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+(less)
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.(less)
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 wit...moreReview 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-(less)
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.
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
CAN A COMMON CAUSE
Alyce Carr has no time for the strange man in her little Cornwall village, no matter how breathtakingly handsome he is. Life in Trewyn doesn’t allow for much fun—the managers of the copper mine barely provide the miners and their families with enough food. Outsiders are suspect and flirts are unimaginable, but Simon Sharpe is as keen as his name…and Alyce can’t ignore him for long.
LEAD TO A SHARED PASSION?
As the founder of Nemesis, Unlimited, Simon Addison-Shawe is well accustomed to disguise and deceit. Yet he’s not prepared for Alyce’s dogged defense of her people and the injustices the copper mine has dealt them. With Alyce’s help he can change the fate of an entire town, and convincing her to join him is only part of the thrill. Together, they ignite a desire in each other much too powerful to deny. But at what cost? This blurb came from the author’s website.
If you do a search on The Bookpushers for Zoe Archer’s name you will find that she turns up on a fairly regular basis for a really good reason. She writes entertaining stories set in worlds with a twist. Not only does her settings usually contain a twist of some sort but the individuals who populate her worlds are also rather unusual. Unusual in the sense they don’t exactly fit amongst others of their peers but they provide me with hours of enjoyment. I was aware that Archer had started a new series, and I had the first one, Sweet Revenge on Mount TBR so when I saw we were hosting her (see today’s early post) I was incentivized to move it up to the top of the pile. I did this for a couple of different reasons; first I was expecting it to be good; and second, I wanted to review Dangerous Seduction at the same time as her guest post. I knew from reading other series written by Archer that the stories tend to build on each other, therefore I would catch the subtle nuances in later installments if I started with the first one. After reading and enjoying it I couldn’t wait to get started on Dangerous Seduction.
Set in an impoverished Cornish mining town, Archer explored some of the ugly sides to industrialization. Nemesis, Unlimited received an anonymous letter detailing some of the abuses and pleading for help. In response Simon, born and raised a nobleman, went undercover as a mechanic. During his very first day on the job he saw several examples of abuse. One of which was the use of company script for pay instead of cash. Company script could not be exchanged for cash because it was not backed by a hard currency thus keeping the miners and their families dependent on the company. In addition to the negatives, Simon also noticed Alyce, a villager who managed to maintain her drive for a better life.
Alyce entered the scene arguing with the mine managers as she tried to convince them they needed to dispose of the rotting butter in the company store and replace it with fresh so the miners and their families could eat a wholesome meal. The managers refused but she didn’t let that stop her from continuing to make efforts to benefit the villagers’ lives. She was attracted to Simon but she wasn’t going to jeopardize her livelihood, not with some newcomer who on his very first day caught the attention of the local law enforcement.
I really enjoyed watching Simon gain Alyce’s trust. While she was busy viewing Simon with suspicion he was also looking for an ally, someone who the villagers trusted so he could act for justice. She was so suspicious that she followed him one night because he really wasn’t acting like a typical mine employee. Her conduct that night convinced Simon he might have found the key with which to rally the miners. Alyce discovered that there was a lot more to Simon then she thought and that there might be a chance to make life better. I thought it was great that she didn’t immediately trust/believe him when Simon mentioned why he had come to their village despite his actions. Throughout the story Simon demonstrated that he enjoyed Alyce’s will and independence. He never made it seem as if the was unable to do something because she was a woman. Alyce repaid his trust by doing her part and more during their scheme. She also liked him because of who he was as a person, not because of his birth position.
I knew I was enjoying the story but I did not realize exactly how invested I was in the action portion until I took a deep breath at the end of a particular scene and noticed Archer had steadily built up the tension. Even with that small release, the tension continued to build as the stakes rose higher and higher. I thought it was a sneaky touch when the mine situation reached its climax but I still didn’t know how Simon and Alyce were going to resolve their relationship. By spreading the resolution to the mine conditions and the romance across time, Archer reminded me that while one provided the opportunity for the other they were not completely interdependent.
With Dangerous Seduction Archer has once again created a series whose installments I will continue to enjoy. Her characters are unique and memorable. The world-building in Dangerous Seduction is detailed and varied. She also combines romance with action in just the right amounts so I am invested in the story as a whole, not one particular aspect.
Publisher: Penguin InterMix Publish Date: Out Now How we got this book: NetGalley
Jessica Sweet thought going away to college would finally make her free of her parents’ constant judgments and insistence she play chastity club role model for their church events, but if anything, the freedom has made her realize she can’t go home and be a hypocrite anymore. Tired of dodging their questions, she stays at school over the summer and lands in an unexpected crash pad: Riley Mann’s house.
Sarcastic, cocky, and full of opinions, Riley is also sexy personified with tattoos and biceps earned from working as a roofer all day. Not the right guy for her even if Jessica was looking for a relationship, which she is definitely not. But Jessica knows that Riley hides the burden of having to raise his younger brothers behind that grin and as she helps him get his house in order for a custody hearing, they begin to fall hard for each other, and she is forced to question what she’s hiding herself.
Jessica has never had a problem getting naked with a guy, but when it comes to showing Riley how she truly feels inside, her fear of rejection may just ruin the best thing—the best guy—to ever happen to her…
*Blurb from Goodreads*
1. Thoughts on the Hero
MinnChica: Oh Riley, I have been waiting patiently for you, and you were absolutely NOT what I expected. I was thinking Riley was going to be this totally alpha, take-no-prisoners in bed kind of guy, and yet he surprised me by how sensitive and sweet he was. I thought for sure he and Jessica would spend a lot of this book getting naked and doing wicked things to each other, and yet it was Riley who was constantly holding back. He was the one who wanted to wait, to get to know Jessica better, to form a deeper connection emotionally before physically. And you know what, I loved him for it. That outlook on his relationship just endeared him to me that much more, and I was so glad to see them wait to make love. I think it made their relationship even more sturdy, deeper.
Lou: Riley was quite a surprise in terms of heroes in romance. He could be disgusting at times in his comments and behaviour but he was also caring and very sweet towards Jessica. They were so alike in behaviour that they were made for each other. But I had issues with Riley, and thought he was an ass at times with his jealousy towards the other guys Jessica had slept with in the past. He was quick to anger but he was also very quick to apologise afterwards and was sincere. But I only warmed up to Riley towards the second half of Sweet because his sweet nature came out in force.
E: Well unlike the other ladies who are participating in this review, Sweet was my introduction to McCarthy’s New Adult (NA) books so I didn’t have any previous expectations for Riley. I have to admit that I had some seriously mixed feelings about him. Initially he seemed like the annoying older brother who really wished his brothers’ friends would grow up and become more responsible but at the same time wasn’t mean enough to leave them hanging. Then once Jessica was around him all the time it was like a switch flipped and he became quite the ass. It didn’t seem to matter what Jessica said or did he found something wrong with it. Gradually over time and as he realized that she really did care about other people and want to help he let other aspects of his personality show. One thing I didn’t like about him throughout the entire story was his temper and how it seemed to manifest whenever he was forced to acknowledge that Jessica did have a sexual life before he entered the picture. However, he had some great redeeming qualities which I will address later in this review.
2. Thoughts on the Heroine
MinnChica: I was excited to learn more about Jessica, especially given the way I was a little unsure about her in the first book. I loved her. Given her backstory with her overbearing religious parents, I could totally see why she reacted the way she did once she got a little freedom. I loved that she was trying so hard to be a bad girl, when she was really just a good girl at heart. I loved the way she had to deal with the insecurities of a relationship with Riley that wasn’t physical, especially since it made her so uncomfortable, made her really take a good hard look at the woman she was becoming. It added such a strong dimension to her character. I absolutely love Jessica after reading this book.
Lou: Like Riley, it took me a while to warm up to Jessica. She whined. A lot. And she could also be very stupid when it came to guys. Between her and Riley acting like idiots in the first half, I nearly DNF but I trusted my bookpusher gals when they told me to keep on pushing ahead. I’m glad I did because I really liked Jessica in the second half when she took a good look at her behaviour and realised she was harming herself in pushing any emotions aside. She took quite the journey with ups and downs, but she did grow as a character. Jessica could be abrupt, rude but she was so loyal to her friends.
E: Like Lou I struggled with Jessica as well. Thankfully I knew that MinnChica had already finished and she didn’t hint at any serious issues so I continued to read. She initially struck me as shallow and uncaring but when I learned about her parents and saw what she tried to help Riley and his brothers accomplish she showed more depth. I started to like her as a character but she reverted a few times and her behavior made me want to reach through my kindle and give her a good shake. Thankfully after about the midway point it seemed like she started to realize that her rebellion was really only hurting herself. She had to decide what she was going to do with her life and with the surprising new opportunity she had. I was certainly rooting for her relationship with Riley to work out as the book progressed because they were both making a positive impact on each other.
3. Favorite Scene
MinnChica: Oh man…. picking just one is so hard! I think for me it would have to be when Riley and Jessica paint the kitchen together. It was one of the first moments when they dropped all pretenses and were just friends. They joked and laughed, they worked, they shared some of themselves, and they ended up having fun in the process. It was one of the moments when the hero and heroine realize just how good of friends they are, with or without the sex. I loved it.
Lou: I think my favourite scene was when Jessica was shitfaced drunk, and she realised that by being the complete opposite to what her parents had tried to mould her to be, she was harming herself in the long run. I loved how she embraced her sexuality and stood against the double standards between men and women when it came to sex. I also loved how she tried to make a better home for the Mann brothers.
E: I liked both of the scenes mentioned above but I think my favorite scene was one that I didn’t enjoy reading but it marked a real turning point in this book. It is the scene when Riley and Jessica get into a large argument regarding her past sexual life. To me this scene openly exposed the double standard about men and women regarding their sexual experience. Jessica’s reaction to Riley’s comments made it clear that what he said and thought was unacceptable. That in turn made Riley pause and think about his words and their underlying meaning, then he groveled. While this scene was very uncomfortable to read, it rang true and really signified the point when Riley started seeing beyond his fears for his family and Jessica started seeing that maybe there was more to life than drinking and sex.
4. Dislike about book
MinnChica: I’m kinda scared of the next book in the series, because of one of the things that happened with Jessica’s friend Robin. I have a feeling that the next book is going to be a “trigger” book for me, and one that isn’t going to sit well. Being that this book foreshadowed it a bit, I wasn’t a huge fan of those parts.
Lou: I really disliked a scene in the book where Jessica asks Riley is he pierced down below like Tyler. That chapter and how Jessica and Riley behaved towards each other is what made me nearly DNF. They came across as incredibly immature and I thought Jessica was dumb to think that Riley would be happy to learn that she had slept with his brother in the past. Riley’s reaction towards Jessica was so out of order that I wanted to hit him over the head.
I do hope that the next book does move on from the drinking and partying scene because I felt that this book concentrated a lot on those aspects and not enough on the emotional side of things with Riley and Jessica. I also felt the romance between Riley and Jessica developed pretty quickly and towards the beginning it didn’t feel genuine. I’m also worried about the next book because what Robin did goes against the girlfriend code.
I did think there was some privilege on show in this book that made me uncomfortable. The Mann brothers live in an area that is stricken down with poverty. Yet each character, other than Tyler and Riley, are made out to be poorly dressed, sloven, and pretty much lowlives. There was one scene on the bus where two young men were menacing and made a nuisance of themselves to Jessica. I got uncomfortable because the rest of the people in the neighbourhood weren’t shined upon in a positive light. I would have love to have seen characters from the neighbourhood to not be a potential threat. I know not everyone gets a chance to live in a nice neighbourhood but this seemed a little overkill for me. I don’t know if the author was aware of this while she was writing this book but it lowered the grade for me.
E: Like MinnChica I am worried about the next book. I also think it will contain some triggery items. Also like Lou it seemed as if the individuals outside of Jessica’s girlfriends and the Mann brothers were designed to be unlikeable. They seemed rather two dimensional and while that served as a foil it also detracted from the book because they were not fleshed out. It was really hard to believe that out of the entire community only a handful of people were decent.
5. Any other misc. thoughts along with grade
MinnChica: One thing that I think is really important to note is that this book had a vastly different tone than the first in the series. They were both really well done, but they also felt like totally different stories, that should be in different series, that happen to follow the same characters. When I put the book down I was almost shocked at just how different it was from True. But I found that it didn’t really color my like or dislike of the book at all.
All in all I thought Sweet was a wonderful second book to the True Believers series. I love the characters that McCarthy has created, and can’t wait to find out more about the mysterious Phoenix, our next True-cousin hero. I thought Jessica and Riley had a perfect romance, and hope we get to see more of them in books to come. I give Sweet a B+
Lou: I agree with MinnChica. This book had a completely different tone and style to True. I didn’t like Sweet as much as True because I think Jessica and Riley’s romance sprang into existence so quickly without any build-up tension. But I really enjoyed the second part where Jessica learns a lot about herself, and the romance with Riley was very sweet. There were funny moments, and I’m so glad we saw the Mann family again and how Jessica learned to find herself a place in this very brotherly family. I also really disliked the privilege on show when it comes to poor people.
I give Sweet a C
E: This was an interesting read. I absolutely loved how Riley decided that he wanted to be not one of many but the one that Jessica remembered and stayed with. His extreme patience when it came to their sexual relationship was very touching and sweet. I also liked how they both grew up and relaxed into who they were. I thought Riley really proved who he was when he went with Jessica to her parents house instead of letting her go by herself and face whatever they had to say. I did have some issues as I mentioned earlier with the first half of the book and the main characters but once I got past that point it became enjoyable. I am think the relationship in the next book will be a good one but I think the issues they will have to face will be extremely painful for me to read. I give Sweet a C+/B-
Publisher: Self-published Publish Date: Out now How we got this book: ARC from the author
Do you believe in dragons? Werewolf cop Rick Lupone would say no . . . until a dying faerie tells him the fate of his city depends on him. If he can’t protect a mysterious woman in peril, everything may be lost. The only discovery more shocking is that the woman he’s meant to save is his high school crush, Cass Maycee.
Half fae Cass didn’t earn her Snow White nickname by chance. All her life, her refusal to abuse fae glamour kept men like Rick at arm’s length. Now something new is waking up inside her, a secret heritage her pureblood father kept her in the dark about. Letting it out might kill her, but keeping it hidden is no longer an option. The dragons’ ancient enemies are moving. If they find the prize before Rick and Cass, the supe-friendly city of Resurrection just might cease to exist. This blurb came from the author’s website.
E: When I got a note from Holly letting me know about Hidden Dragons I had to say. I mean the combination of Holly, dragons, and her Hidden world and I couldn’t resist. As I have said previously I have enjoyed Holly’s writing for a very long time. I followed her from traditional to self-publishing and continue to have the same level of enjoyment. It is evident that she puts a lot of time and effort into ensuring that the published book is a very high quality and I appreciate that. It allows me to sink into the world, story, and characters without becoming distracted by administrative errors. Hidden Dragons goes back to Resurrection and the werewolf police team that started this series. I have enjoyed the different personalities within the pack and how they are slowly finding rather unusual partners. In this particular story a long hidden high school crush gets the opportunity to bloom under dangerous conditions.
Has: I love the Hidden world, the characters and world-building that Holly created is rich and imaginative. So I also felt the same way when I heard that dragons were going to be featured in the next installment in this series. And oh how they added a fantastic tone to the story as well as highlighted the more fantasy elements of the series which was more paranormal in feel.
The main couple, were also great! I loved that we got to see more of the Lupone brothers and Rick who is the main hero in this book really shines as the beta cop who finds himself protecting his high-school crush. While Cass who also reciprocated his feelings during school is a fun and intelligent heroine and I loved the moment when they both realised their feelings for each other which was very sexy and sweet. Emma Holly has a real gift with sensual scenes and the romantic tension between Cass and Rick was fantastic!
E: Watching the unfolding of their relationship especially the realization that each had admired the other was a lot of fun. I also found myself intrigued by the mixture of legend, children’s tv/fairy tales, and what was actually happening. Holly also put an interesting twist on the dangers or benefits of accepting a gift from the fae. I thought Rick did a great job as a Beta hero by demonstrating the caring and also tenacious aspects of his personality. He was strong enough to protect but felt no need to have the monopoly on good ideas. At the same time he wasn’t going to let Cass get away with ignorance and refusing to acknowledge that she knew the answers to their problems.
Cass was also an intriguing character. She had several other half-Fae friends that she was close to but she avoided any emotional or other entanglements with men. And yet despite that closeness she spent most of her adult life away from Resurrection, her home. She also never pushed her father for information or to involve himself more in her life. However, one of the things I didn’t like about her was that when she was stressed, she defaulted to using her fae glamour or power. The same power she used as an excuse to stay away from men. I am going to talk about that a little more later because I think it was an important plot thread.
Has: I really like the emphasis and the details that Emma Holly gave to the reader, especially with the mythology of the fae such as lying which Cass experienced a backlash everytime she lied to herself or to others. The little details like this really cemented the world-building for me. And I liked that we learn more about the fae because in previous books, the fae were a race which appeared to be mysterious and enigmatic and I loved that we got more insight into their race and their origins in Resurrection.
I really like Rick, because he was in the sense, a true protector without any of the alphaholish characteristics but I find that most of Holly’s characters especially her heroes, are more likable and well developed. I think for me, I wished there was more of a buildup to their realisation of their feelings and I would like to have seen more of their feelings before they commenced with their relationship because it was a bit sudden.
I think with the way Cass dealt with her glamour and fae abilities was true to herself because it was something she used unconsciously. It was not till she was living on the Outside in the human world, she realised the impact and repercussions of her power especially on how she changed her ex-fiance. I thought that was an interesting aspect of her character and how tricky the fae can be. If she was more manipulative and selfish, it would have been a totally different story. I think I found her father’s agenda to be more problematic especially with the way he regarded Cass’ mother and the fallout over that relationship which was a huge price to pay.
E: I agree I loved finding out about the origins of Resurrection and some of the people who lived there. I also understood Cass’ father’s agenda much more because his life, his family’s life was devoted to his particular rule. And he had to do everything he possibly could to fulfill his side of the bargain. Yes, I am deliberately on the vague side here so I don’t spoil a large portion of the book.
I had much more of an issue when after everything Cass and Rick had been through she didn’t have any qualms about threatening to use her fae power on him if he didn’t agree to do what she wanted. For someone who professed to hate use her power on people and knew what it felt like to have someone use their power on her this was a huge shock. I also felt like she completely betrayed the trust that Rick had in her and only when she saw Rick’s reaction and that he had been formulating a plan that would accomplish what she wanted did she seem to understand the gravity of her actions. This struck me as the action of someone who needed to grow up a bit more. I don’t think she properly groveled and regained Ricks trust even though he professed to believe her when she said she had learned her lesson. I still felt that under stress she would revert back to using her power regardless of the consequences.
Has: Oh I definitely agree with you about that aspect of Cass but I do think she had genuine reasons on why she did threaten to use her powers like that. But I liked that this was an interesting source of conflict between them and I think if she ever did do something like this then its a loss of trust and that would have damaged her relationship with Rick. And that would be irreparable. I do think they both realised that towards the end and it was a contrast with her parents and how they dealt with the impact of her father’s abilities. It is not easy to be with a fae who has powers that could glamour and manipulate the people around them. But I do think Cass sees this is important that she cannot rely or even use her powers subconsciously.
E: Holly continues to provide entertaining reads. She also ensured the both the tension and stakes were high and continued to get higher as the story continued. One of my favorite scenes was when Cass decided to set boundaries on what she would and would not allow purebred Fae to do. She seemed to signify that they could no longer look down on and discount what half-Fae could accomplish. As I said earlier I did have some issues with Cass and her lack of groveling along with Rick’s acceptance. Yes, he did stay away from her for a while but I still wanted a stronger resolution. Overall, I enjoyed my visit back to Resurrection and spending time with the werewolf cops. I look forward to Holly’s next installment.
I give Hidden Dragons a B.
Has: I definitely agree that Emma Holly is a solid and entertaining author, and I continue to love each new story in the Hidden universe. While there was some issues with Cass and her father who I suspect might also be in the running for his own story in the future, I found the source of conflict was an interesting conundrum. The world-building was also fantastic and Emma Holly further develops the mythology about the mythical inhabitants in Resurrection. And Hidden Dragons definitely offers a different overtone in this ongoing series, which had a sweet and passionate romance which had great touches of humour!
Publisher: Samhain Publish Date: 22 Oct How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
Beri O’Dell is on a mission. She has to rip back into a hell dimension fast, but needs two things first—the blood of an ancient and a fix for her friend Blythe’s magic, which careened out of control after the battle with the Dweller.
Finding ancient blood isn’t easy when the old ones are rare and unwilling to donate. She needs to find Blythe’s former mentor…except the woman has lost her mind and joined a traveling band of singing witches.
That’s not the only magical monkey on her back. Nikolos is imprisoned, and after a screwed-up spell lets her witness the horror that has become his life, her fear for him grows by the day. Now there’s another problem—a powerful being unleashed during the battle with the Dweller likes her gluttonous new existence, and will kill anyone who threatens it.
But Beri has a few tricks up her costumed sleeve, even if it means mining the darkness of her soul to set everything right…and get Nikolos back in her arms.
Warning: Sleazy ancients. Random fires. Nosy teenage hackers. Hints of off-screen torture. Battles with…Beri doesn’t know what. And one scary boyfriend who keeps inching toward insanity. This blurb came from the author’s website.
I reviewed the first Beri O’Dell book, Dweller on the Threshold, earlier today and because its events lead directly into this story there will be spoilers for the first book. Beri and her friends, well those that survived the battle with the Dweller, were recuperating as they tried to figure out how to fix everything that went wrong. Blythe’s magic was completely out of control resulting in random fires and spells that didn’t quite work as intended. Her mentor, the only person who might know how to fix the issue, was missing. Beri has wounds that aren’t healing because Blythe can’t spell them so poison from the demons’ claws is slowly spreading throughout her body. During the battle with the Dweller, several unknown entities escaped from hell and need to be hunted down before they cause too much damage. Nikolos sacrificed himself to kill the Dweller so he was in hell undergoing horrific torture intended to completely transform him. Beri was determined to somehow manage to fix everything, but it would take all she had and then some to even get close.
I was really excited to read the second installment because Beri wasn’t exactly in a good place and I wanted to know how she was going to deal with all of the issues. I am glad to say that I wasn’t disappointed. Things started off with a touch of humor but quickly turned serious when it became evident that someone or something really wanted Beri, Blythe, and Elsa dead or severely incapacitated. It seemed as if Beri had once again found herself in the middle of a supernatural mess. Together the group decided to focus on finding Blythe’s mentor so she could fix her magic, which would be needed to heal Beri as well as control the elemental needed to hold open a portal to hell. At the same time, they would also look for an Ancient to donate a little blood required for the ritual. The plan seemed simple enough except things kept becoming more complicated.
Once again, I enjoyed the interactions throughout the entire group. Threads of sexual tension continued to flow between certain individuals because they still avoided addressing their past history. Several times, I caught myself laughing at the rather vigorous discussions between Beri’s brother and the necromancer. I thought that the growing closeness and friendship between Beri and the other members of the group meant that she was healing emotionally from the trauma of her childhood and allowing herself to care about others. In addition to revisiting the core group from the first book, I met a few more very interesting characters. I liked how they played key roles and seemed to find their own niches within the group. **Not so subtle hint** I would love to see them appear in future stories.
As much as I thought things looked tense and uncertain as events approached their climax in the first book, somehow Elliot managed to increase my concerns about the possibility of accomplishing everything Beri wanted to achieve as the story opened. The denizens and powers of hell were not easily persuaded to relinquish their toys and they enjoyed whatever anguish they could cause so the closer Beri came to rescuing Nikolos the harder things became. Elliot did include enough hints that I figured out one of her twists this time but I was so focused on it, I missed any clues she might have included about her other twists.
I found Blood of an Ancient an enjoyable follow-up to Dweller on the Threshold. One of the things I enjoyed about this story is how Elliot continued to expand her world and pull in just enough reality to ground the dark fantasy. Her use of myths, legends, and familiar interpretations of certain environments such as aspects of hell made it easy for me to visualize what was happening. I am really pleased that she is planning on writing more Beri O’Dell books not just because of where this one ended, but because I find them a refreshing read. She is able to walk the line that appeals to both my romance and my fantasy/adventure reading sides, which is a lovely change. She also ensures that she ends things with enough at stake that I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
Quick Thoughts - Stir Me Up by Sabrina Elkins Absolutely loved reading this story. I pre-ordered it I think on recommendations from some individuals o...moreQuick Thoughts - Stir Me Up by Sabrina Elkins Absolutely loved reading this story. I pre-ordered it I think on recommendations from some individuals on twitter and I am so glad that I did. Given this past week it was the perfect story to read leaving work.