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
Publisher: Berkley Intermix Publish Date: 21 Jan How we got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
Robin used to be a party girl… until she got black out drunk and woke up in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend. Now she’s faced with being THAT girl, and couldn’t be more disgusted with herself. She can’t even tell her friends the reason for her sudden sobriety and she avoids everyone until she meets Phoenix—quiet, tattooed, and different in every way that’s good and oh, so bad…
Phoenix is two days out of jail when he meets Robin at his cousin’s house, and he knows that he has no business talking to her, but he’s drawn to her quiet demeanor, sweet smile, and artistic talent. She doesn’t care that he’s done time, or that he only has five bucks to his name, and she supports his goal to be a tattoo artist.
But Phoenix knows Robin has a secret, and that it’s a naïve dream to believe that his record won’t catch up with them at some point. Though neither is prepared for the explosive result when the past collides with the present…
Blurb came from Goodreads.
MinnChica: The biggest worry for me going into this book would be that I would hate Robin and never be able to forgive her. I went through a similar situation in college, and I went into this story hoping that McCarthy would be able to redeem Robin, but also a little determined to hate her character overall. Let me just say this: Robin suffers. She made a horrible mistake one drunken night, and she is SUFFERING for it. She acknowledged what was wrong in her life (drinking) and decided to do something about it. She really did anything and everything she could think of to get herself to a place where she could look in the mirror and not hate herself. I was happy to see that she never really got there. It will take time for her to be okay, and I like that McCarthy didn’t sugarcoat that.
E: I think all of us who read the second book had some serious concerns about Robin’s actions and how McCarthy was going to manage to redeem her in our eyes. Line MinnChica I felt the amount of mental anguish and suffering that Robin experienced along with her drastic attempts to change her behavior redeemed her as a romance heroine. I loved how her growth and change wasn’t instant nor was everything magically fixed once she identified she had a problem. She was really caught in a difficult situation without an easy answer. As challenging as Robin’s journey was during the story I think the final decisions she made really solidified her as a character and left me feeling satisfied about the work she still has to achieve.
MinnChica: Despite my reservations about Robin, I was so excited to read more about Phoenix. I love the idea of the misunderstood hero, and after reading the teaser chapter in the last book, I knew that Phoenix would be right up my alley that way. I adored him. Despite the fact that he was in jail for an extended period of time, for a somewhat violent crime, Phoenix was a total softie, and I loved that about him. Sure, he could be hard and tough when he needed to be, but underneath it all he just wanted his mother to love him, family to call him own, and a strong woman to stand by his side. His luck had been running real low on all those points until he met Robin. Despite that, he was still pretty optimistic and hopeful that life would work out for him, and I loved him for it!
E: Phoenix was pretty complicated. He seemed set up for failure from the very beginning with his mother and his anger management challenges. I loved the teaser chapter that introduced him and couldn’t wait to find out his story. As the story developed and I got to know Phoenix, my heart broke for what he had gone through and what he was still facing. I loved how patient he was with Robin and yet he also drew a hard line about what he was not willing to accept in his life. He was also incredibly talented and protective but not devoid of the impulsiveness that comes from trying to live life to the fullest. I also enjoyed the symbolism of his name as the story reached its conclusions.
MinnChica: I also really enjoyed their romance. It wasn’t always easy and perfect, but for them as individuals it really worked. There was a scene where Robin gets Phoenix to give her a tattoo. There was something really sexy about the trust that Robin had in Phoenix, and the way that Phoenix was able to really bask in that. It was Robin’s way of showing through actions, not just words, how much she cared for him and trusted in him to keep her safe. It was a sweet and touching moment for me. I think it also really showcased just how much they cared for each other, since they were willing to share such an intimate moment and mark each other permanently into their skin.
E: The tattoo scene was really touching I agree. But I think what stuck to me the most was when Phoenix laid down the law to Robin. They had discussed earlier in the story how he was against any sort of drug and given his childhood it was very easy to understand why. However, Robin wasn’t considering anyone other than her wish to make the pain she was feeling vanish so she needed to understand what her actions had done to those who cared about her and how her default response to stress was extremely unhealthy. It wasn’t enough for her to stop drinking cold turkey as a knee-jerk reaction to an incident, she had to acknowledge she had more of a problem than what she did while drinking. She had a problem that caused her to turn to alcohol as her default. Phoenix’s willingness to say and do what he did along with Robin facing the further implications of her lifestyle up to that point really made this story for me. While it wasn’t a pleasant scene, I think it showed McCarthy’s skill in characterization and giving a complete story without hand-waving over the messy details.
MinnChica: Yes, I couldn’t agree more that the way McCarthy handled Robin’s drinking problem was so incredible. Phoenix’s reactions were perfect, her parents concern was so genuine, it was very well done. However, there were some things that were a little unrealistic for me in this book. The first was Phoenix’s mom. While I didn’t hate her as much as I’m sure others will, the problem I had with her is that given her track record with dealing with Phoenix, I had a hard time believing that she would come back into his life like everything was rainbows and unicorns. If she really was a drug addicted piece of shit mom, why made her nice all of a sudden? I felt like that change in his mom was a little too happy and didn’t like it. Also, I had mixed feelings about the way the book ended. I liked that Robin and Phoenix were able to go off and pursue their dreams, however it did feel a bit like they were being punished for Robin’s actions. Because her friends didn’t want to be around her anymore, they voted her off the island, and she had to go. It just didn’t leave the best taste in my mouth, but I’m anxious to see if it’s addressed at all in future books.
E: I really disliked Phoenix’s mother. Not just as a character because I did, but her entrance part way through the story really without any consequences. Her lack of contact with Phoenix while he was incarcerated, her actions during his childhood and her expectation that he would be happy to see her I could excuse because family is complicated. But what really threw me was the lack of a hard-line about her presence given what was at stake for Phoenix’s cousins and their custody arrangement. Phoenix had to find a job and a new place to live in case Child Welfare Services paid a visit but it was expected throughout the entire story that his mother would pay a visit. This was really the only inconsistency that bothered me during this story. Unlike MinnChica, I liked the idea of Phoenix and Robin moving to a fresh environment. I felt they needed the change to have a chance to succeed. I do hope the lingering anger and hurt is resolved in future installments because the girls were so close.
MinnChica: All in all I liked this book much more than I expected to. Like I said, I was really hesitant to read this one because of Robin’s major screw up, however I did end up liking it. I was glad to see that McCarthy let Robin really suffer for her mistakes, and didn’t give her an easy way out. I adored Phoenix and his almost beta-like hero ways. I’m anxious to see what happens next in this series! I give Believe a B
E: I was completely caught up in this story. I felt for Phoenix, Robin, and the other characters as they struggled to deal with the aftermath of the summer. I thought the choices they had to make and the angst associated with those choices fit their experiences. No, they weren’t ones I would ever wish on anyone but they are a facet of today’s society. This is not a comfortable series for me to read but the way McCarthy brings up situations and lets them play out in all of their messiness including second and third order effects continues to suck me in. I have hope for Robin and Phoenix but I also know it is going to take a lot of hard work and dedication to succeed. I also give Believe a B....more
Publisher: Self Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the author
The Whispers Collection is a series of erotic short stories, available singly or collected in one volume. I’ll start Collection No. 2 when all the stories on tap for Collection No. 1 are available. If you are offended by sexually explicit stories that play with consent, desire, shape-shifters, and safe boundaries, please do not read these. Seriously.
The stories that make up collection No. 1 are: Inigo the Magician Contemporary. A demon delivers on an ice-cold revenge after a magician uses him and a human woman to satisfy his sexual perversions. Six months later, she’s not even close to recovered, he’s free and their first meeting is a volatile combination of minds, bodies, and the consequences of a promise made.
Demon Lover Historical. New Orleans, 1859. At nearly twenty-eight, Zoe remains at home to support her widowed father. She longs for something more in her life. David Nataniel is a dangerous man for a woman to know. He’s a client of her father’s and is often at the house, but Zoe believes she’s safe from his wickedness. She’s not.
My Goblin Boyfriend Contemporary. Tolkien as a user manual? The title should say it all, but in case it doesn’t, Violet finds out first-hand why goblins have a rep for mastery in the bedroom after she finds an injured goblin passed out on her porch. She does the right thing for everyone involved and nurses him back to health. He’s big, strong, definitely not-human, and not shy at all. Features goblin sex. Doh.
Constance Historical. In Edwardian-era America, Nathan reluctantly agrees to seduce and impregnate his good friend’s cousin. As he comes to know and like the woman, her tragic past changes him forever.
The Wild Contemporary. An unrepentant werewolf finds the woman of his dreams. She needs the kind of pain only he can deliver—As long as she’s willing to get Wild with him. Not for the faint of heart. Includes werewolf sex. This blurb came from the author’s website.
I saw Jewel talking about this on twitter and responded to her request for reviewers. I have read several of her previous works in a variety of romance sub-genres and I tend to enjoy them. My favorites seem to have a hotter flavor than the others so I was extremely curious. I do recommend you read her introduction to the collection because these stories won’t be for everyone. These short stories are certainly darker and explore some concepts she has raised in other works but has taken to a new depth here.
“Inigo the Magician”: This story was about magic used to violate and harm instead of amaze, assumptions people make about others, what revenge really means, and the cost of making a promise. It was also about the importance of keeping your promises.
“Demon Lover”: An obsessed overprotective father, a woman who barely experienced life, and a man determined to have her. The narrator recounted her story but I felt it had potential for a HEA. Given that I wish I had a sense of how much time passed since the story started to really trust in my feelings.
“My Goblin Boyfriend”: My favorite of the collection. Jewel included a variety of stand out characters including a gossipy old woman who knew more than you thought, supernatural creatures, and an attraction that went beyond humanity…or did it define humanity.
“Constance”: This one about broke my heart. Extremely messed up family dynamics, a hope born out of love, the loyalty of friendship, and happiness for those who lived without hope of ever being happy.
“The Wild”: Probably the most brutal of all of the stories but it is about meeting needs and desires of everyone involved even if the end result might not have been completely expected.
This was an interesting mix of stories but certainly not for those who do not enjoy reading about rough sexual contact. My favorite was “My Goblin Boyfriend” and I would love to see Jewel expand into the world she created there. I think it has a lot of potential. The other stories ranged from intriguing to disturbing and all showcased exactly how much could be packed into a short story. I am curious to see what Jewel includes for her next collection.
Publisher: Carina Press Publish Date: Out now How we got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
Bri Martin likes her skirts too short, her heels too high, and trouble close at hand. So when big, brooding underground boxer Luke Turner comes into the bar where she works and starts a fight before she brings his first drink, she can’t help being intrigued. Luke is everything she never wanted and everything she can’t resist.
Soon, Luke is showing up everywhere Bri is, and she can’t break free of his hold on her, nor does she want to. When her best friend turns on her, it’s Luke who is there. When Luke’s opponent comes after her to send Luke a message, it’s he who comes to her rescue.
Before Bri knows it, she’s caught in the midst of a rivalry between her boyfriend and her boss, both of whom are not content to settle their scores inside the ring. She swore she’d never live this life, so like the one she once ran from. But only by confronting her past can she decide where her future lies…and whether Luke can be a part of it. ~Goodreads
E: I liked the blurb when I was browsing for review books but noticed that MinnChica already had it scheduled for review. I mentioned I was looking forward to reading what she had to say and she convinced me to go ahead and do a joint review with her. I wasn’t sure what I thought I was going to read but what I got was very visceral, elemental, and brutal in more ways than one. Bri had a horrible home life and after one especially brutal night she fled. After some time living on the street she ended up working as a bar waitress and seemed to enjoy life with the constant hum of danger.
MinnChica: When I first read this blurb I was instantly intrigued. However, I never expected the book to be as dark and brutal and ugly as it was. Wyllys touched on some very heavy topics, and she didn’t pull any of her punches. This book was raw and at times difficult to read, and yet it was such a beautiful story. I found myself staying up till almost 2:30 in the morning finishing this book, because I absolutely couldn’t put it down. I really feel as if everyone needs to read this book! :)
E: I can’t say this is a story I will ever re-read nor did I necessarily enjoy the characters and their choices BUT it gripped me and I was unable to stop reading. I think part of the attraction was how Bri and Luke never tried to smooth over anything. What they thought or felt was blatantly evident without any filters. Yes, each had secrets they kept from the other about their past but they were almost brutally honest about the present. It was also interesting to see the connections between the supporting characters appear, shift, and sometimes get in the way. Those connections demonstrated just how out of the loop Bri was with the other people around her and made me wonder what her best friend really knew.
MinnChica: For me, the big attraction between Luke and Bri was the fact that they didn’t try to change each other. Let’s be brutally honest for a minute, both Bri and Luke were seriously effed up people. They both had some serious, major issues. Bri drowned herself in booze and bad decisions, Luke was a fighter first and foremost, and he had no problems using his fists to solve problems. But despite the fact that they are both broken, they don’t try to change one another. Luke doesn’t force Bri to clean up her act and get her shit together. Instead, he accepts who she is and just wants to be a part of her life. Bri doesn’t force Luke to quit and go to some kind of legitimate business, instead she grits her teeth and bears the fact that fighting is a part of who he is. Like I said before, both Bri and Luke are ugly, but their romance is beautiful in and of itself.
E: That is so very true. They accepted and loved each other in all of their messed up glory. Luke wasn’t going to change his life because it spilled over and impacted Bri. He would make sure to get revenge but he wasn’t changing his life. Nor was he after her to change, except maybe not wave the equivalent of a red cape in front of a charging bull. Bri on the same hand didn’t expect Luke to quit his livelihood. It might bring her back to some of the darker places of her childhood but it was an elemental part of Luke. In a way it was refreshing to see a romance that centered around accepting who/what the characters were attracted to and that didn’t mean they were condemned to relive the past but could make the choice to be different while staying in the same environment.
MinnChica: Another thing I really liked about this book was how different all the supportive characters were. Bri’s best friend was so worried about her reckless ways that he went above and beyond best friend duties to try and keep her safe. Almost to the point that I found myself like his character less and less as the story went on. This is supposed to be the first book in a series called The Lane. I’m anxious and excited to see who will be next. I’m not sure if Wyllys is going to keep following Bri and Luke, or if we’ll get the chance to see some of the other eccentric Lane characters get their chance at finding love, in whatever forms works best for them.
E: It will be very interesting to see what characters come to the forefront as this series continues. I think Bri’s best friend knew a lot more about Luke’s world then he ever wanted to admit. It will be interesting to see if he redeems himself or is forever pushed out of the picture. While this story was brutal and vicious as MinnChica said earlier, the romance was there. I think the best thing is at the end I had the feeling that love isn’t limited to the “perfect ones,” f’ed up characters are just as eligible to love and be loved.
I give Wild Ones a B
MinnChica: All in all I thought this was a beautiful and wonderful book. Don’t get me wrong, it was ugly and violent and brutal a times, especially as Bri and Luke navigate the waters of their relationship. But despite that, it was such a truthful and real love story between two people who thought they were never capable of love. I’m not usually a fan of darker romances, I tend to prefer my romances with rainbows and unicorns, but this was story was just as wonderful as the happy romances. I’m so anxious to see what Wyllys comes up with next. I give Wild Ones an A
Publisher: Samhain Publish Date: Jan 21 How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
The groom is back in town.
Abigail lost her best friend years ago when he ditched her at the altar like a loaf of stale bread. Now he’s back and determined to do whatever he has to—even lie, apparently—to get under her skin. Although he makes her hormones rev to life in a way that no one has since he left, she is equally determined not to fall for his boy-next-door charm.
His bride-to-be is somewhat reluctant.
Braxton Dean was too young and stupid to know better when he walked away. Years of trying to fill the Abby-shaped hole in his heart have left him empty, and now he’s going to win back his girl—or get over her. But first he needs answers. Particularly why she never responded to any of his letters.
It might take a whole town to make this wedding happen.
With the help of their friends, the two battle it out. The army? An entire town of busybodies. The prize? Happily ever after.
Warning: Contains indignant old ladies, steamy sex (but not with indignant old ladies), condom bouquets, seduction cake, and condom bouquets. Yes, we went there. This blurb came from the author’s website.
I requested this because I thought the blurb looked cute and I was in the mood to watch a man try to get the woman he loved back after making her the talk of the town in a negative sense. While I did find aspects of this story cute and humorous, unfortunately the entire package didn’t work as well as I had hoped.
Brax left Abby standing at the altar. They were best friends and childhood sweethearts until that moment. Not only did he leave Abby at the altar, he also left town and she did not hear from him until he showed back up years later. Abby was in their small town facing all of the talk and rumor while dealing with her ailing grandmother, crazy mother, and very self-centered sister. So when Brax returned, most of Abby did not want to have anything to do with him but the part that loved Brax her entire life still harbored a thread of hope.
Brax knew after he’d left that what he did was wrong. So for years he wrote to Abby each day. His letters told her his thoughts, feelings, tried to explain his reasoning, and as years passed without a single response; the tone changed to include his anger and frustration, along with events in his life. I loved the letters but I really had to wonder about a person who had the dedication to write daily but was missing whatever it took to return and face the music. When he did return he seemed to think that his return meant everything was perfect again, people would like him, Abby would gracefully fall into his arms, and life would go on as planned. He really wasn’t willing to take anyone else’s thoughts and feelings into account. As a result of this and some of his other reactions, I never got the sense he had grown up beyond the boy who left Abby at the alter.
Abby was another interesting character. She was devastated when Brax left her at the alter; she had to face the not so nice town gossips, and deal with her dysfunctional family. I completely understood why she reacted the way she did when Brax returned. I also liked that she didn’t go straight back to him. However, I wasn’t as impressed towards the end of the story when it seemed as if Abby lost some of what made her into a strong character.
There really was a third character involved in this story and that would be the town and its inhabitants. It was amusing to watch the town’s opinion change and shift like the tide based on who was publicly doing what. The lengths that Abby and Brax’s friends went through to sway the town’s opinion were certainly based on an intimate knowledge of how the town worked unofficially. It was easy to see which direction the town was leaning and their antics brought a certain amount of levity to the emotion between Brax and Abby.
Runaway Groom had some great parts that I enjoyed separately but unfortunately the sum wasn’t as good for me. I had difficulty believing that Brax’s character had actually matured over time and as a result, I couldn’t quite understand Abby’s actions towards the end. This was certainly an example of how small towns can work and how knowing the right individuals can sway public opinion. I loved reading the letters and catching a glimpse of Brax’s feelings over time. I just wish I had seen evidence of his maturation when he returned home. I am intrigued enough by the town and setting that I will take a look at the next installment in the Watkins Pond series.
Publisher: Samhain Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
A devilish alliance, sparked by imperial blood…
After weeks of travel, Lord Sigmund Regret’s nerves are frayed. He’s gone too long without a mark, but that’s not the only thing making him edgy. Once the reality of his profession sinks in, he wonders how his Lady Charlotte Wyre will feel when he comes to her bed with fresh blood on his hands.
Of course, the other man in her life adds more stress to an already complicated relationship. Gilead Masters’s needs are so…normal…compared to Sig’s, which leaves Charlotte turning to him to explore her darkening fantasies. Bondage is one thing. But pain? That’s too close to his bloodline’s violent weakness for Sig’s comfort.
Charlotte can feel Sig pulling away, but there is no time to heal the rift before they land in Zijin, where she is immediately attacked. Britannia’s reach is long, and Queen Majel’s reach is even deeper—and more deadly. As Imperial politics come to a dangerous boil, Charlotte must risk everything to keep her beloved assassin alive, free, and at her side.
Even as he searches for his next mark.
Warning: Ladies in positions of power, a dragon alien, and a BDSM ménage à trois featuring a duchess on the run, a gentlemanly assassin, and a rough-and-tumble sheriff willing to gun down anyone who gets between him and his lady. This blurb came from the author’s website.
Within Burkhart’s Jane Austin Space Opera world she has three novels, two of them in the Doctor Wyre series with one standalone. I read the first book in this series, Lady Doctor Wyre back in 2011 when it was published. I found it intriguing but I wasn’t sure if I liked it at the time. However, I found myself thinking about the world, the characters, and the technology mix for quite a while afterward. So much that when I saw this installment wasn’t just in the Jane Austin Space Austin but returned to the characters from the first story I had to request it.
Lord Regret’s Price focuses on the emotional connection between Charlotte, Sig, and Gil with a backdrop set against Queen Majel and Britannia’s neverending quest to brutally take over the entire galaxy. Sig was haunted by his past and fears that Charlotte would reject him when he continued with his livelihood as an assassin. He was also petrified at the thought of having a flashback and hurting or killing Charlotte during an intense scene or he would find out he preferred to dominate to the extent of abusing his partner. As a result, he was withdrawing emotionally and jonesing for a new contract. In the middle of this, Charlotte was dealing with assassination attempts and all three were drawn into the tangled politics of Zijin.
Charlotte was an excellent scientist and healer. Unfortunately she was so caught up in the thrill of discovery and the benefits of her invention she never considered they could be used to harm people or other species. Ever since she discovered how Britannia’s government had perverted her discovery and used it to harm, she wanted to make amends – provided she was able to continue evading the Queen’s assassins. After narrowly surviving an assassination attempt they were invited to visit Zijin’s Emperor. It was there that the politics really began.
I enjoyed how each person had a piece of the ultimate puzzle and it took all of them working together to attempt to survive. In addition to cryptic conversations and long held secrets, watching Charlotte, Sig, and Gil start to work through some of their issues was very touching if nerve-wracking. When I learned about Sig’s past and saw his reaction to a certain phone call I thought my heart was going to break for him. I loved watching Charlotte try to figure out exactly what was bothering Sig and how she could break through to him. I also thought Sig’s attempts at control, his fears, and what he was willing to do for the woman he loved was an intense combination. I also saw some hints that the two men might start getting along better which would be lovely to see.
Lord Regret’s Price explored a variety of different situations and fears. So far both Charlotte and Sig have had to face some of their darkest fears but Gil hasn’t had to admit he even has any. Burkhart has made some very interesting world-building expansions, which have heightened what Charlotte and her men have at stake. I really enjoyed how Charlotte’s scientific mind has been hard at work figuring out how to counteract the harm done by Queen Majel. I also loved how Charlotte gave up some of her control and actually showed both Gil and Sig more than she ever showed them in the past. I am very curious about what the Queen’s next moves will be as Charlotte continues to consolidate her power base. I am looking forward to the next installment in the Lady Wyre series.
Publisher: Samhain Publish Date: Jan 14th How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
In a harsh new world, only she can bring him to life…
Chase Hawthorne is on the run from a ghost. The shooting that took his little sister and scarred Chase’s face and body has left far deeper scars on his brother Tripp’s soul. Driven to pull up stakes and head for the most haunted place in Louisiana, Chase hopes to prove to Tripp there is no ghost of his twin beckoning from the after life.
When he comes upon a young woman fighting off raiders, Chase doesn’t hesitate to help the first female he’s seen in years. And he tries to ignore his instant attraction, hoping Tripp will feel it, too—and emerge from his frightening depression.
Keera has been alone too long, and Chase makes her feel things she never thought she’d feel again. Tripp may be the needier brother, but it’s Chase she wants. Scars and all.
But letting people too close comes with risks. And as they are drawn into the search for a young man’s family, both must accept the possibility that there’s more to life—and love—than simple survival.
Warning: A hero who puts his own needs aside for family. And a woman who’s out to prove there’s no law against a man listening to his body once in a while. This blurb came from the author’s website.
I have been addicted to Worth’s writing since I first discovered her Kithran Regenesis series. When I found out she was starting a new post apocalyptic series I had to give it a try. When I finished reading the first installment, After the Crux, I had to ask if she was going to continue writing in this world. When she said yes, I waited rather impatiently for what would come next. I am pleased to say that I was not disappointed by my wait.
Gruesomely scarred Chase was traveling with his younger brother Tripp in search of a deserted city trying desperately to find something that would break through Tripp’s worsening PTSD. Out on a foraging trip he stumbled upon a young woman defending herself against some raiders, individuals who banded together and preyed on anyone weaker, and when more raiders appeared he assisted in the fight. After realizing Chase was not going to make a bad situation even worse, Keera volunteered some replacement clothes and fresh food. She didn’t invite them back to her place but followed Chase to his RV to make sure he wasn’t lying. Chase was hoping that Keera and Tripp would hit it off and give Tripp a reason to continue living while Tripp wanted someone for Chase so he would not be alone. The three agreed to drive as close as possible to the deserted city and meet there for the food and clothing exchange. While stopped in the area by the city, Chase, Tripp, and Keera encountered four individuals from the first installment, Sole Survivors Ross, Dorian, Jenna, and Cadmar who were traveling to Cadmar’s home to rescue his family from the Raiders who had taken over their farm. While trapped at Keera’s place due to bad weather MacKenzie, a woman who lived with the raiders, showed up willing to work with them to help rescue Cadmar’s family and the few other decent people.
Worth provided an amazing sense of connection, caring, and loyalty amongst her protagonists. It was incredibly sweet to watch both Tripp and Chase sing each other’s phrases to Keera. Even when it appeared as if Keera had made her decision, Chase was still concerned about how it would affect Tripp. Thankfully, Tripp developed a best friend, Cadmar, so he was no longer drowning in memories and regrets of loss. Seeing the initial group of seven grow closer together and start to fully trust each other and bring MacKenzie into their group was very interesting. There was some suspicion but knowing that everyone had suffered from the Raiders and were willing to share what they had as well as risk their lives to help Cadmar made a huge difference.
I felt as if Worth explored some of the isolation felt by survivors and what they would consider or be willing to risk for companionship. I loved some of the quiet one-on-one conversations that were remarkably open and yet led to more trust. It was almost as if finding another human you didn’t have to fight or fear was enough to break down what would have been learned barriers. I also loved the backdrop of Chase and Keera’s relationship against Cadmar and Tripp’s friendship and the established triad of Ross, Dorian, and Jenna. The varying levels of intimacy, comfort, and interaction all rounded out the world.
Sole Survivors has left me with answers to questions raised in After the Crux but the rescue attempt/fight has left me with several more new questions from hints Worth provided. I am very curious about what is going to happen next. Who will go back with Ross and the others to their mountain home? Now that Tripp has declared he is a MAN, not a boy in most emphatic fashion, how will that alter his friendship with Cadmar. What is MacKenzie’s back-story and where will she go next? What will happen to the non-Raiders who might decide to stay put? How will the newcomers integrate into Ross’s mountain home? I can’t wait for the next installment!
Publisher: Signet Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
A cabal of operatives witReview originally posted here:
Publisher: Signet Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
A cabal of operatives with dangerous pasts team up to work black ops missions. Their weapon: deception. Can they help one of their own before he goes too far?
When Gunner agreed to help out Section 8, he didn’t realize he’d be pulled back in to the shadowy world he’d thought he’d escaped forever. The son of double agents, Gunner was initiated at a young age into the cold world of espionage when his father forced him to work for international smuggler Drew Landon. And when Gunner’s past with Landon threatens the other mercenaries, and most importantly, Avery, he makes an impossible choice…and disappears.
Avery’s not willing to give up on Gunner. The attraction between them has been there from the start and she rallies Section 8 to help him. She knows there’s only one way to keep Gunner safe: fake his death and take him off the grid. But when she finally locates him, Gunner is a changed man, harder, more desperate, and on the edge of self-destruction. And only Avery can find a way to free him from Landon—and from the demons of his past—before it’s too late. This blurb came from the author’s website.
I was really looking forward to Unbreakable, the second of Tyler’s Section 8 series after reviewing Surrender earlier this year. Unfortunately, this one really didn’t work for me. I had issues with timeline and characterization inconsistencies. This review will contain spoilers from the first book and from this installment so if you wish to avoid them you should stop reading now.
Unbreakable takes place shortly after the dramatic events of Surrender have ended. Peace, vengeance, and love were achieved and the next generation of Section 8 was in its infancy. Avery decided to give her potential teammates a month away to decide if they wanted to return to a life of danger and intrigue. In the meantime she wanted to try to work on getting Gunner to act on their obvious attraction except he didn’t cooperate with her plan. Gunner vanished, left paperwork detailing the sale of his tattoo shop and associated property to some stranger along with a 30-day vacate notice.
Instead of Avery telling the others who joined together in the first book, she kept her mouth shut. Then right before the 30 days was up, she received a flower delivery including an unpleasant surprise. She decided to call and inform one person. During the same 30 days, Grace and Dare, hero/heroine of the first book had a discussion about how something wasn’t quite right, that they needed to contact Avery and find out what was going on yet nothing about the call was ever referenced again. This was one of the inconsistencies that really bothered me, especially given the tight attention to detail that I found in the first book.
As the story continued, time started jumping forward by multiple months. This was clearly signified in the text so that part wasn’t an issue. What bothered me about the time jumps went back to the first 30 days when everyone was supposed to reconvene. The deadline was referenced often in the early pages of the book but nothing was ever said about missing the deadline or what the other potential team members were doing during that time. Those omissions really bothered me since they violated how the group operated and was formed during Surrender which in turn altered some of the previously established characterization.
The core group formed because treachery and death brought them together. They succeeded in the first book through trust and open communication. Watching the leader of the reborn Section 8 deliberately keep information about one of their teammates from all the others seemed to be a violation of that trust. I was willing to give her the 30 days as grace but after that deadline, things continued to happen and I never had the impression that information was shared I felt strongly that Avery’s entire character had changed. I also felt that the acceptance of the others about this lack of information meant they had changed. There was one minor blow-up but given the depths of betrayal they dealt with before I thought there should have been a stronger reaction. Especially given what happened to Avery before the rest of the team was informed.
Unfortunately I was unable to enjoy Unbreakable because of the timeline and character inconsistencies. I kept thinking that scenes were missing which would have filled in the pieces and left me understanding their behavior instead of being extremely puzzled and unable to believe these were the same characters. I did receive an advanced reader copy and I understand those can contain errors so it is possible the final version was smoothed out.
Publisher: Self Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the author
Sexy fireman Chris Savoy has been closeted all his life. He’s a weretiger in Resurrection, and no shifters are more macho than that city’s. Due to a terrible tragedy in his past, Chris resigned himself to hiding what he is—a resolve that’s threatened the night he lays eyes on cute gay cop Tony Lupone.
Tony might be a wolf, but he wakes longings Chris finds difficult to deny. When a threat to the city throws these heroes together, not giving in seems impossible. Following their hearts, however, means risking everything . . . This blurb came from the author’s website.
Holly’s latest installment in her Hidden series takes place around the events of Hidden Dragons so you really should read Hidden Dragons first. In the first Hidden Story, Hidden Talents, Tony was introduced. He had recently come out to his pack and his pack-mates were trying to adjust to their new normal. It was great to see that as events in the Hidden world progressed Tony was pretty much fully accepted by his pack-mates, and they did their best to keep him safe, sometimes to the extent of making him feel left out of the loop. He was also feeling left behind in other areas because one by one they were mating but he did not have any prospects for even a steady date.
Chris was introduced in Hidden Crimes as the beta of the weretiger pack. As a firefighter he almost died during a rescue attempt and it took the combined power of his alpha and a dominate member of the wolf pack, Adam, to ensure he healed properly. Usually the two species didn’t spend much time together but since the weretiger alpha mated Adam, the two will be in close proximity. This would be challenging enough but Holly included a few other elements; Chris is in the closet, there are some vocal homophobes in his crew, and Chris is seriously attracted to Tony.
This particular installment pulled out the angst. Chris was not only dealing with his overwhelming attraction to Tony but PTSD from his most recent near death episode and a tragedy from his adolescence. In addition he was facing rumblings of discontent within the crew. As Beta, Chris’ job was to enforce as well as support his alpha but he was reluctant to physically smack down the dissenters for fear of taking it too far or overreacting due to his orientation. So he kept trying to fix it verbally while having a few hidden extremely hot encounters with Tony. As intense and caring as those encounters were, they also really shattered Tony’s heart because Chris kept walking away and would not acknowledge their connection. Each time that happened I could see Tony crumble and wonder why Chris refused to at least keep in contact after their mind-blowing sexytimes. Chris was also torn between his attraction to Tony, knowing he wasn’t treating Tony as he should, and the worsening atmosphere within his crew.
I loved how Holly brought it all together and forced Chris and Tony to see what was important. Several key characters from Hidden Dragons were also crucial to the conclusion of this particular story. I can’t go into detail about the conclusion due to major spoilers for both stories but decisions were made, choices announced, happiness fought for, and the possibilities for an eventful life created.
In Hidden Passions Holly has again expanded her world and created memorable characters. I enjoyed how the events in this story took place around Hidden Dragons because it very effectively made the world seem three-dimensional with events happening while life continued instead of events occurring in a vacuum. Watching Chris and Tony struggle with their relationship and acceptance from those around them was really heart-wrenching. I also loved how patient and caring Chris was during their sexytimes. The first time **fans self** was amazing and sweet at the same time. I am eagerly anticipating Holly’s next installment.
Publisher: Samhain Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
She’s been there, done that–but never with the sexy hockey player next door.
Dating, marriage, divorce… Audra Leone has been there, done that. These days she’s focused on her antiques business and doesn’t need a man complicating her life.
Still, she can’t help but notice the flirty ex-hockey player who owns the sports bar next door, but he’s got two strikes against him. He’s her landlord, and he’s almost ten years younger–which puts Audra way outside the flock of twenty-somethings vying for his attention.
When Scott Beckett sees Audra hasn’t closed shop during a major snowstorm, he checks in on her–to find her shackled to a post. He’s more than happy to help and close the distance she keeps firmly between them. He’s well over his playboy days and hungering for something stronger, something lasting.
One spontaneous, bone-melting kiss leads to an explosive night of passion, and Scott realizes the quiet antiques lady is everything he craves. But it’ll take some doing–and maybe a disaster or two–to convince her to give forever a chance.
Warning: Contains a wounded heroine who’s put her heart on ice, and an ex-jock who still knows how to run interference on her defenses. Could have you wishing for snow in July. This blurb came from the author’s website.
I requested this book because I enjoyed the blurb and thought I would enjoy watching Scott convince Audra the obstacles only existed in her mind. Unfortunately, I should have checked the classification because I found myself feeling letdown by this novella’s quick resolution given the extent of the internal and external conflict. I enjoyed the set-up and how Hunter worked in the history of Scott’s overtures and Audra’s resistance. I also laughed a lot at her predicament and all of the embarrassing assumptions or questions generated by that scene. It was after their night together I felt this story lost what attracted me to it in the beginning.
Audra was burned by a horrible previous marriage. Her life revolved around rebuilding herself and her livelihood as an antique dealer but she was not willing to take a chance on a man, especially not one who seemed to have a parade of women much younger then she was in his life. Not to mention the landlord aspect involved mixing business with pleasure another lesson Audra stumbled upon painfully in her last relationship. One night she needed Scott’s help and gave into her attraction to him only to have something go catastrophically wrong with her business. As a result, she fled from what they started.
Scott, an ex-hockey player turned bar owner and landlord, had a thing for his lessee, Audra. She was an older woman who barely made her ends meet and resisted his attempts to get to know her. When he found her in a difficult situation and needing his help, he took the opportunity to convince her to join him for dinner. Things were going well then the structural roof repairs he put off at Audra’s request and advice of the building inspector demonstrated they were no longer capable of holding. This put them both in a bad situation due to the loss of the building and her stock.
From this point, I felt as if One Hot Night suffered from superficiality. The detail from the setup and beginning was lost. In my mind, the additional pressure of losing her business would have added to the strain between them and it did temporarily but that strain vanished. Audra apparently changed her mind about Scott, her business, and her outlook on life but I did not see what triggered the transition I was told that it happened as she told Scott. I did not feel any sort of real character growth from Scott at all. As I said in the beginning, given the extent of the obstacles between Audra and Scott I wanted to see the transformation. As a result I could not believe in their romance or that her fears from the very beginning were assuaged especially with the loss of her business and inventory.
One Hot Night started off nicely but was unable to maintain the detail and emotional connection throughout the book. I went from deeply engrossed and curious to feeling letdown by the switch to tell instead of show. Hunter included too many serious issues as obstacles to the romance to be satisfied in a novella format and as a result the book suffered. Sadly I was not able to believe in the romance between Scott and Audra.
Publisher: Orbit Publish Date: Out now How we got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet.
That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle. This blurb came from the author’s website.
E: It has been a while since I read a book that was much heavier on science fiction than romance so when I saw the cover and blurb of Fortune’s Pawn I had to request it and I am very glad that I did. The last time I felt this way about a book was when I read Ghost Planet which I absolutely loved. I didn’t love this one in exactly the same way, which is probably good since the authors are two different people with different writing styles, but I am eagerly waiting the next installment. Bach provided some of my early reading loves with space travel, aliens, fighting, new or at least different planets, intrigue, and some very fascinating characters. She also teased us with a forbidden romance that hasn’t reached its conclusion yet.
Has: I felt the same way about this book. I loved the Sci Fi setting and thought the premise with a mercenary heroine who has a body armour and likes to name her weapons was engaging and colourful. The world-building was interesting and imaginative and I loved Bach’s descriptions of the exotic aliens in the crew and those they encountered. I also found the Sci Fi tech to be interesting and it added a vivid dynamic to the plot. Although I did find Devi’s character didn’t differentiate from other characters in similar roles, I did enjoy her voice and how she handled the mission she embarked upon. And I also loved the cast of characters and thought the crew of The Glorious Fool were vibrant and diverse. Within the first chapters, I was totally drawn into the story.
E: I agree with you Has, she shared a lot of similarities with other mercenaries but she had some personal touches that set her apart. I liked that she spent money on her equipment and having the best she could without going for the flashy. I also liked that she had goals and knew how to read people but would also sometimes rush in when she knew that she shouldn’t. She was also dedicated to her profession and once paid she stayed loyal. She was also extremely smart and curious which was a benefit but also a drawback. I was just as curious to find out the story behind The Glorious Fool and its motley crew as Devi. While some questions were answered those answers have left me with more questions because things are not as they seem with the ship, the crew or the locations they visit.
Has: I really liked that because the mysteries and secrets kept me guessing throughout the book, and I was very intrigued about how it all tied in with the crew and the aliens they encountered. Bach also had a great flow in making the story action-packed and tense. I was really impressed in how she described the action sequences which were exciting and memorable and they added a fun flourish to Devi’s character.
I also loved the supporting casts of characters who were so unexepectedly different which I found refreshing. I especially loved the alien crew members like the lizard Hyrek who was their medical officer but was a member of a dangerous race who liked to munch on humans. Basil the avian bird-like navigator provided some humour with his exchanges with the other crew members. But I really loved the romance which subtly grows throughout the book and takes Devi by surprise. The chemistry between her and Rupert who had secrets of his own was just fabulous and I really enjoyed their scenes together even though it developed a forbidden element in the end which really heightened the romantic tension.
E: Oh the attraction and forbidden romance were certainly entertaining. I have to admit that a few times I really wanted to see Devi give it to Rupert to make up for his role in several things that were emotionally distressing. Hyrek was also something else. His role amongst his people and his obvious role on the ship seemed contradictory to accepted knowledge about his species. Really makes me wonder how he ended up on the crew along with the others. I also thought the new things Devi started noticing and what Hyrek noticed was different about her are going to have some significant effects later on. Something I think will come back to haunt the Captain given how things ended with this installment.
Fortune’s Pawn has proved to be a very interesting and entertaining start to a series that I plan to thoroughly enjoy. Bach threw in some twists at the end that are going to make things sticky and will hopefully result in much groveling and the revealing of several mysteries. I am glad I decided to give it a try. I give Fortune’s Pawn a B.
Has: I definitely agree about the mysteries and secrets that slowly evolve and link with the crew. I am also interested to see the repercussions that Devi may have with her encounter on the alien ghost ship, which I have to say was one of my favourite scenes of the book. But I really like how Bach sets up the ongoing plot mystery which is a fantastic layer to the overall story arc. I love a good book that keeps me guessing and wondering what will happen next and while I have some ideas and theories – I suspect I will be surprised by the outcomes.
I am so glad that I picked up this book on a whim because it was intriguing, exciting and had a wonderful cast of vibrant characters in a rich and imaginative world. I think this is a book which can appeal to a broad base of readers because it has a bit of everything from heart-pounding action scenes, a unique world and a good romance. Fortune’s Pawn is a great start to memorable series!
Publisher: Carina Press Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
A powerful magic user is stealing people’s faces in San Francisco, and empath Ella Walsh and shifter Vadim Morosov have been called in to investigate. Still adjusting to the closeness and permanence of their new relationship, the government-paired mates are soon hot on the trail of an Otherworld cultist from Vadim’s past.
But their target turns the tables, and after he gives Ella someone else’s face, the couple will have to follow him to Otherworld to get hers back. There, in an ancient world of family ties, old grudges and monsters, where living memory stretches centuries, Ella will have to confront the dangerous truth of Vadim’s bygone life.
Because there’s a reason the Fae call him Death Bringer, and if Ella can’t unravel it, she may never see her mate—or her face—again. This blurb came from the author’s website.
This spring I started seeing buzz on twitter about a new book by Kate Pearce. Years before I read the first two or three of her House of Pleasure books but I had not read anything by her since then. Out of curiosity I took a look at the book and realized that this was paranormal romance so a new genre for her. I devoured it and proceeded to hunt Pearce down on Twitter in hopes this was the first of a series. Happily, Pearce told me that she had another one coming out this same year. Death Bringer picks up immediately after the events of Soul Sucker and it involves the same main characters so there will be major spoilers for the first installment. If you haven’t read it yet I recommend you stop reading this review, go enjoy it, and then finish reading this review.
What do you do when you find out that instead of dying in a week at the age of 27, you are know going to live for a very long time married to someone who is practically immortal? Not to mention adjusting to marriage, something you knew was never going to happen, but you also have to deal with the results of spending the past few weeks as the most obnoxious co-worker ever. Add into the mix an extremely powerful being stealing people’s faces who has ties to her new husband’s past and Ella had some serious stress in her life.
I absolutely loved how Pearce didn’t cheat us out of watching Ella struggle as she dealt with the drastic changes in her life. As a result, Ella wasn’t shown in a positive light for a portion of the story but it made her emotional growth that much more impressive and believable. Of course it also helped that Vadim had lived long enough to build up an impressive amount of patience and he wasn’t reeling from the sudden changes in his life. Instead, he had to deal with his family and their associated political messiness as it spilled over into Earth and threatened all he held dear. Granted he made his share of mistakes but he was willing to give Ella what she wanted while reminding her that wanted their relationship.
I enjoyed the mystery and the associated mess as Ella and Vadim tried to stop the killer without losing their lives or freedom. The view into fae life and culture along with their willingness to use anyone they deemed weaker or who bargained poorly really explained a lot about Vadim. It also made his restraint Earthside around Ella and her co-workers very impressive. Pearce also did not make the solution to the magical murders an easy one. It required Ella and Vadim to trust each other, work together, and decide what they wanted most.
Death Bringer was an enjoyable sequal to Soul Sucker. Pearce expanded her world and really made Ella and Vadim work to continue to build their relationship together. In some ways it was as if they were going through the prescribed order of things backwards. Meet, get married, meet the parents, save the world, and start to really know each other. The character and world development along with new reveals continued to keep the pace moving. I am rather curious about how the events in this installment are going to affect what happens next. So again I am left hoping that Pearce continues this series.
Publisher: Samhain Publishing Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the author
There’s no easy cure for a love of epidemic proportions.
Zuri and her mercenary brothers had a simple mission. Transport a captured harbinger to Erania and collect the bounty. But this job turns out to be anything but easy.
Their welcome to the northland is nothing short of frigid. A scuffle with border guards and her prisoner’s attempted escape leave Zuri injured—and she and her brothers stuck in quarantine. Worse, the bounty comes with silken strings attached. Strings held by a scientist with a daring, dangerous plan.
Because Zuri and her prisoner barged in before his fail-safes were in place, Henri had no choice but to lock them all down until he’s sure there’s no risk of spreading plague. He’d planned to study the harbinger, but it’s the mercenary holding the leash who intrigues him the most.
When Henri’s experiment goes awry, they learn they’ve all been pawns in a plan with one goal: bring the Araneae Nation to its knees. Zuri is forced to make a choice that could sign her death warrant—or sacrifice everyone she loves.
Product Warning: This book contains a chair-bound heroine who won’t let anyone—least of all a man—push her around. Expect tea-drinking, net-tossing, and knife-wielding. Should you feel compelled to indulge in a bear ride, please keep your hands on the reins and your feet in the stirrups. Author not responsible for possible maulings. This blurb came from the author’s website.
If you have been following this blog over the past few years you might have noticed the name Hailey Edwards popping up on a fairly regular basis. I have been hooked on this series since I read the first one, A Hint of Frost. The characters, the world-building, and mysterious deadly illness sweeping over the land were all intriguing. Since this is a tightly connected series with each book building on the events of the previous ones, there will be spoilers for earlier installments. I strongly recommend that you start at the beginning of this series instead of jumping in part way. I thought events had pretty much come to a head in the last book, A Time of Dying, with the discovery that this disease was created, spread on purpose, and meant far more than just death to most of its victims. Boy was I wrong. Edwards has continued to raise the stakes even as she circled back around to provide a glimpse of life at the site of her opening story and how it has changed over the passage of time.
I was introduced to Zuri and her companions in the last book but didn’t see them as much more than skilled guards. It was fascinating seeing into what shaped them and their dynamics not just as a mercenary band but as a family unit. Some of the same traits that kept them together led to issues when they were confronted with an intelligent foe who would stop at nothing to win. I loved Zuri’s fierce loyalty to those she cared about even when they made her feel like an outsider. She was willing to give her all for her family and as a result made some interesting decisions.
Henri, was one of the minor supporting characters in A Hint of Frost, but like other skilled authors, Hailey included his scene there for a reason. He was very smart and somewhat overconfident. While he seemed to enjoy talking about his experiments, he tended to withhold crucial pieces of information, which caused some issues to those around him as the story developed. Even though I supported Zuri’s anger and hurt by his actions, I could understand his reasoning based on the threat they faced and how he was treated during his formative years. I loved his patience and care for Zuri and her brothers as he tried to make amends for events that occurred because of his secretiveness. I did get a bit frustrated when Henri remained oblivious of a certain reoccurring event but as the danger to his clan sharply increased, I understood why.
I thought the interaction between Zuri, Henri, and her brothers was a lot of fun. Zuri and Henri had a push-pull relationship with one acting on their mutual physical attraction while the other pulled back and then they switched places. The push-pull meant they moved from just physical attraction to emotional closeness before fully acting on their attraction. In the meantime, Henri developed a bond with her brothers which gave him some insights into their family dynamic but also made it harder to gain Zuri’s trust. I also thought the conversations and teasing between Zuri and her brothers demonstrated a very tight bond. As Zuri shared their history and the responsibility she carried I was drawn into their dynamic even more. The closeness between the main characters made certain events even more gut-wrenching as they unfolded.
In addition to the slow growing romance between Zuri and Henri, I enjoyed the overall story progression. Hailey introduced a couple of very fascinating new characters I hope get their own story. The twist they brought in addition to what happened with Zuri and Henri is really moving this series in a new direction I think. I also found the harbinger’s newly demonstrated abilities very unsettling and perhaps indicative of the growing complex problem facing the Araneae Nation. I am not quite sure how this is going to play out which is another thing I enjoy with this series as a whole.
A Breath of Winter was another strong installment in Hailey’s Araneae Nation. I am glad that she is able to keep me guessing and hooked on her characters and world. While the installments build on each other, I have a hard time predicting where Hailey is going next which helps keep my anticipation high for each succeeding story. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Publisher: Harlequin Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
SPOTTED: LONDON’S FAVORITE FALLEN HEIRESS, TAKING UP WITH THE ROGUE MARQUIS!
Amongst the gossip-hungry ton, no name has become more synonymous with sin than that of Lady Caroline Rider, cast out by her husband and disowned by her family. Rumor has it that the infamous “Caro” is now seeking oblivion in the opium dens of London!
There’s only one man who can save her—notorious rake Sebastian Conway, Marquis of Ardhallow. Soon Caro is installed in his country home, warming his bed, but their passion may not be enough to protect them once news of their scandalous arrangement breaks out…. This blurb came from the author’s website.
It has been a while since I have read a historical by Kaye so when I found this up for review I decided to give it a try. I typically read the Author’s Note, Letter from the Editor, and the dedication that the author or editor includes because it seems to get me in the mood for the story. I found the Author’s Note for this one to be very interesting and focused my attention looking for some of the things Kaye mentioned. I also learned this was part of a series, which I missed when I selected it. I have to admit that I have very mixed feelings about this story because on one hand, the heroine did things I really don’t agree with but on the other hand Kaye was able to make me believe in Caro and her situation.
The story started off with a rather dramatic scene and then proceeded to alternate between significant events in the past that led to the opening scene and events that occurred after that opening scene. I found the flashbacks were very distinct so it was easy to tell the difference between past and present. The scenes in the past were just that, scenes, but they allowed me to get a feeling for who Caro was and a sense of how she ended up in her current position. Let me just say that I am very glad I am not bound by the same particular rules of society that Caro and Sebastian faced. Towards the end of the book I was very glad to see some of the same joy of life return to Caro that she had during a few of the earlier flashbacks.
Sebastian wasn’t without his own issues. He spent most of his life as a disappointment to his father. Not on purpose at first but after a while he started to live up or down to expectations. This reached the point so that even when he was on “his best behavior,” it was only so he could lull the suspicious and then proceed to flaunt society’s rules. As the story starts, he has replaced his dead father as the Marquise of Ardhallow and due to their enmity, the only things he focused on were things his father didn’t seem to value. Yet, unlike any other society man, he rescued Caro, encouraged her to find her strength, and even tried to help her mend some of her fences.
I have to include some spoilers for this book to explain my mixed reaction.
Caro was married to someone other than Sebastian for the entire book. She had separated from her husband, was disowned and kicked out by her father because her husband spread the rumor that she was cheating on him. Caro left because she was finally fed up with her husband’s constant mental, verbal, and physical abuse. She was innocent of sleeping with the particular man her husband said she did but she had slept with someone else during their marriage. END SPOILER
I enjoyed watching Caro and Sebastian come to the realization that they were in love. I also liked watching them decide to face and then deal with the issues of their past. I could also understand a certain choice that was made towards the end of the story given their circumstances and the lesson that Sebastian learns. However, what they did during the middle of the story I had some issues with. Their actions pushed one of my DNF buttons. Having said that, Kaye managed to do such a great job setting up the characters that I was fully invested in my hopes for happiness that I didn’t stop reading. I guess this goes to show that I should stop saying I will never read x, y, or z because sometimes a book comes along that proves me wrong.
As I said in the beginning, this book left me with mixed feelings. I really enjoyed certain aspects and yet I had a hard time accepting other aspects. Caro and Sebastian were likeable, if flawed, characters. It was interesting to see how the pressures of society contributed to those flaws and actions that neither character would normally have taken. I was particularly glad to see that Kaye made the exposure of those flaws cost something but I also felt bad for the suffering that her characters experienced. As Kaye discussed in her Author’s Note, this story had a much darker tone than the others I have read by her. I give Rumors that Ruined a Lady a B-...more
Publisher: Carina Press Publish Date: Nov 18th How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
Mathias Robichaud is looking for an alliance. The Defiance motorcycle club is a stronghold in the dangerous world that’s become the new norm and he’s driven to prove he’s tough enough to be sworn in as a full member. But when he sees a beautiful, spirited girl abducted by a rival MC, rescuing her jeopardizes all he’s worked for.
Politician’s daughter Jessa Everson knows what’s expected of her—obedience, loyalty and silence—but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t fight when she’s kidnapped by the Lords of Vengeance. Having Mathias save her is like gaining an avenging angel in leather and tattoos. But Defiance is known for brutal justice, and she may have just traded one bad situation for another.
Mathias’s urge to protect is too strong to ignore, no matter how much trouble Jessa brings to Defiance’s gates. There’s no room in the post-Chaos world for weakness so if Mathias and Jessa have any chance of surviving, they’ll need to put their full strength behind the MC…and hope that the MC will do the same for them. This blurb came from the author’s website. I read Defiance earlier this year with a few of my fellow Book Pushers and while not perfect I found the idea intriguing, the characters distinctive, and some lingering questions about the events that led to the apocalypse. I was interested in finding out what was going to happen in the next installment since the status quo was significantly altered. I was also very intrigued by the two deserters who were supporting Defiance but had not formally joined. Reading the back cover blurb and finding out that the hero was one of the deserters increased my interest. Tyler answered some of the questions I was wondering and in doing so raised others. While Mathias was the hero in this story, he and Bishop were so intertwined from childhood that he was present in most of the scenes. However, Tyler made a point to demonstrate that Bishop thought of Mathias as a brother and viewed Jessa platonically.
Mathias was on a quest to redeem himself for some of his actions in the past. Even as a young boy he was incapable of walking by when someone needed rescuing. This trait brought him both his best friend, a brother by another mother, and more trouble than he could count. He and Bishop were enjoying time outside during a few of the rare sunlit hours discussing their plans for the future when the peace was broken by a terrified scream. Mathias and Bishop were known for being constantly on the move. Due to their status as deserters and a dislike of those who abused power and therefore innocents, they never remained in one place long enough to put down roots. Their time in Defiance was the longest they had been in one place since deserting the army and they were starting to feel restless. After assessing the situation Mathias insisted on intervening, a decision that changed his life.
Jessa grew up the pampered daughter of a high-ranking politician groomed to make a political marriage and carry on her family’s influence in running the country, or what was left of it. Jessa wasn’t happy in her designated role and when her parents would not listen to her thoughts she rebelled by attempting to kill herself multiple times. After her most recent and most serious attempt she married her childhood acquaintance, the man she was supposed to marry in her father’s political scheme. After trusting him with the politically deadly secrets she overheard, she found herself betrayed by her husband and being sold as a sex slave. Her rescue by Mathias and Bishop was an opportunity to change her life for the better if she was willing to take a chance.
I ended up having mixed feelings about the main characters. I absolutely loved learning more about both Bishop and Mathias. Their story was a mixture of uplifting and sad. The insights into what made them who they were did a lot to explain the decisions each made throughout the story. I really hope their circumstances at the end of this story don’t jeopardize their bond. Jessa, on the other hand, puzzled me. She didn’t fit in her pampered world but also showed far less distress at more primitive living than I would have expected. She also continued to believe her husband even after knowing what he was willing to do. She waffled between trusting and not trusting any of the members of Defiance including Mathias until it was too late. While some of my puzzlement was relieved when I found out her final secret, I still had some issues with her rationale when it came to her husband.
While I thought the world-building and some of the story flow was better, I had a harder time believing in the romance in this installment. I think part of it was my fascination with Mathias and Bishop combined with the difficulty I experienced trying to connect to Jessa. I couldn’t get past thinking the attraction was much more one-sided.
You found out you get to keep living.
He let me digest that for a long moment and then explained, For a lot of people who weren’t in your position, they think it’s about not dying. But when you really think about it, you found out today that you get to keep on living instead. And that’s a whole other ball game.
Mathias was willing to sacrifice an immense amount for Jessa but I never had the feeling that she would be willing to make an equivalent sacrifice. I did really enjoy how Jessa worked to communicate with Mathias without requiring an interpreter. I also thought the way Tyler brought forward the subtleties of body language into Mathias’ interactions a nice way to remind people that entire conversations can occur without a single spoken word.
As I was reading Redemption and catching the expanded pieces of worldbuilding, I found it fascinating to put the pieces together from the opposite perspectives of Mathias and Jessa for the same cataclysmic event. As I filled in the picture I was reminded of an old science fiction duology by Philip Wylie called When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide. Only instead of following the lives of the privileged few, the focus was on the non-privileged who dared to make their own living. This helped me visualize the new generation of Defiance and how they were changing the old culture while defending their lifestyle.
I am still curious about what is going to happen next as things look like they are building up to a confrontation of some sort. I have a lot of questions about Mathis and a certain member of Defiance along with wondering about a particular secret. I think I know what it is but I am not exactly sure yet. I also want to see Mathis and Jessa’s relationship grow because I am not exactly comfortable with where this book ended and their HEA.
Publisher: Carina Press Publish Date: Nov 21st How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
What’s on your wish list?
After indulging in twelve naughty nights in Mexico, a woman experiences an erotic epiphany. An adventurous elf has her eye on one very sexy Santa. A married couple hopes to find a very special marine under the mistletoe. And a holiday mitzvah leads a woman to submit to a man in uniform on Christmas Day. No matter your fantasies, this collection of four shorts will add spice and sizzle to cold winter nights.
Edited by Angela James, this anthology includes:
Five Golden Rings by Jeffe Kennedy Naughty Nicks by Christine d’Abo Ménage on 34th Street by Elise Logan and Emily Ryan-Davis Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie Griffin
Stories also available for purchase separately This blurb came from Goodreads.
Five Golden Rings by Jeffe Kennedy
**fans self** Kennedy certainly cranked up the heat for this opening story. I enjoyed how she presented both the strength and uncertainty in both characters. She was able to emphasize the give and take and how important communication was even during a no strings attached holiday fling. I thought it was great when Tilda decided she was tired of having her observations dismissed and proceeded to give Miguel some serious things to consider about what was really important. Watching his realization about his behavior, mental stereotypes, and his glimpse into the rest of Tilda over the last three notes was extremely touching. I thought he completely redeemed himself when he effectively put all of the power and control into her hands.
Ménage on 34th Street by Elise Logan and Emily Ryan-Davis
I have mixed feeling about this story. The tangled web between the three individuals jerked my emotions this way and that and left me feeling that while all parties had agreed on making this a threesome, there was still so much baggage and unspoken angst that their relationship would experience a lot more strain in the future. I was glad to see that Angela James asked for the rest of their story as well, to be published in 2014, because I am just not confident in a HEA at the moment. I do think Logan and Ryan-Davis did a great job showing the start of this relationship and the groundwork to make it work if everyone gives an honest attempt. The importance on communication and accepting the needs of not just your partner but also yourself were two common threads throughout this story. I was glad to see that focus. However, I also felt as if Hunter was two-dimensional. I didn’t see him exhibit any awareness of the emotional state of Kat or Liam and how his words and actions impacted them. Overall, this ended up the most unsatisfying read of this anthology because I think the complicated framework needed much more space to fully flesh out. I am curious to see how Logan will move this trio to a HEA.
Naughty Nicks by Christine d’Abo
I thought this short story was a lot of fun to read. I admit I was slightly worried about how this relationship was going to work given its initial starting point but I ended up absolutely loving the method d’Abo used. The passage of time and growth of friendship between Kim and Blake with their base of sexual attraction was very intense. I also got quite a kick out of the holiday business that brought them together each year. One of the other things I loved about this story was how Kim and Blake were ordinary people. Kim spilled food on herself, didn’t have a perfectly straight sterile house, and wasn’t afraid to experiment. Blake couldn’t dance, had very strict workplace ethics, and did everything he could to not jeopardize what limited contact he had with Kim. I loved what Blake did as he told Kim without using any words exactly how he felt about her. D’Abo also included closure with Blake’s past that made me really believe in their chances together.
Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie Griffin
I thought this was a great way to end the anthology. A friendship and attraction built over two meetings a year for several years. Only this year things are different because Becca has been divorced for nine months, which meant that she and Jeremy could act on their mutual interest. I thought Griffin took some chances here given Becca’s reason for the divorce and Jeremy’s sexual orientation. I loved how communication was again emphasized, even to the point of interrupting sexy times, as they worked their way through Becca’s past trauma. I also enjoyed Jeremy’s unfamiliarity with their particular relationship dynamic and how he learned as they went along. I thought this depicted a much more believable scenario because it leveled the playing field between Becca and Jeremy. They had to be open and trust each other which made the story that much more sweet to me.
Overall, I enjoyed this anthology. This group had varying levels of heat and degree of BDSM but they all emphasized how important communication was in building and maintaining the relationships. Even the story that I found the weakest wasn’t a bad story, just one that felt overly ambitious for the length limitation. I think it speaks highly of authors’ ability to intrigue me that I am very interested to see where the trio goes in next year’s standalone.
Publisher: Samhain Publish Date: Out today How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
The weather outside is frightful, but this Minnesota Northwoods cabin is getting pretty hot.
Stylist Frankie Blackburn never meant to get lost in Logan, Minnesota, but his malfunctioning GPS felt otherwise, and a record-breaking snowfall ensures he won’t be heading back to Minneapolis anytime soon. Being rescued by three sexy lumberjacks is fine as a fantasy, but in reality the biggest of the bears is awfully cranky and seems ready to gobble Frankie right up.
Marcus Gardner wasn’t always a lumberjack—once a high-powered Minneapolis lawyer, he’s come home to Logan to lick his wounds, not play with a sassy city twink who might as well have stepped directly out of his past. But as the northwinds blow and guards come down, Frankie and Marcus find they have a lot more in common than they don’t. Could the man who won’t live in the country and the man who won’t go back to the city truly find a home together? Because the longer it snows, the deeper they fall in love, and all they want for Christmas is each other.
Warning: Contains power outages, excessive snowfall, and incredibly sexy bears. This blurb came from the author’s website.
After reading and enjoying, Love Lessons by Cullinan also published by Samhain, I started to keep an eye out for her work with a similar tone. Looking at the blurb for Let it Snow I couldn’t resist and eagerly requested it from Samhain. A few weeks later when Cullinan’s blog tour was announced I happily requested a guest post from her (please see the early post today) and she provided a great one. After all of this anticipation and my personal mental build-up I was very glad to see that I enjoyed reading Let it Snow.
I will admit I have a soft spot when it comes to romances with the main characters stuck in close proximity due to weather. To me that forces people to see how they would get along together over an extended time-period because it bypasses the honeymoon phase. The inability to leave, the forced dependence, and the unknown length of time all create a rather stressful situation which brings out the worst in people or maybe their purest essence once the polite trappings of society are stripped away. In this particular case, things were even more tense because of Marcus’ previous relationship, the personal habits of his roommates, and Frankie’s skittishness. I loved the combination and about died laughing during the first night in the cabin when everything came together.
I enjoyed more than the situation in this story. As I was reading, I started looking for the use and demolishment of stereotypes. Frankie knew he fit a certain mold and had been bullied as a result. When he first saw Marcus and his friends he leaped to the conclusion that the three hairy lumberjacks were staring at him as a prelude to causing him physical harm. With that in mind he was extremely skittish when he realized he was stuck in a cabin with them during a snowstorm. Throughout the story stereotypes, preconceived notions, and expectations continued to pop-up for Cullinan’s characters to negotiate. I enjoyed the mix of seeing some of those assumptions verified and others tossed out the window. I think what made this aspect stick out to me is the assumptions were in the minds of the characters themselves so it wasn’t something I inferred.
Frankie ended up having more depth to his character than I expected. When he was given the opportunity he selflessly gave of himself, his skill, and what he really enjoyed doing to brighten the lives of some of the local townspeople. He also did not expect any of the “bears” to go out of their way to do anything for him so his mixture of gratitude and suspicion was rather entertaining. Frankie also had a bit of a temper which when he let it loose, I absolutely loved.
Marcus was so terrifically grumpy and growly. He was so busy trying to act like Frankie didn’t push ALL of his buttons that everything he said came out sounding rough and curt. Yet when I paid attention to his actions he was very protective and caring towards Frankie. He took the time and effort to accommodate Frankie’s food intolerances instead of just expecting him to pick out certain items. Marcus also made sure he protected Frankie from the games his friends enjoyed because their interests were a bit rougher than Frankie enjoyed.
Frankie and Marcus both grew as characters, which I really liked. Each had to decide to take a chance on something that could make them happy but would require exposing vulnerability. Their outside contrast in just about every way made discovering their similarities that much more of a pleasure to discover. I thought the conversation about their difficulties in fitting in or discovering who they were was really touching. It was another example of Cullinan carrying the thread about stereotypes throughout the story. Once again Cullinan created a story that I felt fully immersed in the lives of her characters. I am looking forward to seeing what she comes up next in this particular world.