in the best melodramatic tradition, which made for scenery chewing fun to bring the adventure part of the story to a fitting conclusion. I can’t wait to see what happens next in Dryden’s next steampunk story: Gilded Lily. I give Scarlet Devices a B+...more
Publisher: Self Publish Date: Out Now How I got this book: ARC from the author
All’s fair in love and murder…
Araneae Nation, Book 3.5
Betrayed by her lover and exiled from her clan home, Nicolette has carved herself a new identity from the heart of her old life. Hardened by grief and desperate to survive, she hones a new skill set…and the daggers that go along with it.
Armand is heir to the wealthiest clan in the Araneae Nation. His entire life is as mapped as his heritage. Tradition dictates his every decision, and the one choice he ever made for himself cost him the woman he loved. When Nicolette is offered a contract she can’t refuse, she returns to Erania with deadly intentions. Her secrets are safe behind the façade she created. Or they would be if Armand would stop chipping at the cracks in her veneer.
One kiss ignites an old flame, and suddenly their history is in danger of repeating. Armand falls for Nicolette’s charade, but she can’t let a second chance at happiness distract her from her mission. Someone in the Araneidae nest is marked for death, and Nicolette aims to deliver.
Warning: This story contains one heroine bent on revenge and one hero determined to atone for his sins. Also included are venom kisses, poison hangovers, pointy objects and questionable taste in condiments. Expect fireworks, near-death experiences and one surprise ten years in the making. This blurb came from the author’s website.
One day, a couple of years ago, I was browsing new releases as I tend to do when I spotted Edwards’ A Hint of Frost and decided to give it a try. Since then, I have read and enjoyed every installment. As a result, when I was contacted to see if I was interested in reviewing this self-published novella I didn’t think twice before accepting. I do recommend that you read the previous installments, at least the very first one because the set-up depends on some of the events that occurred in A Hint of Frost. This installment was full of revenge, angst, twisted plots, double or triple crossing, regret, and how people change over time. Nicolette and Armand shared a complicated history. Armand lost the girl he loved, but retained his family. Nicolette lost the boy she loved, her home, and her family, but she gained strength, skill, and found a new family.
I loved watching the past and the present collide. Nicolette returned to her childhood home with a contract to assassinate the woman responsible for the death of another clan’s heir. While there, she discovers extra motivation to accomplish the murder because her client knew the one person Nicolette valued and shared that information with other assassins who used that knowledge as incentive for Nicolette to complete her assignment. I can’t say wny that person is valued because that would be a spoiler. She also learned that her former lover, Armand, gained a reputation as “one for the ladies”, but never settled down. Armand knew he had to marry eventually, but he never stopped regretting the one he lost. He felt an instant attraction to Nicolette, but she refused to meekly fall in line with his wishes for mutual physical enjoyment..
I enjoyed the attraction between Armand and Nicolette. I also thought Nicolette’s mental struggle about what choices to make and how to handle the opportunity for a future were very well done. I do wish I had seen Armand’s arguments as he tried to find an opportunity for the happiness he saw between his sister and her mate. The scenes when Armand and his sister found out about Nicolette’s secrets were also incredible. The combination of understanding, regret, and pain about what happened, but not wallowing in the missteps of the past was very moving. I will admit at first I wanted to see more from Armand after the secret reveal, but thinking about the bargain he struck and the result if Nicolette changed her mind really said a lot.
A Kiss of Venom was an enjoyable novella. I thought Edwards was able to include a wide array of feelings and provide a different view of the Araneae nation. While some events occurred off-page that I wished I had seen, I still felt satisfied by everything Edwards included. The complexity of the assassination plot pointed towards a long-standing goal of beheading Armand’s clan and hinted they have more worries to add to the overarching issues in the series so far. I am looking forward to the next installment, and also have my fingers crossed hoping a certain individual gets what I think should be coming to her.
Publisher: Samhain Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
Forty-two-year-old single father Griffin Turner couldn’t have made it through colic and calving season without his mother’s babysitting services. But just when he thinks he’s got the hardest part of the infant learning curve licked, he gets devastating news. Mom is sick. And Griffin is forced to hire a nanny.
With nothing but twenty dollars in her pocket and her voice, Nola Brady wants to leave small-town Wyoming to pursue her dreams in Nashville. She answers Griffin’s ad to keep body and soul together until her big chance arrives. Love isn’t even on her radar…until she unexpectedly falls for the rough-and-playful cowboy.
Between the sheets, they’re poetry. Outside the bedroom, he inspires her to be more woman than she ever dreamed possible, which scares her enough to put on the brakes…and hit the road.
But if she thought he’d just let her leave quietly, she was wrong. Because hell hath no fury like a cowboy in love…especially one with a baby on his hip. And a ring with her name on it.
Warning: This cowboy daddy is determined to make a May/September romance work—even if he has to lay down his palm or his mouth on a round ass cheek to do it. This blurb came from the author’s website.
I think I made it through the first paragraph of the blurb before I had written this down as a request. The single father, rancher, sick mother, and requiring a nanny sent me back to the contemporaries I read much earlier in my romance reading life with a modern slant to the heroines’ dreams. I enjoyed the twists Petrova included in this story along with how she showed the mental struggle both Griffin and Nola experienced. In case you are worried about needing to read the previous three books before starting this one, I didn’t have any problems and in fact, I did not realize this was part of a series until I was looking up the administrative information for this blog post.
Griffin was a rather bitter man who only trusted two women; his mother and his baby daughter. He was doing everything possible to raise his daughter and make it through the hardest part of the farm year when his mother was diagnosed with cancer and instead of helping him, she needed his help. Desperate he placed an ad for a nanny, expecting the grandmotherly type to reply, and instead the only applicant was the young, attractive, saving to make it to Nashville, singer Nola. Griffin felt a combination of mad and guilty about his attraction to Nola because she reminded him of his daughter’s mother. He also did not want to become attached because she was planning on leaving.
Nola needed a job outside of working for her father so she could earn enough money to make it to Nashville and achieve her dreams of becoming a profession country singer. She wasn’t expecting to apply for a job as a nanny for the very attractive older man who turned down her advances one night at the local bar. She also wasn’t expecting to fall for him or his daughter and struggle with leaving to achieve her dreams or letting her dreams slip away. I found Nola very full of life and while much younger than Griffin, she wasn’t going to let him treat her anyway he felt.
I really enjoyed the sexual tension between Nola and Griffin because it never let up. They tried to maintain their professionalism and ignore their mutual attraction as long as possible. I enjoyed how Petrova included that pause in the relationship pacing because it allowed me to watch as Nola and Griffin found more to admire about each other besides their physical appearance. I could also see why Nola felt comfortable enough to continue working for Griffin. It was also refreshing to see that after they give in to their attraction Nola continued to maintain her sense of self and refused to let Griffin run over her.
Watching Griffin and Nola reluctantly fall in love was a lot of fun. I also enjoyed how Lyric wasn’t this perfect baby who cooed, smiled, and only fussed a little bit. Instead Lyric had a bit of a temper, demanded food and attention on her schedule, and did not have any issues making it known if things were not going the way she thought they should. Nola also wasn’t a Mary Poppins type of nanny as much as she cared about Lyric. I loved her technique of singing to Lyric in an attempt to keep her calm and happy and the side effect her voice had on Griffin. Griffin could also be an ass. The more he cared about Nola the worse his memories of the past prodded him until they would come out in the form of nasty commands regarding her responsibilities as his nanny. Nola refused to accept that sort of treatment and when Griffin refused to change his ways, she did what she needed to do.
Somethin’ Dirty was a fun read. As I said earlier I enjoyed the sexual tension, Nola’s strength and independence, Griffin’s scarred heart, and their mutual ability to move beyond the past towards the future they desired. Lyric’s actions as a baby really solidified Petrova’s characterization because she wasn’t just there as a reason for Griffin and Nola to be around each other. I was also extremely satisfied with the resolution of Nola’s dreams.
Publisher: Signet Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
The last place he expected to find lasting love was back in his hometown…
Slater knew tragedy from a young age, but with the support of his foster family, he turned his life around. Now, back from a stint in the Navy, he’s packed up his motorcycle and returned to Red Hook to help to run the family restaurant—a job that comes with a tantalizing upside. Her name is Rocki.
Flirty, sweet, and outgoing, Rocki brings in crowds as the lead singer of the house band. And although she’s unable to resist the charms of this intense bad boy, she refuses to open her heart to him. Until a family crisis shatters Rocki’s easygoing demeanor, exposing something from her past she’d always hoped would stay hidden.
But Slater knows a thing or two about family secrets—and he sets out to prove to Rocki that their relationship could finally give them both a future worth believing in. This blurb came from Goodreads.
I read the blurb and liked the thought of former military, foster family, and hidden secrets but I was leery about requesting this because it was the third and I had not read the previous ones. So I bought the first one and after giggling my way through it I bought the second, then went ahead and requested Had to be You. I am very glad I read the first two installments first because I would have been completely lost. As a result I highly recommend giving the first two a try if you are intrigued. I will try to avoid spoilers from the previous books.
Slater arrived back home ready to do his part in helping his foster father continue to recover from his heart condition. When Slater entered the family restaurant among the changes he noted was the live music, especially the lead singer. He was only planning on sticking around for a few months before heading overseas on a contract so he wasn’t going to pass up the idea of a little fun. He and Rocki hit things off quite well until all of a sudden she shut him down and tried to keep things friendly but distant. Not one to give in easily since Rocki’s interest to him was obvious, Slater used every opportunity to be around her and provide temptation.
Rocki loved her time in Red Hook and had found almost a second home complete with friends and family. As much as she loved her time there, Rocki was extremely careful about sharing any real personal information managing to deflect or distract inquiries. Then during one of her sets, a strange man walked into the bar and managed to disturb her usual performance concentration. Looking forward to some flirtation and maybe a good time Rocki’s hopes were dashed when she learned that Slater was one of Pop’s kids. She immediately put an end to the flirtation only to discover that he kept showing up and tempting her to change her mind.
As Slater and Rocki danced around their attraction the supporting characters started exerting their influence. Rocki’s friend Patrice known for her inquisitive and interfering nature started throwing them together while pestering Rocki about her life before she arrived in Red Hook. Nicki, the latest of Pop’s kids, whose parentage is an ongoing question throughout this series kept throwing Slater off of his game by insisting on his interaction. Nicki had already bonded with Slater’s two brothers in previous installments. I kept giggling as I watched Rocki and Slater’s mental gymnastics as they dealt with the others in their lives. Then Rocki received a phone call and everything changed.
I enjoyed the growth Rocki and Slater experienced. Rocki learned that true friends are upset when they feel cut out not because they need the information but because they care about you as a person. Slater learned there was a lot more to family than he ever guessed even with Pop’s example. Learning Rocki’s past really explained a lot of her behavior and showed how she and Slater had similar issues trusting other people. Watching Rocki, Slater, and Nicki overcome their pasts, learn to trust and love each other, and learn what they would do for that love was very rewarding.
Had to be You provided a very satisfying ending to the three foster brothers. I enjoyed their stories and fell for the entire town not just the main characters. The central position held by the restaurant, the esteem everyone had for Pop, and his attempts to arrange everything just the way he wanted it. I loved the inclusion of Rocki’s family in the later part of the book and found myself really hoping a certain daredevil gets his own story. I also think I need to look at some of Kaye’s backlist while I wait and hope.
Where did you get the book: Bought/ARC offered by the publisher Publisher: Choc lit Books Release Date: Out now
Kael Vapensigsson is one of the elite Chosen—a Warlord whose strength comes from the gods themselves. But despite all his power and prestige, he is plagued by a prophecy that threatens to destroy everything he loves. When Kael summons Ishtaer to his room and discovers the marks of the Chosen on her body, including the revered mark of the Warrior, both Warlord and slave seem to have met their match.
But as their lives become increasingly entangled and endangered, Ishtaer is forced to test whether the Chosen ever have the ability to choose their own fate.
Lou: When Has first told me about this book, I wasn’t quite sure if I should read it. The last book, or should I say series, I read featuring a Warlord hero was Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan. And nobody–and I mean nobody–has come close to that masterpiece featuring Keir and Lara. But Has kept pushing me and so I finally caved in. And I’m glad I caved in despite some of the issues I had with the book because it was an enjoyable read with a great cast of characters. Kael is a Warlord and whilst he’s done Warlord stuff like killing and sword-fighting, and Warlord stuff, he was quite humorous. He almost wore a facade of what a Warlord should be like. I liked him. I also liked the heroine, Ishtaer. Up until Kael came across her in an almost slave encampment, Ishtaer had a terrible and horrifying existence. She was beaten and starved by her captive, and she was also raped by the engineering of her captive.
While I liked Ishtaer, I didn’t like how the author made her into this almost mary sue character where she was the best of all of the gifts that the God granted her. I wished she had fewer gifts. It felt as if the author had to compensate Ishtaer for her what she had to go through but instead of it being believable, it came across as Mary Sueish, especially when Ishtaer had to go through another terrible experience towards the end of the book. But despite my issues, I really did enjoy the worldbuilding and the author’s voice. The romance wasn’t instant, and Kael had to do some grovelling for behaving like an idiot. I loved at times that Ishtaer was stubborn, and there’s an empowering scene where Kael experiences a horror of Ishtaer’s past. Ishtaer was a wonderful character, despite her perfections, and she was by no means perfect when it came to her personality. Ishtaer does a lot of growing up in this book, and she is separated from Kael whilst she learns her Gifts.
I’d love to see more books set in this world and more of Kael and Istaer. All in all, I give Impossible Things a B-
Has: When I got offered the book, my book spidey senses were tingling and I definitely agree so many books are hard to live up to the Warprize trilogy by Elizabeth Vaughan. However, there was something compelling and enjoyable about IMPOSSIBLE THINGS but I agree about the heroine being too powerful, although I think the book and romance wouldn’t be as good if she didn’t go through a tortuous and dark past. And while I liked how the world-building was set up with people from certain blood-lines who were marked with gifts that were energized by crystals, I did find Ishtaer being thrice-marked as a Seer, a healer and a warrior made her almost too perfect especially when she in fact blind and was still able to fight defensively well with a sword. But I agree–I think it would have actually strengthened the book more if she was just double-marked as well. And I there were a couple of scenes that I had to suspend my belief. I would have also loved to see more of Ishtear’s training in her skills which I felt was glossed over and that would have helped to illustrate her breaking out of shell and building up her confidence. But I have to say the world that Kate Johnson created was a fantastic amalgamation of different cultures and time-periods, and that produced a colourful and vivid backdrop to the romance.
Kael is definitely not like a typical alpha warrior, and I really loved that his beta qualities were kept hidden, but revealed to only those who knew him well. It helped to define and flesh out his character beautifully. And even though I found Ishtear’s character to be too powerful with her magical abilities, I did think Kate Johnson’s depiction of Ishtear’s healing emotionally and psychologically from her past and slowly regaining her agency helped to make Ishtear more sympathetic and real. Those scenes, especially when she has a trigger moment later in the book, was well written and fleshed out her character for me because it was realistic and emotive. I also loved the scene soon after with Kael and that becomes a turning point in their relationship which is a real highlight of this book. Because their romance develops as a slow burn, the tension builds up subtly which reflects Ishtear’s slowly defeating her own demons and fears, and due to this I fell in love with their romance.
I also loved and enjoyed the touches of humour which gave the book another fun dimension and there was some humorous scenes with the supporting characters which just sparkled with dialogue that was sharp and snappy. Although for a historical fantasy setting, the language was very modern but I didn’t mind this as much as it added to the humorous overtones and the mishmash of the world-building.
Overall, Impossible Things has a wonderful and emotional touching romance which I enjoyed immensely but the world-building was also well fleshed out and I would also love to see more of this world because it certainly has a scope for more stories. But even though there were several issues with the book, this was one of the best fantasy romances I’ve read in awhile and I am so glad I listened to my spidey sense!
I also give Impossible Things a B-
E: I bought this book because a certain Has pushed it on me. It had been a while since I read an epic fantasy/romance so I decided to give it a try. I thought the basic idea of “Chosen” ones with tattoos identifying who has certain abilities and as a result of those powers gained certain privileges and responsibilities. I was also curious about the implied lack of choice in what those Chosen were allowed to do with their lives. Johnson created a very fascinating world with multiple sub-plots. I was never bored with the complexity but I think the story suffered a bit as a result. Some of the subplot solutions were too coincidental towards the end of the story but overall I enjoyed this story and I hope that Johnson continues writing in this world.
As this story started, I was very unimpressed by Kael because of his behavior towards Ishtaer and the situation she was in. Kael had a lot of work to do to become heroic in my eyes. For a very long time he struck me as being rather self-centered and doing actions for personal gain. Yes, I did discover he had personal responsibilities as well as an obligation to the tradition of the Chosen but I struggled believing he saw Ishtaer as an individual and not just a tool to gain favor/prestige. However, Ishtaer taught him a lot and he was able to redeem himself although I thought he was going to break my heart for a while.
Ishtaer went from being the lowest of the low to extremely high with a combination of abilities no one else possessed. I agree with my fellow Pushers that the leap was perhaps a bit much. I did appreciate how only one of her powers seemed to be innate, the others she had limitations or self-imposed blocks but even those didn’t stop her from becoming acclaimed. Her unique childhood did provide Ishtaer a different perspective that served her well as she struggled to find a place that felt like home, not just for herself but for those she encountered who also didn’t quite fit. She also knew what the responsibilities of being Chosen really meant and how with the privilege came sacrifice.
Johnson provided me with several aspects that I enjoyed. One was the slow growing romance with its ups and down. Everytime Kael took Ishtaer for granted, I loved how she used her growing confidence to topple his assumptions. I also thought the way Ishtaer could take control during a crisis yet feel much more uncertain during non-crisis or personal situations was very telling. It clarified the difference between confidence that came with a knowledge of your stature from birth versus the confidence in what was innate as being a Chosen.
As I stated earlier, I found Impossible Things an enjoyable read with some niggles. I thought the world-building was extremely vivid and full of possibility for future stories. The characters and their messy lives were also captivating but what I think really solidified my enjoyment of this story was Kael’s path to redemption. As much as Ishtaer’s life changed over the course of the story, she seemed more to grow into who she could have been while Kael had to change who he had become. I am looking forward to seeing what Johnson does with this world next.
Publisher: Book View Cafe Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: Purchased
“…we are all Death’s pupils, we practitioners—students of the great healer.”
When magic broke free in my blood, I chose to follow our ancient family path and become a practitioner. I’m learning to heal, and to protect innocents. I dip into minds, stalk vampires, and set wards by the light of the moon. I can hear the children of the night calling.
But there are other families…and other paths. Families with twisted ambitions and frightening powers. On the frontier, folk whisper that one clan is the most dangerous of all.
Chief among those dark sorcerers is a man known as the Keeper of Souls.
And now he wants to keep mine. This blurb came from Goodreads.
Yesterday I reviewed the first book in this series, Night Calls, and I am very happy to report that Kimbriel made me almost miss my bus stop at work because I had to read just one more page. Alfreda was well on her way learning the arts of a practitioner when she discovered that not all who could see the world’s extras delighted in them for the same reasons. As a result, she learned some very interesting lessons and kept me extremely captivated.
I loved seeing Alfreda back visiting her family and friends for a little while. Just as she had changed, she learned her family had as well. Watching her take on the role of instructor to her younger brothers while ignoring one of the side effects of her growing power was extremely cute. I thought the way she patiently walked the boys through figuring out what they should do and why boded well for her future training others, provided she survived to that point.
Speaking of lessons, Alfreda’s formal training continued to increase in complexity. I had the sense that while there was a particular order to the lessons, life’s circumstances were the ultimate decider once the apprentice achieved a solid foundation. Kimbriel did a great job of showing how every piece of information and lesson was critical. Not just practitioner and woodcraft lessons, but also those about human nature in general. The importance of loyalty, sheer determination, common sense, and a willingness to seek allies all came in handy. I loved how Alfreda was forced to use everything she learned throughout her life if she wished to survive her encounter with the dark sorcerers.
Kimbriel avoided the sophomore slump with Kindred Rites, and if anything, managed to ensnare me deeper in this series. Alfreda’s growth and the slow reveal of things left hidden earlier kept my curiosity peeked. The inclusion of two entities as prominent characters added both a bit of levity, and a sense that nature does have an order and will accept assistance in maintaining that order. I thought the final decisions Alfreda made regarding the survivors of her encounter with black sorcerers both emphasized her basic character knowledge, and set up some very interesting potential situations for future installments.
Publisher: Samhain Publish Date: 25 Feb How we got this book: ARC from the publisher
He usually gets what he wants. What he wants is her…and all that comes with her.
Sex in the office? Lincoln Campbell knows better. His assistant, Thea Marshall, is off limits—until her back hits the door and her clothes come off. The next day brings more than morning-after regrets. It brings damning evidence that Thea stole business secrets.
Three months later, he can’t shake the doubts in his gut, so he heads for Thea’s family cabin by the lake, ready to talk. He’s not ready for the woman who answers the door. She was shapely before…and it won’t be long before she’s a totally different shape.
After Linc escorted her off company property while her protestations of innocence fell on deaf ears, facing off with him now isn’t exactly Thea’s idea of a good time. She needs a few more weeks to plan the drastically different direction her life has taken, but now he’s here—and refusing to leave.
With a storm rolling in and snow piling up, there’s nothing to do but face the past…and try to resist the real man behind the suit. This blurb came from the author’s website.
E: When I started hearing buzz that a few authors I enjoyed were plotting based on twitter commentary about favorite tropes I knew I had to get my hands on those stories. Dimon’s Baby, It’s Cold Outside started off with a with a blast of heat as Lincoln and Thea spent an evening in his office working through their mutual sexual tension, then the very next day everything changed. Instead of dealing with the stress of hiding their affair, Lincoln was confronted with proof that Thea was providing bid secrets to his rival and Thea found herself tossed out of the company without a single idea as to why. With this beginning Dimon certainly had me hooked.
Meka: I obviously missed that twitter conversation, but E and my tropes twin Lillie know when a book is going to be good for me, especially in terms of which tropes I enjoy. The beginning of the book definitely caught my attention. Frobidden sex in the office with the man who is basically breaking all of his own rules? Oh yeah. Thea’s determination to get what she wants after she’s had to wait all this time? Completely refreshing to read! That’s why when Thea is escorted out of the office without a reason why, it was all the more gut-wrenching and difficult to read.
E: Lincoln had a hard time believing Thea was really betraying the company but until evidence proving otherwise showed up he felt that he had no other choice. I liked that he went after Thea more than once, to try to find out why and to get her back into his life. But I didn’t like that he was pushy and refused to actually talk to her except about his thoughts and feelings. However, I loved his insistence that regardless of anything else, he would take care of his responsibilities and not just from a distance.
Meka: Lincoln was a bit of a hard sell for me, honestly. They had such amazing chemistry together and then he never asked Thea if she did anything, simply assumed based on the evidence but refused to point it out to her. That really annoyed me, but he did make up for it by being intense and manning up when he really needed to do so. His angst over wanting Thea even though he truly believed that she had stolen company secrets made him more likeable, but I was totally on Team Thea. His expectations of making things up to her and trying to power his way through made me admire his persistence even as I cringed at his arrogance. When some things are revealed, I nearly cheered at the way that he took responsibility and didn’t pull a card that is all too familiar. He was pushy, arrogant, and frustrating, yet sweet, willing to back down, and quite an adorable worrier.. after he confided in Thea, I completely understand why he was that way.
E: I mostly liked Thea because she was a strong woman. When her world turned upside down not once but twice instead of curling up, she gave herself time to heal and figure out what she was going to do next. I loved her optimism and determination that she wasn’t going back to Lincoln until he came to the realization that she was innocent. I also liked how she also planned to share certain information with Lincoln instead of leaving him unaware. She also struck me as rather emotionally mature with her willingness to talk things out regardless of how angry and hurt she was feeling. I did a little mental happy dance when she successfully managed to get Lincoln to prove her entire point to himself.
Meka: Thea was such a wonderful character that I could really cheer for. She had the emotional fortitude to deal with all of the mess that Lincoln slung her way, and yet was also able to deal with her own flaws. While Lincoln put her through a lot of emotional upheaval, she was not afraid to stand up for herself and kick him out if need-be. She was able to deal with a terrible situation, and yet we also weren’t spared her emotional vulnerabilities or how the hero’s actions affected her. I love that she didn’t just let him waltz back in to her life—he had to find it. Like E said earlier, she really had the chance to be completely immature about a certain situation, so I was so thrilled that she took the high road instead.
E: While I enjoyed Baby, It’s Cold Outside, I found myself feeling slightly letdown by the end. As much mental and emotional anguish Lincoln put Thea through, I expected to see a mega groveling scene. Yes, Lincoln was suffering from a few shocks as he discovered what happened, but he appeared to have a problem looking at anything from a different perspective. As a result, I never reached the point when I felt he had actually learned and would ask before leaping to a conclusion despite a heated discussion with Thea. So I was slightly disappointed when she took him back after the big reveal but without a big grovel. That being said Baby, It’s Cold Outside was an enjoyable read and I do look forward to seeing what else Dimon has up her sleeves for future installments in her Men at Work series. I give Baby, It’s Cold Outside a B
Meka: I really enjoyed this book and the building that needed to be done in order to repair the relationship between Lincoln and Thea. This book tugged on all of my emotional strings and tied them in a knot, and I really loved that. However, I, too, felt as though Lincoln needed to do a whole lot of groveling at the end. I didn’t realize that was what was leaving me feeling a little disappointed, but it’s exactly it. I wanted the big grovel, the I’m totally sorry. I don’t know that I am sold on their happily ever after, but I do believe that they are off to a good start.. With great characters, wonderful dialogue, and an emotional story to boot, I give Baby, It’s Cold Outside a B....more
Publisher: Forever Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
My name is Kye Rivers. I am a Deuce Crescent, which means I have magick running through my veins. Even though my family is Deuce, too, I have always felt like an outcast. Why? Because my particular gift revolves around sensuality, which makes my family uncomfortable. I get my validation and satisfaction from helping people with their sexual pathos. The price for my magick is that falling in love interferes with my abilities. Losing my abilities, and my career, isn’t worth getting involved with some guy who will probably break my heart anyway.
When I met the new bartender, a rare Caido who works at the nightclub that serves as my office and second home, I felt an electric draw like never before. Even scarier, Kasabian isn’t like other angel/human Crescents, who are cool and asexual. Kasabian craves emotions…and he craves me. I fear that what’s different in him is dangerous for both of us. This blurb came from the author’s website.
I have been eyeballing this series for a while and when I read the back cover blurb of this story I was tempted to give it a try. So I went out and purchased the first novella in this series and found the world intriguing. I continued to read until I was up to the point of this installment but unfortunately I found the magic missing. I really wasn’t able to connect with either of the main characters, and about halfway through I found myself struggling to keep the plot threads connected.
The world Rush has created is populated by those with magical abilities: some are dragon shifters, some seem more human, others are angelic decedents, and then there are the angels themselves. Regardless of their supernatural bloodline, all require exposure to a certain level of essence. This is the force that powers their supernatural abilities. Caido are half human/half angel and have a reputation of being impossibly attractive and completely uninterested in feelings or emotions. A few have developed an addiction to feeling and emotions, but the method they use requires another person who eventually dies.
Kye made her living as a combination sex and relationship therapist. As part of her practice, she discovered, in certain circumstances, she had the ability to allow Caido to feel without killing another person but it wasn’t without side effects. Finding herself drawn to Kasabian at first just put her livelihood in danger. Then as world events continued to develop, her life was at risk.
Kasabian didn’t quite fit with his kind. Mentally scarred from his childhood, he spent his time tending bar, working at a children’s shelter, and not exactly avoiding emotion. Then he spotted Kye and felt a desire to be around her as much as possible. Fearing what could happen to her, he did his best to stay away, and to tried keep her from seeking him out until he discovered the nightmare from his childhood was happening again to other children.
While I admired the dedication and loyalty both Kye and Kasabian demonstrated as they tried to solve the issue of who was behind the kidnapping and what the motivation was, I was not as fascinated with their romance. It seemed as if outside their physical attraction Kye and Kasabian were reluctantly drawn to each other. They only seemed to consider how much they valued the other person when an outside entity tried to keep them separate until the end of the story. Regardless of how crucial Kye was to Kasabian’s success, he repeatedly kept vital information from her. Kye kept information from Kasabian that directly related to their bond, which impacted their chances of success. They did manage to work together on certain occasions but each was followed by a period of enmity—usually on Kasabian’s side.
I did want to find out the story behind the missing children but a lot of that information was provided by the glimpses of the bad guys. So instead of having a mystery to solve along with Kye and Kasabian, I had to focus on seeing if they would put the pieces together in time and manage a successful rescue. Unfortunately I found myself lost trying to keep track of who did what, when, where, and why and partway through not really hooked enough to try to figure out where the different threads went. I think if I was more invested in the romance and the overall problem in this particular installment instead of the overall series, I would have felt differently.
In Angel Seduced Rush took the world I found fascinating and added a few new complexities all of which did not exactly work for me. I did have a glimpse at a dragon but this installment focused on the Caido and their obsessions. I hope in future installments dragons come to prominence once more and the focus shifts back to the overall problem facing this world. I would like to see a return to the magic that made me decide to take a chance on Angel Seduced.
I’ve battled the Reapers of Chaos before–and survived. But this time I have a Bad, Bad Feeling it’s going to be a fight to the death … most likely mine.
Yeah, I’ve got my psychometry magic, my talking sword, Vic–and even the most dangerous Spartan on campus at my side, in Logan freaking Quinn, but I’m no match for Loki, the evil Norse god of chaos. I may be Nike’s Champion, but at heart, I’m still just Gwen Frost, that weird Gypsy girl everyone at school loves to gossip about.
Then someone I love is put in more danger than ever before, and something inside me snaps. This time, Loki and his Reapers are going down for good … or I am. This blurb came from the author’s website.
There is nothing like being hooked with the first book of a series and staying as captivated through the very end. Over the intervening years since I picked up First Frost I have also been lucky enough to review most of them and show my enjoyment. So it was with a combination of eagerness and sadness that I cracked open the cover to the final installment in Estep’s Mythos Academy series. When I read the back cover blurb and tried to figure out exactly what was going to make Gwen snap I had a guess and it proved to be accurate. That was the only thing I guess correctly about Killer Frost which meant I enjoyed the twists and turns even more. If you haven’t read the previous installments you need to stop reading now, enjoy the series up to this point and then pick up reading this review again. In other words I will be unable to avoid spoilers from earlier in Gwen’s life but I will avoid any major spoilers from this installment.
The story opened in a way that made me both laugh and grimace a bit. Gwen’s roommate, Daphne, was trying to convince Gwen to relax and enjoy her double date. Gwen can’t shake the feeling that something bad is going to happen given her experiences during her last date with Logan. But as time goes on it appears as if all she has to worry about is Logan’s reluctance to touch her because of his PTSD caused by his actions while under Loki’s control. Then Logan’s father, Linus, showed up and once again his presence seemed to indicate everything was going to slide downhill rather quickly. The Protectorate had retrieved a large stash of artifacts at least one of which was vital to the Reapers attempts to completely restore Loki to power. Linus wanted Gwen to use her psychometry to determine which artifact and why it was so important. After the Reapers failed to secure the artifact during an attack on the convoy, they decided to switch tactics and go after someone Gwen loved. At that point Gwen decided she had nothing to lose and everything to gain so instead of just reacting she started planning to end it once and for all.
I loved seeing everything from the past stories pulled together. Gwen’s arguments with Linus and his continuing blindness to what really mattered were something to see. All of the allies Gwen gained, the lives she touched and improved, and friends she didn’t know existed all banded together when she least expected it. I also loved seeing her take some observations over the years and give a few individuals a push towards potential happiness. It was as if Gwen’s fears about surviving the next encounter with Loki made her more sensitive to enjoying what was available at the present because the chance might never come again. Her habit of displaying loyalty towards others regardless of the personal cost in previous installments continued as a theme in Killer Frost.
As much as I enjoyed seeing the threads pull together, I certainly did not feel like all of the action occurred in previous installments. On several occasions Estep provided moments when I felt like my heart was in my throat because things looked very doubtful but then she would add a resurgence of hope and I would start breathing again. Estep also continued to weave the threads of myths and legends as she provided closure marking a definite ending to the series yet leaving me wondering how the final events would leave a lingering mark on the survivors.
Estep did a wonderful job with Killer Frost as the final story. I felt fully satisfied because the events that occurred followed the same logic as the entire series. Not to mention all of Frost’s characters remained within their established personas regardless of the difficulty of the situation. I am very glad I picked this series up and I hope that Estep decided to continue writing in the YA/Fantasy genre.
Afflicted by a centuries-old curse, a warlord slowly surrenders his humanity and descends toward madness. Ballard of Ketach Tor holds no hope of escaping his fate until his son returns home one day, accompanied by a woman of incomparable beauty. His family believes her arrival may herald Ballard’s salvation.
…until they confront her elder sister.
Determined to rescue her sibling from ruin, Louvaen Duenda pursues her to a decrepit castle and discovers a household imprisoned in time. Dark magic, threatening sorcerers, and a malevolent climbing rose with a thirst for blood won’t deter her, but a proud man disfigured by an undying hatred might. Louvaen must decide if loving him will ultimately save him or destroy him.
E: I love Beauty and the Beast tales and usually find the Beast my favorite character. I enjoyed Draven’s interpretation of the Beast. Ballard, the original beast cursed by his dead wife with her dying breath for daring to hold her to her word and for killing her lover. His son and heir, Gavin, was a victim of the same curse. Over the centuries both men have suffered as the curse grew ever stronger and hope of ending it withered but Ballard’s torture was much greater. Ballard wasn’t a very loveable man in his younger days. Everything he did was for property and security. He married to gain both and an heir but the woman he chose preferred another. As a result of her actions, Ballard could have killed or allowed Gavin’s death without anyone blinking an eye but instead he accepted additional torture through the years to give Gavin a chance grow and enjoy life. By the time he encountered Louvaen, the curse had grown in such ferocity he was more beast than man at times. He wasn’t perfect, he had a temper, and could certainly sulk but he cared about the people around him. As a result I loved his interactions with Louvaen. They were never boring and spoke to the type of man he could have been in better circumstances.
Lou: I’m a fan of Beauty and Beast tales but I can also be awfuly picky. However, when Grace informed us of her upcoming release, I was so excited. Master of Crows remains one of my favourite reads and I was itching to see more work by the talented Grace Draven. The hero truly was a beast in looks but not by nature. A curse wrought upon his wife (she truly was hateful) before she died left Ballard and his son cursed with little hope. Ballard wasn’t made out to be this perfect hero. Before the King, he was mercenary in wanting his wife’s lands but he shows true heart when his son is born and does something for him that shows how deep this Beast can love.
Has: I am also a huge fan of Grace Draven’s Master of Crows which has become one of my all time favourite fantasy romances. So, when I heard she was going to be writing a Beauty and the Beast retelling, I was on tenterhooks, because like E and Lou, I adore this fairy-tale, and there is something compelling and magical with this story.
I found Ballard’s character intriguing, and I loved the little flashback chapters which slowly explained the curse that unfolded his son and surrounding his lands. I really enjoyed how this contrasted with his current cursed state, and I liked that he still retained his sense of honour despite the trials he had to endure. I also agree, that Grace Draven, really fleshed out the beast mythos and I really liked that he was vulnerable, as well as being fierce and grumpy. I think the humour which helps to balance the darkness in the story and this element is what was so appealing.
2. Thoughts on the Heroine
E: Louvaen was very strong willed and did not fit the traditional image of being a society beauty. She was also a widow who fiercely supported and defended her half-sister and father. She kept an eye on any suitors who came to call on Cinnia and was willing to use whatever weapon came to hand to guard her reputation. Unfortunately, their father, a very weak-willed man, kept entering into business investments with an unscrupulous wealthy man who had his eye on Cinnia. As a result, the once profitable lands and business Louvaen inherited on her husband’s death had been sold to satisfy her father’s debts and to protect Cinnia. When Cinnia ran off with Gavin, she followed determined to keep her sister safe. At Ketach Tor I loved watching Louvaen deal with the Gavin and Cinnia’s mutual attraction while she tried to figure out the household secrets and her own somewhat unwilling attraction to Ballard. The dichotomy between her love and her temper; her soft heart and willingness to inflict bodily harm in defense of others; her disdain for all things magic and the subtle manifestation of her own skill all held me captivated. Each time she got in an argument with Ambrose, the Ketach Tor wizard, I would find myself giggling in enjoyment.
Lou: I loved Louvaen with her sharp tongue and razor wit. At times her sister and father were wounded by her words but considering she was trying with all her might to keep them from the dastardly villain, I wanted her to throw some more sharp words at her family. Her father was very weak-willed and he made poor choices that affected now only the prosperity of their family but also their lives. Considering what was at stake, I thought Louvaen was pretty mild in speaking her mind because she always did it with love. Her sister’s safety came first to her, and she loved her family with all her loyalty and heart. I agree with E; the dichotomy between her temper and love was superb and once again Grace Draven shows in Entreat Me how a wonderful and talented author she is.
Has: I also adored Louvaen! She was the total opposite of what Beauty was traditionally described like in the fairy-tale, and I liked how Grace Draven added that twist with making her sister the one in the story. I also felt that Louvaen was a better fit as the heroine with this fairy-tale because her sharp tongue and wit created another dimension to the story which made it refreshing. Especially with her exchanges with Ambrose and the other characters which cracked me up. I definitely agree about the dichotomy between her sharp edges and the deep loyalty and love she had for the people she cared for. And that for me just made the romance between Louvaen and Ballard delicious. It was sweet and tender as well as full of sharp humour and passion.
3. Favorite Scene
E: I enjoyed several scenes in this story but I think my favorite is the one when Louvaen first displayed her softness towards Ballard. She noticed he had a habit of joining them for the evening meal but never appeared to eat. Late one night, she discovered he ate separately after everyone else and due to the structure of his hands was unable to use normal utensils. So the next night she interrupted him before he ate and spent a significant amount of time fixing the problem. I loved this particular scene because it was really the opening to something more than a casual truce over the winter. It demonstrated Louvaen was able to see beyond her first traumatic introduction and wanted to include Ballard in their everyday activities. It also demonstrated that Ballard trusted Louvaen and wanted her presence around.
Lou: So many scenes I loved in this book because of the beautiful writing and prose. Some of favourite scenes was early in the beginning when Louvaen shows no fear or hesitation in wanting to meet Ballard despite his appearance. She’s brave and so matter of fact about him that I fell in love with her character. I also enjoyed the sparring between her and Ambrose, a sorcerer. The barbs and wit they exchanged was funny, and their dislike for each other was hilarious. I also loved how Louvaen tried to keep Cinnia and Gavin from each other anytime they made googly eyes at one another. She truly was a cockblocker for poor Gavin and Cinnia *grins*
Has: I agree! I have a really hard time just thinking of a good scene and you both highlighted my favourite scenes. This book was full of fun moments which just sparkled with humour as well as darker scenes with emotions and pathos. I think Grace Draven has a wonderful grasp of characterization and humour, and her prose is beautiful and lush. I was immersed and engrossed into this story and even though I know this story inside and out, she made this tale feel fresh and new.
4. Dislike about book
E: The main thing I disliked about this story was Louvaen and Cinnia’s father. Mercer. Traditionally in Beauty and the Beast tales, the father is a rather weak character but I thought Mercer wasn’t just weak he was also lacking in common sense. He repeatedly joined in ventures with zero chance of success and depended on Louvaen to bail him out. Even the threat to Cinnia wasn’t enough to stop his habit. He did step up once at a crucial point but that seemed out of character given his behavior throughout the story to that particular point. I would have preferred to see some sort of progression to his transformation in order for me to believe he had really changed.
Lou: This is going to sound weird considering this is a romance book but I did find that there was a lot of time in the middle of the book that featured too much on sex. I wanted to see more action and I felt there was a lag in the middle until it picked up towards the end. Like E, I also disliked their father because he never truly said sorry for getting them into that mess to begin with. He deserved a lot more wrath aimed towards him.
Has: I have to agree with Lou, I did feel the pace in the middle did slow the flow of the story, although I did love the smexy action. Ballard and Louvaen both had hot chemistry between them and that really added to the romance. There was humour and healing in their scenes when they sneaked off together and I didn’t mind so much the quieter pace in the middle, because it reflected the tone of the love story and I think it needed that time to develop.
5. Any other misc. thoughts along with grade.
E: Overall I enjoyed Draven’s rendition of the Beauty and the Beast tale. I thought the twists regarding the origin of the curse, who the curse affected, the double romance, and hints at other fairytales very entertaining. With the exception of Mercer’s characterization, I loved the characters and their very vivid personalities. I think Draven has a gift for creating lush worlds and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. I give Entreat Me a B+
Lou: I really enjoyed Entreat Me and though I had a few issues with the middle and ending parts of the book, I inhaled this book in one setting. The writing, the scenes and the characters enthralled me. There’s something about Draven’s writing that brings you inside of the story so vividly. I loved one surprise of what Ballard did for his son and I loved that though Louveael fell in love with Ballard, she never forgot about her sister and keeping her safe. I give Entreat Me a B.
Has: For me, Grace Draven has cemented her position to be one of the best fantasy romance authors around. I love the way she combines well fleshed out characters, passionate romance and humour. Her characters truly come alive on the page, and her prose is poetic and descriptive that you almost feel that you’re in the world she has created. I think Entreat Me is one of the best re-tellings of the Beauty and the Beast story because the romance between Louvaen and Ballard for me became the epitome of those characters. I give Entreat Me a B+...more