Publisher: eKensington Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
Danger signs rise off Jase Kayrs like steam—the scars, the secrets, the strength. He’s got a mission, and he’s not interested in much outside of it. Except Brenna Dunne.
Brenna was an ass-kicking, name-taking witch—before the poison that’s killing her sapped her powers too. She knows there’s more to Jase than a handsome face and an ugly history. But there’s no time to find out what. Taking him as her mate might save her life. But once she unleashes the force of his desire, there will be no turning back… This blurb came from the author’s website.
I have been reading Zanetti since probably 2011 when the first book in the Dark Protectors series was released. Obviously, I was hooked by the world, story, conflict, characters, and her writing style. Significant time has passed in that world since the first book and several new developments. Some of those developments have helped the Kayrs family, friend and allies while others have sharply reduced their chances of success. This series is rather tightly woven so there will be some spoilers for previous books.
Jase was the youngest Kayrs brother. Despite being required to fight at a young age in battles like his older brothers for their culture not to mention their lives he was usually the fun-loving, less serious one. All of that changed when he was captured and tortured by demons for five years before his family was finally able to track and rescue him. Jase turned into a scarred, sharply honed man of anger and vengeance; who was willing to do whatever it took to regain what was stolen from him and to exact a little death and destruction of his own. When he was given the opportunity to mate with a witch in an attempt to save her life, he agreed thinking that one of the mating side effects, sharing power, would be of immense benefit in his quest. But while they would be mated they would each live their separate lives because it was a business arrangement, the fact that he found her attractive was just an added bonus.
Brenna was an extremely powerful witch. Over the past several months she was just living day to day trying to ignore just how much her condition had deteriorated since she was poisoned. In addition to the side effects of the poisoning, she was faced with two different factions, one wanting her dead and the other wanting her alive but married to one of them. Both groups were urged on by a prophecy about the eighth sister of the fabled seventh sister. This prophecy said that on a certain day when a particular comet approached the earth, this eighth sister would gain unimaginable powers and either save or destroy life as the witches knew it. Brenna thought this was all a bunch of nonsense until her family showed up, confronted her with the results of her latest medical tests, and brought Jase along ready to mate in an attempt to save her life. When she was younger Brenna had a crush on Jase and as a result really didn’t want him viewing her with pity.
Unlike the other partnerships in this series, this had more of a fated-mate feeling to it. Probably because it started as a business relationship not as a love match however, Zanetti included several humorous moments and tried to give them moments of peace and quiet so their romance could grow. Early in the story before the actual mating, Jase and Brenna were surprised when some of their respective family members showed up with a draft mating contract and lawyers in tow.
He flipped his top page and frowned as he read out loud. “Any such mating will occur within the next week, and thus this document becomes final.” He lifted an eyebrow and glanced at Brenna and Jase. “You two okay with that?”
Brenna’s mind spun. They expected her to sit quietly during such a discussion? She lifted her chin. “My lady parts will be available for said mating during the next two weeks.”
Jase barked out a laugh. “As will, ah, my gentlemanly parts.”
Heat climbed into Brenna’s face. “I believe we have an agreement.”
“Wait. You should demand multiple orgasms,” Jase said.
Brenna coughed. “Excellent point. I so demand.” Her shoulders started shaking as she tried to hold in laughter. Jase chuckled sounding much more like the man she used to know.
While the humor worked for me, I found that I had a hard time fully buying into their romance. Jase spent much of the book declaring he would never really care for Brenna as more than a means to an end. So his reversal towards the end didn’t quite ring true to me. He repeatedly left her for any chance to go after the demons yet refused to let her go back to be with her family as the prophesied time neared. Granted she was probably the only person who truly believed that he wasn’t permanently damaged but he appeared to give lip service to what she wanted and felt outside of their sexytimes. As a result I had a few issues with her acceptance of his love.
I did really enjoy the overall plot movement in Shadowed because it seems like things will be coming to a head soon. The attacks on the Kayrs family and their allies are becoming more serious and complex, demonstrating what appears to be inside knowledge. They are facing two different enemies who for some reason are not working together so that is a benefit. This installment also brought into the open the inclusion of a fourth character whose motives and allegiances are unknown but who will play a key role in the conclusion.
Zanetti continues to have an interesting series even if this installment appeared weaker in the romance area. I am intrigued by the new developments and lingering unsolved issues. I do have some concerns about the percentage of romance in the next installment if things reach their tipping point because the balance of romance to action is rather delicate. I am curious to see what happens next.
Dirty talking hero. Strong dirty talking heroine who wasn't going to put up with his 'ish. Entertaining family dynamics. Good secondary romance. Very...moreDirty talking hero. Strong dirty talking heroine who wasn't going to put up with his 'ish. Entertaining family dynamics. Good secondary romance. Very glad I saw people talking about this on twitter and decided to give it a try. Looking forward to the next installment.(less)
Publisher: St Martins Paperback Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
Even during a truce, Dr. Petra Robichaud has her hands full as the M*A*S*H surgeon to an army of warring gods—especially when Medusa herself turns up pregnant. Petra has no idea what to expect when a gorgon’s expecting, but she won’t let it turn her to stone. As the healer-hero of an ancient prophesy, it’s Petra’s job to keep the peace. But as the lover to a warrior demi-god, she knows how impossible some jobs can be…
Commander Galen is sexy, strong, and sworn to lead his team to hell and back. But when he announces to Petra that he can no longer risk her life for his love, the doctor is on her own…Until a mysterious new entity—in the form of a hot-blooded male—enters the picture. Can he be trusted? Can he be resisted? Meanwhile, an oracle delivers another prophesy that places Petra back on the frontlines with the man she may be bound to for eternity—in love, or in war… This blurb came from Goodreads.
When I received this book in the mail the blurb looked like it might be interesting. I went on-line to look at the first book, Immortally Yours, and decided that I really should read the first book before attempting the second. I enjoyed the first book so I went ahead and agreed to review Immortally Embraced. While I continued to enjoy the overall complexity of the world that Fox has created, I didn’t like what she did with some of the main characters. There will be some spoilers for this book in this review because they are what caused me to not enjoy this book as much as I hoped.
The events in Immortally Yours resulted in a truce between the Older and Younger Gods. Petra’s M*A*S*H unit has gone back to routine health care, as routine as you can have with immortals, half immortals, mortals and a wide assortment of various other species. Commander Galen was punished for his participation in the events that led up to the truce by losing his immortality. He and Petra are still closely involved and she has hopes that the truce will last and so will their time together. Unfortunately near the beginning of the book Galen is called back to serve and he cannot tell Petra where he is going or what his mission will be. They both think he has received a death sentence so he tells Petra he has to end their relationship now so he does not jeopardize her safety. She has a fight with him and he leaves. A few days later she receives a not on the door asking her to go to a meeting places used for clandestine gatherings. She thinks she is meeting Galen so she hurries there only to discover someone else.
Her former boyfriend Marc, a dragon shifter, who was reported dead and buried 10 years earlier. Marc was drafted by the Older Gods and he had determined that he needs Petra’s special forbidden skill to solve a mystery so he shows up to convince her to take a trip to the enemy camp. The pattern for their meetings is insta-lust, fight, act on insta-lust, say never again and repeat. Marc’s arrival seemed to completely knock any thought or mention of Galen out of Petra’s mind and in fact the book. It appeared as if Galen did his part in book one and needed to vanish before he ruined the arc of the series.
I think that Fox has created a really interesting world populated with creatures out of legends and nightmares. Her world provides a good flavor of some of the things that make a military deployment different from anything else. The added complexity of the reader never quite knowing if alliances and allegiances are going to remain the same kept things fresh. Petra’s interaction with her co-workers and how the supporting characters interacted together fleshed out the entire camp. I think my favorite scenes have become the ones involving the Oracles and the Paranormal News Network (PNN).
Some interesting developments occurred in the stalemate of sorts between the Older and Younger Gods, along with improvements in healthcare. What I am having an extremely had time resolving is the situation with Petra, Galen, and the “mortal” she meets in this book. I personally do not like what Fox did and that changed my entire viewpoint. I could not buy into Petra’s actions towards anything except straight medical or casual interactions as a result of this. I ended up spending at least half the book flipping pages in disbelief hoping that things were not going as they did.
Sadly I am probably not going to continue reading this series because I no longer trust the author to stay with the story she spent significant word-count developing and drawing me in.
Publisher: Berkley Trade Publish Date: Aug 6th How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
THE DALTON BOYS TAKE THE REINS
The infamous Dalton Gang was once known for riding—and playing—hard. Now, as owners of the Dalton Ranch in Crow Hill, Texas, they’re working from sunup to sundown. But one look from the right woman can tempt them back into the saddle…
When a walk on the wild side turned into a nightmare for Everly Grant, she escaped her abusive ex by taking a job with Crow Hill’s small newspaper. Now assigned to write a human-interest story on the return of the Dalton Gang, she soon discovers that Boone Mitchell could give her plenty more than a good interview. As much as she craves safety, she finds herself irresistibly drawn to Boone’s dangerous streak. Before she takes the cowboy to bed, she lays down the law: There are no strings attached, and she’s the one in charge.
That’s fine for Boone. In fact, Everly teaches him things no other woman ever dared. Soon they find themselves wanting more than their simple arrangement will allow. But to get there, Everly will have to open up in ways she thought she never could… This blurb came from the author’s website.
Throughout the two previous installments Undeniable and Unbreakable, Boone seemed to be the most grounded. He had a loving supportive family who practically adopted the two other boys and directed them to the Daltons when they needed to work off some excess energy. So, what would cause Boone to take off and vanish, then upon his return keep everything focused on the ranch, only coming into town when unavoidable? I was curious about his reasons for lying low and as the only unattached member of the Dalton Gang, he held a special place in my heart. I was also super curious to find out what type of personality would catch his interest so I couldn’t wait to read Unforgettable, and was really sad when I kept trying to turn the page only to discover I had reached the end.
I loved this story. Watching two people who closed themselves off from everyone else due to a mixture of guilt and fear learn to trust and open up to others. Kent provided their back-story in bits and pieces as they discovered and spent more time with each other. Their slow growing emotional connection was a delight to watch even as they explored their mutual physical attraction. Yes, they had a few misunderstandings but they took the time to work through them. They also discovered that each had some hidden sore spots but due to their past experiences and how they considered the relationship a purely physical one, they were able to ask questions or leave sensitive subjects alone without taking offense at the reaction. The thing I found most interesting was how that same undemanding acceptance fostered their emotional connection and encouraged conversation on those same topics. As they grew more comfortable with each other, both Boone and Everly started opening up to other people. They both learned that the issues, which left the biggest negative mental mark, really weren’t that big compared to what could be after all. I am not going into further detail about the shadows from their past except to say that I think the way Kent resolved or handled them was very impressive.
“There’s something to be said for getting a woman out of her clothes. Not the ones who’ll strip for anyone, but the ones who put that kind of trust in a particular man.”
“What kind of trust is that?” she asked, and he couldn’t tell if she was playing with him, or wasn’t sure what he meant, or a combination of both.
He decided to lay it on the line. “That he’ll do right by her, and in more ways than making her come.”
“That he won’t go talking about what they’ve done together. That he’ll keep her secrets close. That’ll he value what she’s given him, and take care of that gift, because that’s what it is, that privilege. Sharing something like that with one woman only and no one else ever again…”
“You want that.”
He nodded. “Most men do. Those who recognize all the things a woman can offer. Things that aren’t between her legs.”
In addition to Boone and Everly, Kent kept my interest in the town of Crow Hill itself. I saw how work on the ranch was progressing, the character of several of the townsfolk, the lingering ghosts of the past, and a potential attraction. I enjoyed getting a chance to know some of the other inhabitants in what appeared to be a much less hostile environment. The change in atmosphere of the town when they were dealing with Boone or his two friends was striking and served to highlight how a group of friends who caused the same amount of mischief could be thought of differently based on their family life. This just screamed “small town” to me and really brought Crow Hill’s impression of the Dalton Gang members and Boone’s distance in sharp contrast.
Kent had so many different elements in Unforgettable that I really enjoyed. I fell for the slow romance, the character growth, the town, and hints of a romance to come **crosses fingers**. I liked both Boone and Everly and thought their pairing was a lot of fun. This has been one of the most enjoyable western series that I have read in a while. I am both looking forward to and hoping for another installment set in Crow Hill.
While I loved the variety of recipes included. I loved the idea of this book. I enjoyed most of the characters but put together I found myself sloggin...moreWhile I loved the variety of recipes included. I loved the idea of this book. I enjoyed most of the characters but put together I found myself slogging through it. I almost felt this might be better category length to add more depth to the multitude of emotional experiences. I am bummed this one didn't work for me. (less)
For the first time in print, New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn presents a collection of “second epilogues” to her Bridgerton series, previously published as e-originals, plus a new bonus Bridgerton novella: Violet in Bloom,” a short story in which we finally meet Edmund Bridgerton.
*Blurb from Goodreads*
E: I thoroughly enjoyed reading Quinn’s Bridgerton series and successfully pushed them on a few people **cough**MinnChica**cough** but I had not read her Second Epilogues so when I saw they were being released in a single collection I leaped on the chance to review them.
MinnChica: I’m so grateful to E for pushing the Quinn books on me, I absolutely adore the Bridgerton family, and I was one of the people who gobbled up the 2nd Epilogues the moment I was done with the series. I’m just glad to finally have them all in one nice book, with an extra special short about Mama Bridgerton.
The Duke and I: The 2nd Epilogue
E: Simon and Daphne’s story was my introduction to this family. The estrangement between Simon and his father. Simon’s refusal to open and read the letters his father wrote him but never sent which might contain the answers, an apology, or an explanation. This epilogue is about what would make Simon decide to read them. In finding out we got to see some of the familiar interactions between some of the main characters of the series not to mention their various children. I enjoyed seeing the different aspects of their personalities combined in the children. Daphne’s inner monologue was also hilarious as she dealt with a surprise.
MinnChica: I was always curious about the letters from Simon’s father, and was both let down and excited to hear what exactly was in them. I thought the situation Quinn used to get Simon motivated to finally read the letters was a wonderful way to tie back to the original story. Of course, now I want to know how things worked out!! LOL
Lou: I was hoping that Simon’s father would have left something meaningful in the letters but the character stayed true to form. Daphne’s surprise was both charming and funny. I was so happy to see Quinn’s humour back in force, and I think Daphne and Simon were a great couple to start the anthology.
The Viscount Who Loved Me: The 2nd Epilogue
E: Pall Mall! This game epitomizes the competitive yet loving bond between the Bridgertons and their spouses. As the years have passed their plotting and scheming has grown exponentially. I found myself giggling the entire way through this epilogue.
MinnChica: I think that the Pall Mall tournament from the first book is one of my favorite scenes, and this 2nd Epilogue is the one that stayed with me the most since I originally read the few that were available. I love that everyone fights over the black mallet, and that Anthony and Kate still have a fierce competitive streak between the two of them. I loved that this story seemed to be a wonderful little glimpse into a day in the life of the Bridgertons.
Lou: I think Kate and Anthony are one of my favourite Bridgerton couples. This little short was hilarious and encompassed the entire deviousness and sibling rivalry of the Bridgertons. Kate and Anthony have wicked sense of humours and seeing them battle in the very serious game of Pall Mall was a true feat. The ending was perfect with them flirting.
An Offer From a Gentleman: The 2nd Epilogue
E: Posy gets her HEA finally. It was great to see her achieve happiness. Quinn changed her writing style for this particular epilogue which was slightly disconcerting at first but it fit Posy’s relationship and personality
MinnChica: I loved Posy from the original story. I thought she was such a wonderful character, and getting to see her finally get her HEA was so fun. I loved that she also got the chance to have a love at first sight moment, and that she fell hard and quick for the local Vicar. I also loved Ben and Sophie’s little play-by-play at the end. It was a fun little moment for them to look back on their love at first sight moment.
Lou: It was so nice seeing Posy getting her HEA after a miserable upbringing between her mother and sister. Whilst I was happy for Posy I wasn’t that engaged with the short. It was more of a telling rather than showing.
Romancing Mister Bridgerton: The 2nd Epilogue
E: And once again the family dynamics came to play. This one wasn’t my favorite. I think the combination of people trying to make Penelope feel guilty about her alternate identity made me feel bad for her and dread the reveal. I also thought the reveal was anti-climatic.
MinnChica: Colin and Penelope were by far my favorite couple in the series. I think I’ve re-read this book a million times. But unfortunately I didn’t like the 2nd Epilogue as much as I did the book. Maybe it was because the short takes place so close to the end of the book, maybe because it takes place during To Sir Phillip, With Love. Either way, I thought the whole scenario of Penelope telling Eloise her secret was a little, well just like E said: anti-climatic.
Lou: This definitely felt like a deleted scene rather than a return to Penelope and Colin’s life. I would think after what Eloise had just done, the secret Pen kept from her would be the furthest thing from her mind.
To Sir Phillip, With Love: The 2nd Epilogue
E: This was a fun one to read. I remember hoping that Sir Phillip’s children would be happy now that they had a mother so seeing the viewpoint of Amanda was lovely. It was also sweet to see Amanda’s conversation with her father the night she fell in love.
MinnChica: I enjoyed this story as well, mainly because I loved and adored Amanda and Oliver. I always hoped that Quinn would give them each a story, so the fact that we get to see Amanda all grown up was a treat for me! I also loved the moment that she had with Sir Phillip, because it showed just how much he loved and adored her, and how clueless he could really be!
Lou: I enjoyed this story the least and it was due to the first narration. I found that Amanda waffled on quite a bit, and the narration felt uneven in places. However, her meeting with Charles was cute and the last scene with Phillip, her father, was even sweeter.
When He Was Wicked: The 2nd Epilogue
E: Aw this one was extremely touching. Francesca had such a hard time during her life reading this and seeing all her wishes coming true made my heart melt. I enjoyed Francesca’s closeness with her mother Violet.
MinnChica: I never really connected with Francesca as much as I did her sisters and sisters-in-law. While I liked her book, it wasn’t one of my favorites. However, I think this 2nd Epilogue is another one of my favorites. I felt so deeply for her struggle to get pregnant, and wanted nothing more than for her to finally get all her hopes and dreams fulfilled. When she had the heart to heart with her mom, I was in tears. I was so glad to see her finally get her little bundle of joy.
Lou: Poor Francesca had such heartbreak in her life. After the deaths of her first husband and their unborn child, she deserved the children she desperately wanted. I’m not a huge fan of baby endings, but this short ended sweetly and so perfectly for Francesca and Michael.
It’s In His Kiss: The 2nd Epilogue
E: Hyacinth certainly gave her family fits so it was great seeing them return the favor. I really liked how Isabella proved that she loved her mother even when tormenting her.
MinnChica: Hyacinth was such a character throughout the entire series. I adored everything about her, and thought that her search for the jewels would never end. Knowing that her daughter, another wild child, found the jewels so young, and kept it hidden from her mother was so ironic. But then getting to see Isabella realize what her mom searched for and why, I loved that she went through the trouble of helping Hyacinth finally find her treasure.
Lou: I’ve always had a soft spot for Hyacinth. Being the youngest out of my brothers and second youngest out of all my immediate cousins, I know the tribulations that occur in being the youngest of them all. It was funny seeing Isabella be a carbon copy (perhaps more) of her mother, Hyacinth. Hyacinth would have looked for those diamonds forever more, and the scene Isabelle overhears was very sweet and it makes her do something for pure love for her mother.
On The Way to the Wedding: The 2nd Epilogue
E: This epilogue was probably the most serious of them all. The discussion about naming babies was cute and once again the sheer love in the Bridgertons was very evident.
MinnChica: I think that this book was probably my least favorite of all the Bridgerton series books, but I did enjoy this Epilogue. E is absolutely right in that the naming of the kids was so sweet and sentimental. And watching their family surround them with love and support is always a favorite aspect of the series as a whole, so that made this one extra special.
Lou: Despite the serious tone in this short, all I could think of was nine babies. Nine! Gregory’s fear and despair was clear to see, and the scene with him and his eldest daughter, Katheribe, was lovely. The whole family surrounding Lucy showed the love they all had for one another. It kinda reminded me of Sound of Music.
Violet in Bloom
E: I really liked how Quinn did Violet’s story. We got to catch glimpses of several important moments in Violet’s life along with an understanding of why she was so happy with her family. This was the perfect ending to the epilogues.
MinnChica: I loved the way Quinn wrote about Violet. I loved getting to catch a glimpse of the love of her life, but was glad that it wasn’t the entirety of her story, much like her life. Getting little snapshots of life when the children were all younger was so sweet, and really gave us a clear picture of why Violet is loved so much by her children. Like E said, it was a perfect end to the Bridgerton series, and the 2nd Epilogues.
Lou: This I almost couldn’t read because you know what happens. When she and Eloisa find Edmund…gah. I still wish that Violet would have found love again. The short showed her deep love for her family, but I wished she could have found that special love with another man. It breaks my heart a little to know she lost her true love so long. A bittersweet end to the anthology.
E: These are short quick satisfying reads. I want to go back and re-read the novels and then read the associated epilogue. As Quinn states in her introduction this is not the collection to start the series with because it presupposes a lot of knowledge on the reader’s part. While I liked some epilogues more than others just like I enjoyed some of the Bridgertons more than the others overall I enjoyed it.
I give The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After an A-/B+
MinnChica: These stories were all very short and sweet. I think I enjoyed them all, and getting the chance to peek back into the daily lives of these characters is such a treat. I think the Bridgerton family is still one of my all time favorite fictional families. For those who haven’t read any of the 2nd Epilogues, this is going to be a wonderful treat. For those who have, be on the lookout for Avon to put the non-published stories into their own bundle (per Quinn’s FB page).
I give The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After a B
Lou: I’m so happy this author made a return to this wonderful family. I now want to re-read the books all over again. These shorts are not very long but they are great reads for fans of the series. I didn’t dislike any of the shorts, and each story invokes a different feel and tone. I give this anthology a B+ (less)
Fun conclusion to the series and I got to find out a lot about a very mysterious man. I do hope that Harte continues to write in this world because an...moreFun conclusion to the series and I got to find out a lot about a very mysterious man. I do hope that Harte continues to write in this world because another mysterious character has now connected the PowerUp set of characters with the Circ characters...(less)
Publisher: Self Publish Date: 13 Aug How I got this book: ARC from the author
A con man. A rancher’s daughter. A wildfire out of control.
Elizabeth Graham spends her days running the business side of the Circle Eight ranch. Her knack for numbers and organization lent themselves to her position in the family. She has just turned twenty-one and doubts she will find a man to spend her life with. Elizabeth doesn’t believe in love, after all, and when she meets a charlatan named Vaughn Montgomery, her opinion doesn’t waver. At first.
Vaughn Montgomery is down to the lint in his pocket and the handsome smile he uses as a weapon. His last con went wrong and he fled west. Now he finds himself trapped in the middle of nowhere Texas. And at the mercy of a hard-nosed woman who wears shapeless dresses and whose tongue can cut blocks of wood.
Unwilling to bend and unable to forgive, Elizabeth and Vaughn get caught up in a web of lies that stretches from Houston to the heart of Texas. She finds herself falling for the man who can’t seem to tell the truth and he can’t get enough of a woman who can only speak truths. Surrounded by danger, they embark on the ultimate con to save the Circle Eight and their lives. This blurb came from the author’s website.
Before I get started on this review, I have to warn you that there will be spoilers for previous books in this series including a major one about what started the story arc. So if you haven’t read the previous books and you prefer to avoid spoilers then please stop reading now. . . . . . . . After I finished reading Caleb, reviewed here, and realized that the search for the missing Graham was complete but Lang still had unmarried members of the Graham family I didn’t know what she was going to do with the rest of them. Then I found out that she was going to continue writing about the Circle Eight which made me happy but I also wondered what the books would focus around given the apparently conclusion of a major element. I found the answer to my wonderings both intriguing and causing me to hope for a spin-off series.
None of the Grahams are exactly ordinary. Their focus on keeping the family ranch going, raising the family together, and finding their kidnapped brother meant they grew up with a variety of abilities, skills, and a willingness to use them. Elizabeth hasn’t had a lot of up front time so it was good meeting her in this story. She did’t like “traditional” female responsibilities and was hurt when her domineering older brothers tried to insist that she fit the mold or ignored how she could contribute to the family in a different way. But she also never insisted on doing something she enjoyed until one of her new sister-in-laws backed her. As the family/ranch bookkeeper she felt more useful but was still unsatisfied with her life. As a result she was ready for her own adventure and it started with a naked man.
Vaughn really didn’t have much redeeming qualities about him except his charm, his body, and his bedroom skills. Oh and he didn’t intent to swindle the Grahams. I actually ended up feeling a bit sorry for Vaughn. He had no idea how to handle Elizabeth because she didn’t fall for any of his usual phrases yet she was attracted to him. Then when the victims of his last con arrived and Elizabeth, the main Circle Eight house, and Granny were caught up in the mess he started to feel the prodding of regret for his actions. Elizabeth had done nothing other than save his life and now hers was in danger. When she found out what he did for a living and insisted that he make it right he started to see other people something besides a “mark.” That was a huge turning point for him, and I think started his journey as a heroic character. I really enjoyed seeing his mental turmoil and puzzlement at Elizabeth’s behavior and her expectations for people in general.
The physical and emotional journey that both Elizabeth and Vaughn took was significant. Elizabeth learned how to stand up for what she wanted and that she wasn’t actually limited by her circumstances. She also learned how lucky she was to have a family that behaved like a family even when they were overbearing and annoying. Vaughn learned what a family was, not just from Elizabeth but also from the victims of his con. He also learned that actions can have very unintended consequences even when you are trying to do the right thing. While I enjoyed watching Elizabeth and Vaughn together and admired how she was able to adapt to different situations as she worked to get back home, my attention kept drifting to the conned family.
The Gibsons consisted of an old man and several brothers ranging from little boys to grown men. They were loyal to each other but had some issues determining right from wrong and doing things in anger that they later regretted. But the respect and reverence they had for the old man was amazing to see. I would really love to see their journey to redemption **very unsubtle hint asking for spinoff series** because the older brothers started learning some slightly softer aspects of life based on their interaction with Elizabeth. They also demonstrated time and again to Vaughn that family is important and worth doing things you don’t really want to do.
All in all I enjoyed Vaughn. I caught a glimpse of some of the other members of the Graham family and how they continued to pull together as a family. I was introduced to the Gibsons, and I have an idea who the next installment or at least a future one will involve. This was a good transition book I think between the original issue and moving towards a more settled but not boring life for the members of the Circle Eight. I am curious about what Lang will have as the center conflict for the next book.
Re-read, re-release found a few things that bothered me, open-ended issues that I can't remember if they are addressed later in the series. Will have...moreRe-read, re-release found a few things that bothered me, open-ended issues that I can't remember if they are addressed later in the series. Will have to wait until they are re-released.(less)
Publisher: Kensington Publish Date: Dec 6th How I got this book: From the publisher
A HANDSOME DEVIL
1762. James Sherbourne, Earl of Whitney, is a gambling man. Not for the money. But for the thrill, the danger—and the company: Whit has become one of the infamous Hellraisers, losing himself in the chase for adventure and pleasure with his four closest friends.
Which is how Whit finds himself in a gypsy encampment, betting against a lovely Romani girl. Zora Grey’s smoky voice and sharp tongue entrance Whit nearly as much as her clever hands—watching them handle cards inspires thoughts of another kind…
Zora can’t explain her attraction to the careless blue-eyed Whit. She also can’t stop him and his Hellraisers from a fiendish curse: the power to grant their own hearts’ desires, to chase their pleasures from the merely debauched to the truly diabolical. And if Zora can’t save Whit, she still has to escape him… This blurb came from the author’s website here.
I have read other books in the past that have used the idea of a person or several people making a bargain with evil to satisfy their short term desires. What I find interesting about that trope is the combination of what the desire was, who inspires or guides them towards redemption, and the path they take. I had read and enjoyed several of Ms Archer’s previous works so I was really curious about how she would address those three areas.
Devil’s Kiss, the first of Ms Archer’s new The Hellraisers series, introduced me to five rather dissolute friends who make a habit of trying to find new entertainment. Never is this entertainment in the form of anything good or wholesome but usually involving what could be considered a sin. What I found fascinating about the five is that each of them was primarily interested in a particular method of entertainment. As a result initially they appeared to be bound together more by boredom then by common interests.
I really enjoyed the incarnation of evil that Ms Archer created. He didn’t follow many of the common stereotypes like requiring a contract signed in blood, worship or rituals just something that belonged to them. He was a quite sinister evil. He used several different tactics to attempt to keep Whit either through fear or by fulfilling his desire. The reader knows that Whit and his friends have just done something rather ill-advised so aatching Whit’s realization of what he got himself into, who, and what he was against was very entertaining. Despite his bargain Whit was not completely lost from the beginning just mostly lost.
Zora was a treat as well. I really liked how Ms Archer was able to portray a Romani girl who didn’t quite agree with all the traditions but still valued her family and her freedom. While she matured, her actions throughout the book stayed true to what we saw in the beginning. I think my favorite scene with her was when she took enjoyment in the fact that Whit’s servants thought she was a ghost. She was also determined that she would do whatever it took to try to save the goodness and spirit she initially saw in Whit.
I think Ms Archer used the interplay between the five friends to really establish exactly how evil the villain was along with setting up future books. Whit’s journey was hard enough but I think she is going to put the other four (hopefully) through all sorts of misery before they reach their redemption. She did give a glimmer of hope for Whit’s closest friend but it was such a slight glimmer. I am looking forward seeing their journeys.
Publisher: Samhain Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the author
Beri O’Dell is investigating paranormal creatures because she wants to know what she is. Taller and stronger than most men, she astral projects and can peel through dimensional layers to see the creatures and spirits beyond.
She once helped her foster sister, Detective Elsa Remington, track down killers in Jacksonville, Florida, but stopped when a nasty fire elemental turned her strength against her. Now, she finds herself pulled back when something steals Elsa’s soul and puts her into a coma.
With little time to spare, Beri searches for the reason behind her sister’s coma. She has help in her spirit guides Fred and Phro, but others come along for the ride, including a pyro-nervous witch, and an androgynous necromancer.
The last thing Beri needs is to fall in love with a mysterious stranger. But the handsome Minoan warrior Nikolos knows what creature she’s after because he’s battled it before.
Really, really bad.
He calls it the Dweller on the Threshold.
Warning: Contains a worried heroine with no time, a witch with fire problems, a pissed-off necromancer, a trapped goddess, and a damned sexy, but scary, warrior. Throw in bloody battles, mass-murderer history lessons and a bit of sexy time and you get the start of Beri’s new life. This blurb came from the author’s website.
As some of you may know that in addition to romance, I also read science fiction and fantasy. Because of that, I do not demand that every book ends in a HEA but I do usually want the overall series to end on a positive note. When I found out that one of my erotic romance authors was working on a series that had a much darker feel, closer to a fantasy horror than romance, I was intrigued. She sent me a copy of the first book but because I was unable to get the review written within the release window that I prefer, I decided to hold onto it and schedule it closer to the release time for the second book. So this is today’s first post with my thoughts about Dweller on the Threshold and the late post today will have my thoughts on Blood of an Ancient, book 2. I hope you enjoy.
Deep in a Florida swamp an unspeakable evil lived, hid, and violently died. Or did it? Beri O’Dell is a young woman of unknown parentage, unusual height, physical, strength, hair that really has a mind of its own, and some psychic ability. After an encounter with a much more powerful being left her emotionally scarred, Beri cut out most of her full scale preternatural dealings and concentrated on minor annoyances. She was trying to exorcise a ghost when her sister called and asked for help. Elsa is normal but she has understood from a young age that more existed in the world and Beri could see and deal with the extras. In this case otherwise healthy people were suddenly collapsing into comas for no medically discernable reason. Shortly after the phone call, Elsa became one of the victims. Throughout the course of Beri’s increasingly frantic efforts to save her sister and stop whatever was causing the comas, she acquired a rather motley crew of paranormal misfits. Together their combined strengths, weaknesses, and personalities were enough to drive Beri crazy and give me several fits of laughter.
While Dweller on the Threshold introduced a rather complex world and those who appear to be the core cast of characters for the series it was done at a reader friendly pace. As the reader, I learned along with Beri as she shed some of her assumptions and false knowledge only to develop more questions, new abilities, and associated new vulnerabilities. She was never allowed to become or feel overconfident because the rules of the supernatural creatures were beyond anything she had experienced before. She also had to deal with the hidden agendas of some of her allies as well as past history left unresolved between them. The underlying sexual tension threaded through this story reminded me that Elliot is also a romance author and she took care to develop tension on a multitude of levels which helped connect and ground the characters.
One of the things that I think makes the struggle against evil so ultimately creepy is that defeating it almost always results in a loss. Sometimes it is the gradual loss of self as the person fighting would justify their actions regardless of the effect on others because they believe the end justifies the means. Other times it is the willing sacrifice of something good or dear that is required for the final defeat because that thought is so utterly against everything evil stands for. While I was reading Dweller on the Threshold I really wondered which direction Beri was going to take, and once she started down that path, if she could change her mind. I also wanted to know what, if anything would make her draw the line at what she was willing to do or support being done in order to stop what was happening. I thought Elliot did a good job of building suspense and found the ending logical as much as I emotionally wanted it to end otherwise.
Dweller on the Threshold was a very interesting engrossing read. The struggle between evil and humanity was very intense with evil appearing to gain ground regardless of what Beri and her crew attempted. I really liked how Beri demonstrated that she was learning and growing throughout the story as she tried to put everything together for the final confrontation. The way Elliot ended this story certainly kept me eager to read the next one.
Publisher: Samhain Publish Date: Out today How I got this book: ARC from the author
Love is madness. When Miss Charlotte Vale isn’t running a school for impoverished factory women, she takes tea with an insane painter—the mother she adores. Determined to avoid her mother’s legacy of madness, Lottie refuses to marry and nurtures the ton’s bemused disregard for her reputation.
Through her door strides a man who threatens all she holds dear. Her cherished school, her careful control and her guarded heart.
Sir Ian Heald has tracked his sister’s blackmailer to her last-known location—Lottie’s school. Although he would burn the place to the ground if it would save his sister’s reputation, Ian is drawn to Lottie’s bold candor and indifference toward polite society.
To find his sister’s blackmailer, Ian follows Lottie into a twisted world of illegal gambling clubs and eccentric parties. Even when their mutual passion ignites, Ian knows their affair cannot last. Lottie was never meant to be tucked away on his quiet pastoral estate, and she staunchly refuses his desire to wed. Yet fiery kisses and scandalous showdowns tempt this proper country gentleman to win the woman he loves and never let her go.
Warning: This book contains gambling in low-class clubs, deliciously deadpan dialogue, an unplanned swim to rescue doused women, and a fast, furious spanking. She wants it though, so that hardly counts. This blurb came from the author’s website.
**BP NOTE: Lorelie Brown has agreed to provide a copy of An Indiscreet Debutante to one commentator. Giveaway instructions are at the end of the review.**
I read and enjoyed Wayward One by Brown last year so when I thought enough time had passed, I pestered her until she sent me a copy of An Indiscreet Debutante. Once again, Brown sucked me into a historical populated with unusual and entertaining characters. An Indiscreet Debutante is the sequel to Wayward One and focuses on Charlotte, known as Lottie, one of the three friends who run a school for impoverished women, providing them more opportunities. This school depends on the goodwill of the nobles to fund and donate materials so everyone involved in the school has to remain above reproach. For Lottie that is much harder then it seems given a mother with a hereditary mental illness and an absent uncaring father. Well her father really isn’t uncaring, he just cares only about his business interests and how he can use Lottie to further them. Into Lottie’s precarious house of cards comes Sir Ian Heald accusing Lottie of harboring common criminals and therefore threatening the school.
Lottie was such a complicated character. After a lifetime of dealing with her family situation, she rarely ever demonstrated a true emotion or feeling while in public or even with her good friends. This learned trait both helped and hindered her interactions with Ian. Lottie had three main goals, keep the school going, protect/shield her mother, and remain unmarried. Usually she was able to focus on the first two goals but her father was becoming more persistent about concluding a business deal with his neighbor through her marriage. As a result, she decided after their first few heated discussions that Ian was the perfect person to ensure she never had to worry about marriage, only that required his cooperation and he was resistant. Lottie also had not fully considered the ramifications of her actions if she was successful beyond hopefully remaining unmarried.
Ian loved his family. He would do anything to protect and make them happy hence his trip to the school. His sister married below her station but came home with the death of her husband less than a year after they were married. Her recovery and interest in life again was badly shaken when blackmail notes started appearing. The notes threatened to expose her marriage to Polite Society and thus ruin any chance of a prestigious second marriage. Ian was able to determine that the blackmailer was his former sister-in-law who he managed to track to Lottie’s school. Ian was desperate to regain or to keep his family respectable so while he was attracted to Lottie he did not want to jeopardize his family’s goals.
I found it fascinating to watch Lottie try to keep all of her encounters with Ian on a superficial level yet push for physical intimacy. Ian on the other hand, had to find out what was going on underneath Lottie’s surface. The more he got to know her and the circumstances around her family situation the more attracted he became to her. As they worked together it was fun to watch them grow and stumble along their journey. Their interaction with the supporting cast was also fun to see and cemented the facets of their characters. It was also a nice treat to see the hero and heroine from Wayward One in action and settled in their relationship.
Brown did several things with this story that I really enjoyed. First, she did not limit the surroundings to a particular part of historical London but took Ian and Lottie throughout several different class areas. She also didn’t shy away from the potential second and third order effects of Lottie’s plan. Third, she never devalued or held Ian up as the magical cure for Lottie’s fear that was behind her insistence to remain unmarried. An Indiscreet Debutant provided an interesting view into the lives of those classes not usually spotlighted in historical romances. Brown brought forward the aspect that within a close friendship things are still kept private and that what you see is sometimes only a fraction of what you get. She also highlighted the importance of give and take on both sides of a relationship in order to make it happen. I am looking forward to seeing what Brown does to her characters in the next installment.
I give An Indiscreet Debutante a B+
**BP NOTE: To enter the giveaway leave a comment talking about the most unusual historical you have read. Winner will be announced on Tuesday the 21st. Good luck!**(less)
3.5 stars Holy mess up family dynamics. Of course I want the next one and the 3rd brother had a lot of work to do to redeem himself.... yet I also feel...more3.5 stars Holy mess up family dynamics. Of course I want the next one and the 3rd brother had a lot of work to do to redeem himself.... yet I also feel sorry for him.
Didn't quite believe where the h/h lived in the epilogue but this is fiction.(less)
Short but very complex installment in this world. I don't think the villains were the only individuals who will decide to take that particular chance...moreShort but very complex installment in this world. I don't think the villains were the only individuals who will decide to take that particular chance and break the rules. I did really like how a certain creature has started to play more of a role and I loved the puppy :).
Short interesting take on a post-apocalyptic future earth complete with Nasties. Humans that have been infected and are now hideous primarily nocturna...moreShort interesting take on a post-apocalyptic future earth complete with Nasties. Humans that have been infected and are now hideous primarily nocturnal creatures who vastly outnumber the humans and hunt them down. Intriguing enough that I bought the sequel to read. (less)
I really enjoyed reading this. The neat twist on "shapeshifters," the world, a potential solution. I really hope that Harnois continues writing in thi...moreI really enjoyed reading this. The neat twist on "shapeshifters," the world, a potential solution. I really hope that Harnois continues writing in this world. I really liked the little twist pulled in at the end *grin*(less)
Publisher: Self-published Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the author
Addison O’Henry has no idea magic is real or that the fragile peace between the magekind—humans who can use magic—and demons is about to shatter. All that changes the day she’s abducted by one of the magekind. After a ritual murder goes horribly wrong, Addison ends up with demon-sourced magic that nearly kills her. But for the intervention of demon Harsh Marit, she might not have survived. Though Harsh does what he can to help her return to what used to be normal, they both know her life will never be the same.
With corrupt mages threatening them both, her honor requires her to help Harsh and the demon warlord he serves. If that means accepting her power and the high rank it confers on her, so be it. Now her once distant relationship with Harsh turns hot and immediate as the two of them explore the dark passion of a forbidden relationship. This blurb came from the author’s website.
My introduction to Carolyn Jewel was through book one of this series, My Wicked Enemy. I was browsing in a small city chain bookstore, long since absorbed into a megastore, looking for something new to read when the title caught my eye. I pulled it off the shelf and read a very interesting blurb. I decided to buy the book and the rest as they say, is history. Since then I have purchased a copy of all of her paranormal worked and enjoyed them. It had been a little since her last My Immortals release so I was happy to see that My Darkest Passion was set back in this world. When Jewel asked on twitter if any reviewers would like a copy I leaped on the opportunity. In fact when I finished reading it I had to do a glom of the entire series.
Jewel has created a very complex world for the My Immortals series. She does a far better job of explaining the history and world building than I could here. And yes I tried. I recommend that if this is your first book in this series that you either read about her world or read the previous four books first. My Darkest Passion builds on characters and events from the earlier stories.
Harsh was starting to come into his own as one of Nikodemus’ diplomats when he was sent along with Kynan, another demon, to the property owned by a mage named Giuseppe Infante. Nikodemus is a powerful demon warlord who has decided to stand up against abuses by both magekind and other demons. He carved out a substantial territory in California, and continued to gain both independent and sworn allies in his fight to bring balance. Harsh is one of those who has sworn an oath to Nikodemus when he was freed from being a mageheld. Nikodemus sent Harsh and Kynan to kill if necessary whatever they found imprisoned in a metal shed as part of Nikodemus’ promise to protect magekind and demons from each other. Instead of killing Addison,the prisoner, Harsh and Kynan decided they needed to hear the other side of the story and ended up rescuing her. Infante had ordered his mageheld to capture a woman and instead of his planned target they ended up capturing Addison. During the ritual murder of a mageheld Addison was able to break free long enough to injure Infante, and disrupt the ritual to the point that the mageheld’s power entered her instead of entering Infante. Addison, a human, now has the power and instincts of an ancient powerful demon but no knowledge or training of how to handle them. She was also traumatized by her treatment at Infante’s orders and the combination has made Addison a very unpredictable dangerous person to be around. Kynan, Addison, and Harsh all had a connection that went beyond the typical need for a demon to have others in close proximity. However, Harsh was too sensitive to allow Addison to work through her trauma without taking it personal so despite their attraction he left her alone until Infante returned, determined to make Addison and everyone who helped her pay, preferably with their lives.
Jewel takes an interesting tactic in her organization of this book. Addison’s healing and recovery occur off screen, which I think brings the reader closer to understand Harsh and his perspective of her when she returns. While I was reading I asked myself if I missed seeing her heal and came to the conclusion that I wanted to get back to the action when she was with Harsh. This technique might not work with all readers as was pointed out to me in a discussion about My Darkest Passion but it worked for me.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Harsh discover who Addison was after she incorporated her demon powers with her human nature. I also felt that while Addison was at relative peace with who she had become, she still did not know the extent of her power. Watching as she discovered new facets to what she could do when she was protecting someone she cared about was also very interesting. Together Harsh and Addison made a formidable team. I liked how they remained true to who they had been but also grew as characters. Jewel also moved the entire story line along setting up what appears to be a major confrontation between Nikodemus and those of his ilk against the magekind.
Overall I enjoyed reading My Darkest Passion. It was great to re-enter this world and see what new twists Jewel was throwing at her poor characters. Like I said in the beginning I do not recommend that you start the series with this book without at least reading her background information which is a drawback to a new reader. Once you are familiar with the world, the characters are all extremely vivid and the torment she puts them through is rather intense. I continue to look forward to what comes next and I have my eye on a few characters.
How I got this book: review copy from publisher/purchased it
As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.
Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.
*Blurb from Goodreads*
MinnChica: I’m a newbie to Anne Bishop, so when I heard about her new series, I was excited to finally give her a try. And I have to say that I’m so glad that I did. I’m usually not a very big fan of urban fantasy books without a little bit of romance, however, I really enjoyed this UF book, despite the lack of a core romance in the story.
E: **Hang head** apparently I need to visit Bookpusher refresher training because I am a huge Anne Bishop fan. I was extremely excited to see that she was coming out with a new series and the fact that she was branching into UF made me even more curious about it. I absolutely LOVED reading Written in Red. I loved it so much that I read it twice back to back and have read it a third time since its release date. I mentioned on twitter that I had the same feeling of discovering a great read that I had when I first found Bishop’s Black Jewels trilogy. I cannot wait to find out what Bishop will do next.
MinnChica: I thought this story was absolutely amazing. It had a little bit of everything to keep me happy. Engaging characters, a fabulous plot, and a unique and fresh world that pulled me in and kept me flipping pages faster than I could read the words on the pages. I was a little worried that the concept of cutting would cause a little ick factor for me, but I found that Bishop wrote those scenes so powerfully that I wasn’t bothered at all by something that would normally have me a little queasy.
E: Like MinnChica I found that Written in Blood had something of everything. The very otherness of The Others. And yet they were willing to befriend and protect Meg. The sheer ruthlessness of the individuals Meg escaped from and their inability to care about humanity which in some ways made them more alien than The Others. Meg’s self-control and will when it came to cutting and the toll it cost each time. The hints of growing attraction between Simon and Meg but nothing blatant. And the very vividness of the world which seems to be a Bishop trademark.
MinnChica: I absolutely adored Meg. I thought she was such a wonderful and refreshing UF heroine. She had an air of innocence that translated in everything she did, and it made her come across as so sincere. She was sweet and loving to everyone she met, didn’t judge the Others, and was quick to find a friend, regardless of who or what they were. I wish that more UF heroines were like Meg: sweet, charming, loving, willing to bleed for those she loves, and yet knows her own limitations. She was a breath of fresh air.
E: It was wonderful having an UF heroine who wasn’t the all powerful, practically indestructable, and very physically fit. Meg was so the opposite yet her strengths came out as the book progressed. Her innocence and willingness to learn combined with a complete lack of pre-judgement towards anyone was so touching. Yet even with her innocence was an awareness of evil so Meg didn’t come across as saccharine sweet but had a fierce protective streak towards those she cared about.
MinnChica: I hope that we get to see a romance between Simon and Meg develop. I was absolutely blown away by how deeply I was pulled into the stories of each and every character. Simon, Sam, Vlad, Tess, Henry, Monty, Jester, Winter, even the Ponies were all so beautifully written that I couldn’t put the book down. I honestly can’t remember the last time I read a book where I was immediately drawn into and in love with so many characters after only the first book in the series.
E: Yes the supporting cast was also wonderful. Their various personality quirks combined with their animal or elemental traits. How Other politics was rather cut and dried, one species wasn’t above any of the others so they provided checks and balances and a relatively peaceful co-existence. Watching Simon and Meg interact, how others interceded on Meg’s behalf when Simon’s frustration and confusion about Meg came out as anger. The police in the local town and their efforts to stay on The Others good side. I even found myself wondering what the self-centered spy was going to think to justify her actions and thought that she had a very fitting end. I really enjoyed all of them.
MinnChica: All in all I thought that Bishop created one of the best urban fantasy worlds since Ilona Andrews came out with the Kate Daniels series. Everything comes together to create book magic – an engaging world, well written characters, and a storyline that sinks its hooks in you. I can not wait for the next book in the series to see where Bishop takes us next!
I give Written in Red an A
E: Like I said in the beginning I LOVED Written in Red. This is one of the most enjoyable first book in a series that I have read in a very long time. I am very glad that Bishop decided to branch out into UF bringing the same skills she used in her dark fantasy series. This book took the familiar aspects of UF and twisted them to provide something fresh and unusual that had me addicted from the first page. In fact writing this review has made me want to go back and read it for the fourth time. I can’t wait for the next one.
***Trigger Warning: Violent consensual sex** Publisher: Samhain Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the author
Throughout their eight-year marriage, U.S. Air Force Captain Liam “Dash” Christiansen and his wife, Sunita, stayed strong through long separations. However Sunny’s new job as a high-profile legal advisor puts a severe strain on their enduring bond.
Her abrupt announcement that she wants a divorce is like a missile to Dash’s gut—but her confession that she’s met another man is what unleashes his shocking passion. Sunny is surprised and nearly repulsed by her body’s reaction to Dash’s animalistic attempt at complete possession. That doesn’t stop her from craving more.
With Sunny’s whispered approval, their sex life explodes. Not only does Dash’s aggression tap into dark fantasies, she’s hopeful that now, at last, she’ll get what she’s always wanted from her devil-may-care, don’t-give-a-damn husband. Something honest and candid. Something real.
Yet fiery, carnal encounters won’t heal two long-broken hearts. Their bodies are finally speaking the same forbidden language, but it will take more than taboo desires to learn each other for the first time—and to save a marriage that’s only just begun.
Warning: Time to put the kidding aside. Although 100% consensual between a husband and wife, this book contains violent sex that, in some scenes, will appear forced. Readers sensitive to rape scenarios should proceed with caution. This blurb came from the author’s website.
What happens when your married life falls into a rut, you no longer talk about anything with meaning, the person you married has been buried under a mask, you are buried under a mask, and you make a move to exit the situation? Porter explores the answers to those questions in their latest Vegas Top Guns installment. The answers to those questions emerge at various moments throughout Hard Way starting with the very first actual discussion that quickly turned physical between Dash and Sunny. That encounter initially made me uncomfortable but as I continued to read through the scene, I picked up the nuances between them and saw that while not planned there was an element of brutal honesty and a willingness to participate. This was the first time in years that the two of them communicated without shields. The journey that Dash and Sunny took through this story made me sad, uncomfortable, happy, in awe, relieved, exhausted, tense and touched.
Dash grew up trying to meet the expectations of his father, career Air Force officer, and never quite succeeding. That turned into a lifetime of trying to do or be what he thought others expected while hiding what he really thought or felt. Over time and physical distance from Sunny, the same mask he showed to others he showed to her. The strain of holding everything in while trying to meet perceived expectations took the joy out of life, so only when alone did Dash relax and be himself for a few moments. During their marriage Dash was physically separated from Sunny on different occasions because of combat deployments. Now that Dash is a member of the 64th Aggressor Squadron and not really deploying, it is his turn to stay home as Sunny started a different branch of her career.
Sunny was a lawyer and highly trained in martial arts. As a result she was accustomed to distancing herself using words in a confrontation but allowing her body to speak through violence. Her new job working for the local federal representative required a significant amount of time working in DC. She felt that she was not receiving the same level of emotional support from Dash during her time away as she provided during his deployments. She also knew that the Dash was missing or hiding an integral part of himself from her. In frustration from their growing emotional distance, she developed what could be called an office-husband. They decided to pursue a relationship after Sunny initiated divorce proceedings. To me her reluctance to both start a physical relationship and to move out immediately following their “discussion” told me that she was hoping deep down that they could save their marriage.
Neither Sunny nor Dash said exactly what they were thinking out of fear. Fear that they would irrevocably hurt the other person and fear that the other person’s response would permanently end all chance of reconciliation. This meant they did not trust each other with tenderness or gentle touches because that left openings for rejection and more pain. Yet the very intensity and physicality of their sexual encounters demonstrated an immense amount of trust. I thought this was spotlighted in one scene perfectly when Sunny used her safe word and Dash immediately stopped. After Sunny fixed the issue she went back to a very similar position giving her permission for them to continue. To me that right there said that at a very basic/elemental level Dash and Sunny trusted each other.
The way Dash and Sunny worked through their anger and mistrust was certainly not something that would work for everyone but at the core was communication. Sunny learned just how much Dash had paid attention to her and things she found important. She also learned that Dash had other dreams besides what he was doing. Dash learned that Sunny was never comfortable with how she was treated as a military spouse. He also learned that she needed obvious proof that he was paying attention to her. Each also had to admit things about themselves and how to share their faults with the other.
Porter really put me through an emotional wringer and made me think a lot after I finished reading Hard Way. Once again they have tackled a kink that isn’t widely accepted and paired it with an emotionally difficult situation to take the reader on quite a journey. While a work of fiction, Porter ensured that the reader could see that the encounters throughout Dash and Sunny’s relationship were consensual which was key to my enjoyment. With each installment of Vegas Top Guns Porter seems to be increasing the level of emotional commitment and depth between their characters.
**spoiler alert** Much more to my liking than the first book. Agree with some of the concerns from my discussion on twitter. Full review to come next...more**spoiler alert** Much more to my liking than the first book. Agree with some of the concerns from my discussion on twitter. Full review to come next week.
Publisher: Berkley Publish Date: Out now How we got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
Jace, Ash, and Gabe: three of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the country. They’re accustomed to getting anything they want. Anything at all. For Jace, it’s a woman whose allure takes him completely by surprise…
Jace Crestwell, Ash McIntyre, and Gabe Hamilton have been best friends and successful business partners for years. They’re powerful, they’re imposing, they’re irresistibly sexy, and Jace and Ash share everything—including their women.
When they meet Bethany, Jace begins to feel things he’s never experienced before: jealousy, and a powerful obsession that threatens him, overwhelms him—and excites him beyond control.
Jace isn’t sharing Bethany—with anyone. He’s determined to be the only man in her life, and it’s jeopardizing a lifelong friendship with Ash. Bethany will be his and his alone. Even if it means turning his back on his best friend.
This blurb came from Goodreads.
E: After reading Rush the first installment of Banks’ Breathless trilogy I decided I was more interested in Jace and Ash than I was in Gabe. I heard from other people that the characters and dynamic were very different in this second installment so I decided to give it a try. While I did enjoy Fever much more than I enjoyed Rush I have come to the conclusion that Banks’ contemporary writing voice is not working for me.
Has: I also felt the same way about Rush because I really disliked Gabe’s character but I agree that the characters of Jace and Ash held more interest for me and I was looking forward to see how Fever panned out for me. I also agree that I did enjoy Fever more but it also had some issues, which was primarily about the heroine, who I found to be one dimensional, and it affected the development of the romance for me. But I did like Jace’s character, and the fact he really fell head over heels for Bethany which is something that makes me melt when I am reading a romance. But I am leaning towards feeling the same way for this series, because while this is a crackilicious trope, the development of some characters and plot points isn’t ticking my boxes.
E: I actually didn’t have too many issues with either Jace or Bethany separately but I did have concerns with their relationship dynamic. No I am not talking about the D/S aspect and the extent to which it stretched throughout their relationship but more in terms of the fallback positions each took during times of high stress. Bethany’s abusive background built in a lifetime response to escape either through drugs or by physically leaving while Jace defaulted to verbally attacking and accusing Bethany of doing the worst possible action without determining the situation. Bethany’s only alternative to Jace once she entered the relationship was to go back to the streets and shelters from a taste of privilege. Jace still had his place, family and money. Bethany did start to leave after each of Jace’s explosions but he continually expressed remorse and then did it again. To me when someone has started trusting and believing again to have their past or other nonexistant actions thrown in their face by the very person who built that trust is not the sign of a healthy relationship.
Has: This was the main issue I had with the book and the romance itself. The power dynamics between Bethany and Jace was very unequal, and while I liked the heads-over-heels element and the fairy-tale aspect which really fits the tone of the story. There was no real expansion on how Jace fell in love so deeply with Bethany, and I wanted more of an emotional development on that rather than the sex and the D/S factor of their relationship.
I also totally agree with you about the pushing and fro-ing with the trust issue, and it added to the unequal dynamics in their relationship, especially since Bethany was homeless and had no power. Even though I think Maya Banks did try to state the message that Bethany did have the upper hand of their relationship because Jace was vulnerable and open to her. I didn’t really believe that because for me he held the upper hand in all aspects of her life and I wasn’t keen on the fact he wanted to dominate her outside the bedroom even though she was willing and they did consent with each other with each decision.
E: Like you Has, I had a hard time believing that Bethany had the upper hand even though she was willingly to go back to streets instead of lose the grounds she had made personally it seemed all to easy for Jace to get mad and break Bethany down.
Spoiler The only person Bethany could depend on during her life was Jack, someone she viewed as a brother, who had earned her loyalty and trust through their shared experiences in foster care and on the street. As a result while she knew Jack had his own issues she always gave him the benefit of the doubt and believed that Jack would never do anything to put her in danger. From the onset of this book Jace and Jack were polar opposites pulling Bethany in different directions. This was a major source of conflict and contention between Jace and Bethany which resulted in some ugly situations. End Spoiler
Jace was used to getting what he wanted, when he wanted it. Yes, he did have to take care of his younger sister unexpectedly but he had all of the advantages of privilege. This was evident each time he introduced Bethany to a new situation and expected her to just fit in. He did not pay any consideration to how foreign each was or that he was subtly undermining her confidence in her ability to fit in through his words and actions. He went from insta-lust to what he called love threaded through with jealousy and possession. I never had the feeling that he learned any lessons about respecting and caring for every aspect of Bethany, especially given their D/S relationship outside of their sexual acts.
Has: I definitely agree, but I also felt Bethany a wallpaper protagonist for me, she reflected and acted on the desires of the men in her life and I didn’t get a sense of her character. I also wished that she would develop her own sense of being and self, and we didn’t get to see that although there was a hint in the end when she wanted to go to college and do something. But that was too little, too late from because there was no real transition from the beginning of the book to the end to show that.
I liked the fairytale overtones of the story, which basically is totally perfect for this trope of the rich hero and poor heroine type romance. But I didn’t think the BDSM and D/S themes fits well with this story. Although I really found this series was refreshing that the kink was not due to any tortured pasts or abuse which is a huge trope for similar books. But I did find it a niggle, on the reasons why Jace and Ash’s predilections to sharing a woman was dismissed by Jace so quickly even though it was a huge part of their sex lives. And I was quite surprised by this because it just felt that this was an added kink to spice up the series. This is a reason why I am not that keen on menage romances these days because its more about the sex than the emotions. And for a good erotic romance to work for me – it must be just as strong with the emotional tone as well as the sexual elements.
E: That is a very good point. The fact that Jace didn’t want to share Bethany from the very beginning was supposed to indicate that she was his one and only instead of just part of the line. While I appreciate the attempt at distinguishing Bethany, since sharing women was such an integral part of the friendship between Jace and Ash it seemed to me that sharing was maybe something that Jace did for Ash instead of it being an equal enjoyment.
I did prefer Fever over Rush but like I said in the beginning I think Banks’ contemporary voice at least in this trope is not working for me. I was not able to fully enter the reading experience or to believe in the relationship and its HEA. I thought that the heroine’s past and her drive to overcome it was a nice change from the typical heroine in this particular trope. Banks did address some of the issues involved in drug abuse, the ugly side of foster care, and life on the streets/shelters which again is usually avoided or glossed over in contemporary romances unless h/h is part of the system. While I found those refreshing the overall story really didn’t work for me and as a result I do not anticipate finishing this trilogy.
I give Fever a C-
Has: I also felt that Fever was much stronger than Rush, but I am with you about the tropes not working for me in this case. The power dynamics especially for a D/S themed book failed which affected the overall romance especially with the characterisation. And while I did enjoy some elements of the story, it didn’t win me over fully.