3.5 stars. More of a return to form for Cole than that last book, which I really disliked. Trehan is an immortal Dacian (vampire), who is blooded by B...more3.5 stars. More of a return to form for Cole than that last book, which I really disliked. Trehan is an immortal Dacian (vampire), who is blooded by Bettina, the sorceress-demon halfling princess of Abaddon, the realm of the Death demons. As a romance, it was decent and I enjoyed Trehan. Bettina had a sense of humor but was pretty immature. The book definitely was more of a fun showcase for Cole's world of the Lore. Trehan has to enter a tournament to the death with some 200 other immortal Loreans to fight for Bettina's hand. One of the hallmarks of this series is how well Cole's characters mesh with the different Lorean rances she has created. I always enjoy Valkyries, perhaps the most, and Lykae and demons. I usually don't like Sorceri, witches, or vampires quite as much. But after quite a while away from the series, I will say I enjoyed returning to this well-drawn world fantastical world. She has quite a good grasp of those details which make world-building feel truly authentic. In the past I think I may have used the word "romp" to describe this series, and it still applies - it's pure entertainment!(less)
The last one of these Jennifer Ashley books I read before losing interest. Cameron is, again, another Mackenzie lord who finds his bride. It's super f...moreThe last one of these Jennifer Ashley books I read before losing interest. Cameron is, again, another Mackenzie lord who finds his bride. It's super formulaic, in my opinion, and I don't feel that any future book will change the formula so I've stopped trying them!(less)
The story of Ian's brother Mac and his failed marriage to Isabella. Again with the meh I felt after the first book. I mean, I finished it, but it cert...moreThe story of Ian's brother Mac and his failed marriage to Isabella. Again with the meh I felt after the first book. I mean, I finished it, but it certainly didn't transport me.(less)
This was OK. A little too mainstream for me, maybe? I did enjoy that one of the main characters, Ian, has OCD and perhaps a bit of autism... and that...moreThis was OK. A little too mainstream for me, maybe? I did enjoy that one of the main characters, Ian, has OCD and perhaps a bit of autism... and that the society of the times did not know how to treat that. I felt like it was a bit too formulaic for me, and not quite psychological enough. For historical romance, I'd say I definitely prefer Sherry Thomas and Courtney Milan.(less)
I wasn't really sure how this book was going to go, I felt like Halle set herself up for a difficult task to write her way out of the situation Ellie...moreI wasn't really sure how this book was going to go, I felt like Halle set herself up for a difficult task to write her way out of the situation Ellie found herself in at the end of book 2. And in the end, although it didn't blow my mind, I feel like Ellie's journey was authentic and she found something in herself I have been waiting for the whole time - a surety of purpose and knowledge of her own heart. Ellie desperately needed to decide something for her own damn self, not because she was scared or wanted anymore. And in this book I saw that growth, saw her step up and make tough calls and face her demons.
I did feel a little jerked around at times, but it's kind of a given with the high stakes action in these books - car chases, shootouts, showdowns, helicopters. There are going to be some fake outs. From the first book this series has felt so much like a great dark action movie, and this book continued that feeling with intensely visual descriptions, very real-feeling action, and gobs of atmosphere. I can totally see these books as movies, but whoever does them needs to be more than a little twisted, no hollywood treatment here.(less)
This book and the novella prequel, On Every Street, really deepened this story and Ellie's voice for me a great deal. I loved the continued twists, pa...moreThis book and the novella prequel, On Every Street, really deepened this story and Ellie's voice for me a great deal. I loved the continued twists, particularly as Ellie, Javier, and Camden continue to sink deeper into the web of... whatever the hell they are in. Is it a love triangle? I guess you could call it that, but it's seriously twisted. More like a triangle of obsession, lust, violence, despair, hope, and drowning. By the end I didn't know what I even wanted to happen anymore. Definitely a gripping read!
And I have Karine Halle to thank for introducing me to the Dead Weather, a group whose song she featured in the first book, and who in one of her blogs she said really conveyed the feeling of these books. I have to agree, after she turned me onto them, I grew to LOVE them, and their songs and sound will now always be linked in my mind to Ellie's voice, and the sweet, rough, demented Western sensibility of these books. What a cool connection, I do enjoy how cinematic Halle makes her books, with vivid scenes, imagery, and soundtracks.
Eagerly awaiting book 3, out next month October 2013.(less)
I loved this beautiful, dark, tortured prequel to Sins and Needles! This is the story of Ellie and Javier, when they met and fell in love, some six ye...moreI loved this beautiful, dark, tortured prequel to Sins and Needles! This is the story of Ellie and Javier, when they met and fell in love, some six years before the events of Sins and Needles. So we kind of know how it turns out (kind of), and we know going into this novella that Ellie is deeply scarred from her time with Javier, but I don't think anything can prepare you for the intensity of this story.
When I enjoyed the most, what I found Halle did better (here, in this book) than any other time I have come across this, was how she openly portrayed how love can turn everything on its head. Right and wrong, black and white, what you want out of life, all of it can be consumed and completely flipped by love. It's so hard usually to put yourself into the shoes of someone who is in love with the wrong person, the bad person, the person who mistreats them or others. It's so easy to stand back from a safe distance and say "She (or he) shouldn't do that, what a bad move". Well, in this book Halle completely immerses us into Ellie's experience of this relationship, and for once, I could actually understand completely how she could make the choices she made. I not only objectively understood how she felt, I felt it with her. The love of a magnetic, charming, powerful man, of someone who is obsessed with her, it is like the light of the sun after an entire life of being thrown away by everyone who she ever loved. Ellie is so, so scarred by her life. She wants, and deserves happiness. It is not her fault that no one ever taught her how to love and be loved. But even though it's not her fault, she has to live with the consequences.
I had some issues with Ellie's voice in Sins and Needles, I had trouble connecting to her, I didn't really like her very much, it was like she was holding something back. This story helped me get into Ellie's head so much more. Understanding her past with Javier definitely opened up so much about her - told me why she was closed off, why she pushed people away and made deliberately bad choices. I find, going into book 3 Shooting Scars that I don't have trouble connecting with Ellie anymore.
What a terrific follow-up to Sins and Needles, for me - I read it after. The whole time with Sins and Needles, I could not really commit to Ellie's relationship with Camden, because I didn't know what had happened with Javier. I was saving my judgment on who she should love, if you will, until I knew more about Javier. I have to say, I still don't know what I think. It's definitely not about who loves her more or anything like that. It's about who Ellie needs to be, to become herself, and how each of them have played and may continue to play a role in that evolution. I think I read somewhere that Karina Halle, when asked "Team Camden or Team Javier?", replied "Team Ellie". I definitely agree. This is Ellie's story, I want Ellie to have an ending she earns and deserves. Even if it is tragic in some way - in fact I don't see how tragedy can be avoided, this is a dark story. This novella definitely made me even more interested to continue with the series!(less)
It's interesting to me that Karina Halle has a degree in filmmaking, because this book really felt like a movie to me. I was overwhelmed by visual imp...moreIt's interesting to me that Karina Halle has a degree in filmmaking, because this book really felt like a movie to me. I was overwhelmed by visual impressions while reading it. Her contribution of a soundtrack, and of songs deeply interwoven into the emotions and plot points of the story, really helped with that overall feeling as well. It was like I was watching a movie in my own head, filled with vibrant characters, dazzling casinos, car chases, vast desert landscapes, evocative music, and wicked sexy scenes!
Ellie is a grifter, raised by grifter parents to be one herself, and she has had a painful checkered past. The only thing she is really good at, is running and hiding, and she doesn't have much experience with handling love from others. Running from yet another scam gone wrong, she finds herself in her hometown ostensibly looking for honest work. It doesn't take long before she has decided on a new scheme, only this one involves her only childhood friend, who has transformed from an awkward, outcast goth, into a hunky musician tattoo artist man - Camden McQueen. As they spend more time together, it becomes clear that each has ulterior motives... and you'll have to read the book to know the rest! :)
I found Ellie and Camden's story to be, as Halle puts it, sweet and rough. She tells the story of their present-day re-aquaintance, interspersed with the story of their once upon a time friendship. As the narrative of one time progresses, so does the other, ultimately spiraling into... something. I enjoyed this narrative trick and found it gave me insight into both of the characters in just the right amounts and pace. Individually and together, I enjoyed getting to know the characters, and my understanding of them and appreciation for them deepened as the story progressed.
One thing I can't quite put my finger on with this book, is a sense of dissatisfaction with Ellie's voice. I can't relate to her quite enough to get inside her head, so it puts me at a remove from her as a 1st person narrator (not a problem I had, on the other hand, with Perry in Darkhouse). This meant I found myself liking Camden better than Ellie by the end of the book. I suspect this makes sense with the overall narrative for these three books, so I'm OK with it. I feel like Ellie has quite a bit more to learn about herself and own up to, for me to feel connected to her. My feeling for Ellie reminds me a little bit of Justine from the Disillusionists series, just in how I was inside her head but found her a little self-deluding and unlikable.
The book does employ something like a love triangle angle. Except, the love story is really between two people and the third is actually a dangerous psycho who's hunting the other two down like dogs. Oh, and one of them is kind of still in love with the psycho. O_O. Bravo to Karina Halle for keeping it interesting. I am definitely intrigued to find out where this storyline goes next.
So, this book was at 3.5 stars for from a plot/character perspective me but I rounded up to 4 for the really satisfying, cinematic scene-setting and soundtrack, and the intriguing hint of eau de psycho we get in the character of Javier.(less)
Although this was cute and sweet, it was not quite on the level of The Governess Affair, which is one of my shining examples of all-time favorite nove...moreAlthough this was cute and sweet, it was not quite on the level of The Governess Affair, which is one of my shining examples of all-time favorite novellas (also written by Milan). She is quite good at building tension quickly and finding just the right fit between her leads, but ultimately I felt the story, perhaps the characters, lacked quite the level of connection I wanted them to have. Perhaps falling back on the idea that they've known each other for years and have all this history together, while it definitely works sometimes, worked instead against this book for me because I wanted to read about more of those important moments between them - not just read about them remembering the moments... I'm sure it's just a matter of personal preference. As always, it was superbly written and Milan continues to be one of my very favorite authors of this genre.(less)
I just loved this short novel! It was on par for me with the best of Carolyn Crane's stories, from a romance perspective. She writes the insides of pe...moreI just loved this short novel! It was on par for me with the best of Carolyn Crane's stories, from a romance perspective. She writes the insides of peoples' heads like very few other authors!
Angel the safecracker is out of the jewel heist business, but got pulled back in for one last job. She has never felt fulfilled by being a thief, but she loves the thrill of safecracking. Cole is a deep undercover agent who needs Angel to crack a safe for him, so he can save lives. Neither knows exactly what is driving the other to do what they do - but they just can't resist each other, in spite of the fact that each thinks the other is up to no good.
I think this is Crane's first foray into the romantic suspense genre - but I'd say she does it quite well! No matter what genre she writes, she does such a great job building realistic characters, I can't help but love them. To me, this short book with its high stakes and huge payoff, is almost on par with Devil's Luck, which is my all time favorite by her! (less)
I am swearing off Megan Hart books for awhile. They are just exhausting. :)
So this is book 3 in the series called "Alex Kennedy" and it is indeed abou...moreI am swearing off Megan Hart books for awhile. They are just exhausting. :)
So this is book 3 in the series called "Alex Kennedy" and it is indeed about... wait for it... Alex Kennedy. If you have read the series thus far you know that in book 1 Tempted, Alex got involved with a married couple - Jamie and Anne, which we heard about from Anne's perspective. In book 2, a novella - Everything Changes, we hear Alex's perspective on the same relationship. So believe me, starting this book I was emotionally sore from what Alex had been through - as of course he was too.
I was a bit surprised to find this book is actually told from the perspective of someone else - Olivia Mackey, a woman who meets Alex and begins something of a flirtation with him. For the most part though, this book is Olivia's story. She is in a place of questing, of building herself - from starting up her own business while working two jobs, to trying to find her place in a faith community while being pulled in two directions by her divorced parents, to being heartsore about the breakup of her only real relationship, which turned out really nastily to be with a gay man (view spoiler)[who screwed around on her - so knowing as she does that Alex likes men too... (hide spoiler)]. She feels disconnected on many levels, and she's not really ready to be in a relationship.
Olivia and Alex clearly really get on well together, and their romance is a natural, lovely thing. They both have doubts and qualms and they work those out in real ways - fighting, silence, discussions. Their relationship builds realistically and of course, we are rooting for them to be together.
What bothered me about the book was my lack of insight into Alex. At this point I can pretty much read him enough to know he's being genuine with Olivia, but I also know how much he was hurt - so I doubted him at times. I really missed his voice, after having it in book two. I also felt like the book waited too long to introduce the subject of book 1 - Jamie and Anne - into this story, and there was not enough time to resolve the emotions that got tangled up with that revelation.
The book ended in a place that doesn't surprise me at this point coming from Megan Hart - a not quite happy ending, but one where real people seem to be committed to getting there. It's realistic, and like I said - not always what I want in a "romance" novel! I'd actually probably characterize this book and Tempted more as chick-lit, because even though there are relationships and a ton of sex, they are mostly about women discovering important truths about themselves - often with the help of the men around them. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
After finishing Tempted, the story of Anne, Jamie, and Alex's three-way romance that held unexpected emotional, somewhat twisted depths - I was left s...moreAfter finishing Tempted, the story of Anne, Jamie, and Alex's three-way romance that held unexpected emotional, somewhat twisted depths - I was left so unsatisfied by knowing only Anne's perspective throughout the book. Sure, Anne as a character I was committed to, and I cared about the resolution she received, but what about Jamie? What about Alex? WHERE WAS THEIR RESOLUTION?!?!
Cue book 2, this book, where we get to hear Alex's side of the story, from inside his own head. And for all the lack of emotion that Alex displayed in Tempted - such a lack of emotion that he clearly was hiding - well, this book really delivered. Yes, indeed, Alex felt a lot. Clearly he is conflicted about Jamie - he fools himself about it, but less than Jamie does. He is not as conflicted about his feelings for Anne, although he refuses to steal his best friend's wife... as we know after finishing the first book.
This is a short little satisfying book. It definitely whetted my appetite for book 3 - Naked where supposedly Alex gets his very own love story, instead of being a pawn in someone else's.
Warning: if you are freaked out by the cover - you probably shouldn't read this. It has some brief M/M action which is physical but completely devoid of emotion... it's definitely part of Alex and it deserves a place in this book. But Megan Hart has a way of writing erotica (is it really erotica? I don't think so) that draws such a clear distinction between love and sex, and you always know which one or two of those is in the room at any given point. Her writing is so very aware of those distinctions. It's a distinctive trait.
Once again, I applaud Megan Hart while at the same time giving her stink eye for making me feel so conflicted!(less)
This book, oh this book. This book was gripping, it was deftly written. This book disappointed me, in some ways. Ultimately I rated it 4 stars because...moreThis book, oh this book. This book was gripping, it was deftly written. This book disappointed me, in some ways. Ultimately I rated it 4 stars because it kind of pissed me off (in a good way - because I cared what happened), and it felt so real. Megan Hart does not write fairy tale or happy go lucky romance/erotica. But I identified with pretty much every character in this book at multiple points.
I think I complained recently about another book I read being too vanilla - not emotionally edgy enough. What I mean by that is, when a book gets under your skin, when you identify with the characters - good and bad - when the emotions skirt the unpleasantly real, the truly uncomfortable - that is emotionally edgy. When a book shows you back something about yourself, like it or not. Megan Hart has this talent, to write a book that can do that. I was uncomfortable at times when reading this book, not because of sexual situations (and there are plenty) but because of emotional situations.
Anne has a troubled past in some ways. Her family, her relationships, they have made her who she is - flaws and all. She doesn't always know what she wants, and she doesn't always thinks she deserves what she wants. Her marriage to James is - by her own admission - the best thing in her life. Yet when James' best friend Alex comes around, when she sees her own husband's responses to him, she starts to get into touch with what she wants again... and it's Alex.
Hart doesn't shy away from the implications in the characters' choices. What happens when a married couple takes another person into their bed? How does that complicate their relationship, how does it strengthen, how does it destroy? She lets us see deep into Anne, past what Anne herself knows of what she wants. Everyone in this story is hiding truth from themselves in some way.
At first I didn't enjoy the interludes with Anne's sisters. They were too stereotypical, I didn't understand her need to confide in them, their relationships. But I was won over by how they supported each other, how they helped each other. And what I learned of Anne's history.
My chief complaint with the book was that I didn't want to focus only on Anne - the narrator - so much. I was deeply interested in the other two parts of the triangle, James and Alex. Although Anne got her resolution (I guess - as much as anyone does), they didn't. And not only that, but I felt like I didn't have enough of their history. I really wanted them to get some resolution as well. (view spoiler)[ not to be all - they should have had sex too! but really... I wanted them to do that, or at least admit their feelings for each other. I felt like James in particular got off too easy. Really, he was the one who brought Alex and Anne together and he never could admit his own feelings for Alex. It just feels unresolved... (hide spoiler)] However, I see there are additional books in this series, and the series is called "Alex Kennedy", so I will be sure to pick those up and see what happens next. I am sure there will be more angst, but hopefully some resolution for Alex as well.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This was a decent short little novella about what happens when two strangers who might never normally speak to each other, get stuck in a hot, dark el...moreThis was a decent short little novella about what happens when two strangers who might never normally speak to each other, get stuck in a hot, dark elevator for hours together. They talk, they bond, things get... a little spicy! It was enjoyable and quick to read. However, it may have just been too straightforward and... earnest for me.
Yes, on the surface these two wouldn't hook up - Caden is a scarred person, both inside and out, from an accident that happened long ago, and he deals with his pain with tattoos, piercings, and lonerism. Makenna is a bushy-tailed young accountant who's all buttoned up and prim on the outside. And so, the premise is pretty good - these two would never hook up, sure, I'll bite. But then once they do start interacting, they pretty much immediately fall for each other, and there is never really any moment where there is any doubt they will be together.
So was it sweet? Yes. Hot? Yes. But edgy, gripping, or fascinating? Nah. If I compare it against two other stand-out novellas about quick-blooming romances, Devil's Luck by Carolyn Crane, and The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan, and while we're on the topic - certainly Here There Be Monsters by Meljean Brook - well, this one just falls way short. Those short works all quickly build strong character portrayals, set up for a gripping conflict, and achingly resolve it - all in about the same amount of pages as this short book. So, for me, even though it's decent, this one suffers by comparison. 2.5 or 3 stars.(less)
Just what I have come to expect from Julie James - a solid contemporary romance with witty banter and solidly funny content (whether it be scenes, com...moreJust what I have come to expect from Julie James - a solid contemporary romance with witty banter and solidly funny content (whether it be scenes, comments, or thoughts... always funny).
This novel is about Cade Morgan - he who prosecuted the "Twitter terrorist" Kyle Rhodes (hero of the last book), and a new character, who happens to be - you guessed it - another lawyer! Actually general counsel for a restaurant and catering company, but a lawyer indeed. I feel kind of lame complaining that James wrote another romance about lawyers - because in the past I actually complained when she didn't! Because her first few books (featuring lawyers) were so fresh, enjoyable, and witty. But I find that these books are becoming all just a tad too much the same for me...
If you're new to James but like a witty enjoyable contemporary romance, this will be great for you. However, I personally prefer Practice Makes Perfect, Something About You, and Just the Sexiest Man Alive! However - it was fun, I did read it in one sitting, and James definitely knows how to deliver on her formula pretty well at this point.
I did find some of the social media references to be a little weird though, and feel sure that over time they will date the book quite a bit. There was this whole weird episode where the character accidentally shared a link over FB and got lots of inquiries from sleazy men, and lots of ribbing from her guy friends over it. I wondered if we were setting up for some kind of social media PSA. But then, nothing... it never came back to haunt her, and in fact it was dropped and Cade never even found out. Another quibble is with Brooke's best friend, Ford. I was intrigued that she has a male best friend, but ultimately it felt like that whole relationship went kind of undelivered on. I think the friend relationships have been handled better in her other books.(less)
Pretty good little novella in this series about the "unfortunate" Lady Elaine and the man who has always tormented her. Not as strong as the other nov...morePretty good little novella in this series about the "unfortunate" Lady Elaine and the man who has always tormented her. Not as strong as the other novella I read by Milan recently - just my preference I guess.(less)
Not quite as good for me as the first book, but better than the second - IMO. I do quite love Smite, and how he keeps talking about how unsentimental...moreNot quite as good for me as the first book, but better than the second - IMO. I do quite love Smite, and how he keeps talking about how unsentimental he is... while being an absolute romantic mess! I liked Miranda a little less, but certainly found her sympathetic given her predicament - and I was thrilled with a certain pragmatic decision she made that rightfully shifted the focus away from a predictable external conflict, and brought us back to the internal psychological struggle that was this book's true plot. Bravo on that, Ms Milan! Long story short - if you liked the other two books in the "Turner" series, you won't be disappointed with this one.(less)
Having already read book 2 in the series: Unclaimed, and liking it but not feeling too moved by it, I was convinced to go back and read another of Mil...moreHaving already read book 2 in the series: Unclaimed, and liking it but not feeling too moved by it, I was convinced to go back and read another of Milan's books - this one - after reading a novella by her The Governess Affair, which was actually pretty damn near perfect. This one certainly did not disappoint either!
In all of the books I have read by her, Milan has a unique and powerful ability to put the reader into her characters' minds, to plunge us deep into their emotional turmoil. The difference for me with this book was, I identified more strongly with the characters, so I was more moved by their story.
Ash Turner is the oldest of the Turner brothers, who left his broken home at the age of 14 to seek his fortune in India, and support his family. Because of the abuse his siblings continued to suffer in his absence, he is driven by a need to protect them and provide for them - to exact revenge on anyone who ever hurts them. Including - the entire Dalrymple family, almost all of whom have personally harmed on of his brothers. But what Ash never considered is the Dalrymple sister, Margaret - and how his actions would impact her.
When we start the novel, Ash has convinced Parliament to discredit the Duke of Parford's marriage and caused all of the Dalrymple children to become bastards. Margaret, the only sister, has decided to stay at Parford to watch over her father and attempt to discredit Ash as the heir to the title - as Parliament will soon decide who inherits. Ash is a powerfully charismatic man, who invariably trusts his instincts. Upon his first sight of Margaret, he knows that she belongs to him. Over time, he comes to realize that he wants her with him forever. Margaret, on the other hand, hates Ash powerfully for what he has done to her family. It is only over time and with much interaction that she comes to see the man he is, and realize his motivation...
It is a bittersweet love story for these two, which definitely had me swept along the whole way. I adore how for Milan, the reveal of Margaret's identity is not even the climax of the book - rather the climax is ultimately when Ash and Margaret are able to fully communicate and understand together what their situation means to each of them, with all of the beauty and pain of that understanding. What could easily be melodrama and I'm sure it seems that way reading about it in a book review, was really masterfully done.
I am so glad I decided to read this book - I will definitely be looking for Unraveled next - the third brother Smite's story. Having met Smite in the other two books I know that his story will be a powerful one, he seems the most untouchable of the three Turner brothers, the most damaged by their abusive mother.(less)
As with all of Milan's books, this was well-constructed and compelling. However, I didn't care that much for the 2 main characters, and I found the pl...moreAs with all of Milan's books, this was well-constructed and compelling. However, I didn't care that much for the 2 main characters, and I found the plot to be contrived a bit more than I was willing to entertain. I think in this kind of novel, of course there are always certain plot devices, but if I can authentically connect to the characters and their story, I don't mind. I minded more in this book than I would have liked to. 3.5 stars- good, but NOT as good as The Governess Affair!(less)
This was an awesome novella to introduce a new series by Courtney Milan. Although I have read one other full-length novel by her, this shorter piece w...moreThis was an awesome novella to introduce a new series by Courtney Milan. Although I have read one other full-length novel by her, this shorter piece was superior - in my opinion!
Hugh is the man of a petulant boor of a duke, and he's desperate to use his position to get himself settled in the world- to prove to his dead father that he really is worth a damn. Known as the "wolf", he's ruthless in getting what he wants.
Serena is a former governess who's been cast out of her position and who's come seeking something from the duke. All Hugh knows is, he has to get rid of her. Unfortunately, he hasn't counted on her spirited arguments being quite so irrestistable.
What made this short work such a winner for me were all the sparks between these two. Well before there was anything physical, it was clear from their arguing that they were perfectly matched. Throw in a truly memorable and character-driven love scene, and this little book was damn near perfect! I only wish it were longer. I will definitely look for more of Milan's full-length books!(less)
This book just wasn't for me. clearly others have enjoyed it - and I don't have problems with its construction; I was just underwhelmed. there were mo...moreThis book just wasn't for me. clearly others have enjoyed it - and I don't have problems with its construction; I was just underwhelmed. there were moments when I was intrigued, but ultimately I just found myself waiting for the real plot to start. I do think it's possible to find enough joy and interest in characters to enjoy a straightforward romance, but this novel didn't compel me in that way. I wanted more from pretty much every aspect of the H/H's interactions.(less)
3, or maybe 3.5 stars for me. I usually love Cole's IAD books, they are fun, adventurous, high-stakes paranormal romance in a fun setting - always wit...more3, or maybe 3.5 stars for me. I usually love Cole's IAD books, they are fun, adventurous, high-stakes paranormal romance in a fun setting - always with a lot of humor along the way. So when I found out she was going to write YA, I thought, of course, I will give it a try. And it was easy to read, hard to put down, very engaging... but ultimately, it was a YA book, and this was just not as appealing to me.
The book follows 16 year old Evie Greene, a spoiled, rich, "but always nice!" 16 year old in rural Louisiana. Evie has been dealing with some serious stuff - visions of an apocalypse to end the world, being shipped off to the funny farm. AND of course all the regular BS that teens deal with - should I have sex with my boyfriend? What outfit should I wear to school Monday? What is on ANTM this week? Oh and let's not forget, why do I have to be history partners with that lowlife poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks who makes me uncomfortable? And then lo and behold, Evie's visions start to come true. All hell breaks loose, the world ends, etc etc. And spoiled little rich girl don't know a thing about taking care of business in this post-apocalyptic world.
Well, at least the depiction of how a real teenager would act in this situation is pretty real. She wouldn't know what the hell to do, she would avoid issues as much as she could, she would rely on others to look after her. But - for me, just because it's realistic, doesn't mean it's fun to read. I can appreciate that Evie was not just totally a victim, she was learning to think for herself, evolving into a survivor. I get that. It just galled me sometimes how weepy she got. Then we have Jackson.
Jack is the poor kid from the Bayou who Evie never could quite get along with (although sparks flew) - and now that the world has ended, Jack is the only one who is keeping Evie alive. Of course, Evie has no idea why... (view spoiler)[ even though it's obvious he's bananas for her. I spoilered this in case any actual young adults (who are new to this kind of dynamic) might be reading this... I think it's completely obvious to most readers that both of them are clearly besotted and insecure/fighting with themselves - this is a dynamic which I found a little tiresome. (hide spoiler)] Jack is utterly competent, with skills far beyond what a normal teen might have for survival - a sexy Cajun accent. My thought is that Cole got around the device some YA authors use, of having a female teenager who is equipped with all kinds of unrealistic survival tactics, by giving Evie Jack, who just does everything for her. I am not really complaining, just noting it; it's not a stroke of brilliance in terms of plotting but it works.
The actual plot of the series centers around the Tarot deck. There are teens out there in this post-Apocalyptic world who each represent the major Arcana cards of the deck, and they are heading towards some kind of clash. This is one of Cole's strengths - also evident in her IAD series with the "Lore". She is able to take something occult or paranormal enough to be interesting with lots of fun attributes and roles, and flesh it out into a cool worldbuilding convention. It's accessible and recognizable, but also cool and provides a pattern for the characters to follow. In this way she can give them each a destiny and simultaneously develop them as characters, with something to knock their head against as they struggle to assert their identities. It's not mind-boggling, but as a device it clearly works and she employs it very well.
A lot of reviewers seem to have been captivated by the romance in this book. Cole writes romance really well! The characters pine for each other, clash verbally, come together seductively and explosively. The romance was very well represented but clearly YA. My taste runs a little more adult (wink wink). What I did like about this book that is different from IAD is that it seems she has chosen to focus on Evie and Jack, and the group of folks who they've managed to come together with by the end of the book, through the whole series. Which yes, if you're reading into this, means that the romance and the plot are not prettily resolved by the end of the book. Which is -ARGH!- unsatisfying! But, handily ensures we'll ALL be buying the sequel.
For my part, I enjoyed it but didn't love it. I wanted less YA. I was annoyed with Evie for being unsure of herself - although it makes total sense, she is 16. I just wanted her to own her power, to take what she wants, to barrel forward into the unknown... the good news is, I feel that she evolved as a character in this book and I think she will continue to evolve as the story continues. I feel that Jack was under-served in the character growth department. I do hope Ms Cole gives him more of his due in future books!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This was better than the other Beth Kery book I have read: Gateway to heaven. I liked the sort of instant connection felt by the two leads, it was wel...moreThis was better than the other Beth Kery book I have read: Gateway to heaven. I liked the sort of instant connection felt by the two leads, it was well-written and believable. And the erotic component was sexier than the other book- less vanilla, a little edgier with some bondage, etc. But I did find Alex a little overbearing, and I didn't always enjoy reading scenes (particularly sex scenes) from his viewpoint. It was omniscient 3rd person, but still some of his thoughts... not sexy, to me. Anyway, decent 3 star read for me- and I got it free too!(less)
Meh. Ok I guess and some interest in the theme of an abuse victim living with repercussions... But ultimately it was not well explored, and this made...moreMeh. Ok I guess and some interest in the theme of an abuse victim living with repercussions... But ultimately it was not well explored, and this made it feel like a device rather than a true theme. Was not memorable at all for me.(less)
I have to say, for an historical romance, this book surprised me. It did its thing really well - it followed the pattern of a romance quite well, sett...moreI have to say, for an historical romance, this book surprised me. It did its thing really well - it followed the pattern of a romance quite well, setting up the two leads, following their flirtation, expounding on all the obstacles between them and then following how they overcome them. But the pleasant surprise was how Milan incorporated commentary on gender roles in both the Victorian period and today, throughout the book.
The premise is that Mark, the brother of a duke, has chosen to remain chaste - as a handsome, wealthy, young bachelor of the ton. Jessica, on the other hand, is a courtesan and a ruined woman, who is being paid to ruin Mark - to seduce him and discredit his celebrity. The fact that his celebrity is based on his chastity is kind of preposterous! But Milan uses Mark's character to comment on the disparity between how men and women are treated from the perspective of chastity, quite eloquently, if a little simply.
The other thing I liked was the acknowledgment and treatment of the fact that someone has to love themselves, to accept love from another person. It's a rather modern notion to find in a somewhat fluffy historical. It gave things a bit of gravity I wasn't expecting.
My one complaint is how damn perfect Mark is. He's chaste - because being less than virtuous would ruin any woman who sinned with him! He's honest, fair, he likes himself as he notes more than once. When Jessica pushes him away forcefully out of fear, he forgives her and berates himself... I mean, it's nice, if you want some kind of ideal man - the ultimate romance hero. While Mark was mocking all the upright young girls who swooned over him, I was mocking Mark just a little.
But definitely an unexpectedly good little historical romance.(less)
Louisa Edwards' books seem to be hit and miss for me. Some of them are just AWESOME (Can't Stand the Heat, Just One Taste), and some fall a little sho...moreLouisa Edwards' books seem to be hit and miss for me. Some of them are just AWESOME (Can't Stand the Heat, Just One Taste), and some fall a little short (On the Steamy Side, Too Hot to Touch). I definitely know, as a reader of romance novels, that maybe this is because something in the characterizations either resonates for me, or falls flat. Sometimes I think it's in the author's own connection to a character's emotions, which carries to the reader more often than not. Anyway, this book for me fell into the AWESOME category!
Beck, the Navy chef with a stoic demeanor and a heart of gold, and Skye, the insecure hippie chick who wears her heart on her sleeve, have a past. They were married once, when they were young, but dire circumstances and 10 years separate who they are now, from that past. Now they are competing in the Rising Star Chef competition, and emotions, and the stakes, are running very high.
My feelings after reading the first book in the Rising Star Chef series, was that this angle of cooking competition and resultant drama, was too contrived for the authenticity that made Edwards first series, Recipe for Love, so outstanding. I just didn't care for that first book very much and thought maybe the whole series would be that way. But as with Recipe for Love, once the right couple entered into the picture, I found myself enjoying the high stakes of the cooking competition. The competition and some of the scenes it forces, were total heartstrings-pullers and tear-jerkers in this case.
Beck and Skye have a lot of issues to work through. As with her other books, Edwards does not let her characters off the hook. They have to deal with their own issues to get their romantic HEA. Without giving anything away, I'll say that I think this book was the first of all of Edwards' that made me shed a tear over the rawness and intensity of the characters' pain. But of course, pain and suffering make for some damn good happy endings, don't they?!
The only complaint is perhaps a slight spoiler: (view spoiler)[ that the climactic moment of the book came from Beck and his declarations... and that Skye just failed to top it, that everything after Beck's moment felt like denouement to me and this perhaps robbed his moment of a little of its impact, because I kept waiting for something else that matched it. This is just a timing issue I think, but it was so dependent on that cooking show competition aspect of the book. (hide spoiler)]. All in all, I definitely recommend this and all of Edwards' work - if you haven't read her, start with Can't Stand the Heat.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This book was an interesting blend of fantasy and romance, which leans to the romance side. Let me be clear - when I say fantasy I mean fantasy (with...moreThis book was an interesting blend of fantasy and romance, which leans to the romance side. Let me be clear - when I say fantasy I mean fantasy (with wizards, priests, dark gods, and medieval-ish customs and trappings) and when I say romance I mean rawr! hot blooded sex! What was interesting is how far it leaned to the romance side in the characterizations and the amount of page space devoted to sexytimes, yet still managed to place itself in time and place into a fantasy setting, and to rely on fantasy-derived plotting for some of the major plot points.
The story is of Martise, a young enslaved woman who is loaned out (for lack of a better word) to Silhara, the Master of Crows, an ostracized mage who is battling a dark god, Corruption, for possession of his soul - and for the world. Martise is enslaved to a priest who is a grudging ally of the Master, and is sent to not only assist him but to spy upon him for incriminating evidence.
Over time, Martise and Silhara grow to have respect for each other and (drumroll...) romance blooms! Not to poke fun, the romance storyline was well paced and the reader was given ample time to see each person's better qualities and to let the slow burn build. When eventually the two give in to their urges and fall into bed together, it's of course quite gratifying. The plot that has been constructed around their romance - battling a dark god, bouts of possession, spying and being caught spying, slavery and ownership - all contribute to a nice little tortured romance with a satisfying amount of angst.
*** Now I am going to complain about the romance in this book, skip this paragraph if you don't want to hear it!*** My only quibble with the romance storyline was that I felt Silhara was a little misogynistic at times (view spoiler)[ like when he nearly strangled her while possessed by the god and then treated it like a non-event once recovered, because after all, she kicked him in the balls to get away and that HURT! Owee! (hide spoiler)]. I feel like Draven gave him permission to make Martise's decisions for her a lot of the time, either because he was a man, or because he was her "Master" (NOT fond of that word when it means "owner"), but made it "OK" because in his head, he loved her. Personally I think just thinking about how much you love someone while demeaning them, is not quite as great as thinking about how much you love someone while treating them with respect. But I didn't detest Silhara, in fact I liked him and his self-deprecating humor. It might be that I disliked Martise's subservient attitude, rather, and her tacit approval of being treated like property. I'm making a bigger deal than it was in the book, rest assured - all ends well and I rated the book highly. So don't let my little quibble deter you if you want to read this book. *** Complaining ends***
The other aspect of the book, is of course, it's fantasy setting. The characters have magic, they are battling a dark god, and they live in a feudal society where people own each other. And, they ride horses and in wagons. And, no one turns into a vampire/werewolf/insert creature here. So, this is not urban fantasy. And this is not paranormal romance. This is fantasy romance. It's an interesting and compelling combination. I think this combination may appeal best to a certain reader - one who typically reads one of these genres a lot, but not as much in the other. To this reader this will seem like quite an exciting blend of genres (I think). I was excited too! But I read both genres quite a bit, so I feel I could step back while reading and note the effectiveness of the blend.
***More complaining - about the fantasy in the book. Skip if you want! *** My quibble - again, minor! - about the fantasy in this book was how slapdash it was. Yes, major elements of plot and setting were fantasy-derived. But as a fantasy reader, I want originality! I want world building! I want to be surprised and/or comforted by the clear mastery the author has over the world they are writing in. It is a hallmark of great fantasy, the greatness of which is often directly tied to the degree of awesome world building. This was lacking for me. I could go into details but I feel I am complaining too much for a book I gave 4 stars, so I am going to stop now and say that this lack of appropriate and complete world building is why I am saying, this is a romance novel that uses some fantasy elements, rather than being a fantasy novel with some romance elements (which would be more along the lines of say, Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey). *** End Complaint***
All in all, it's exciting how Draven has blended the two genres here, and I was definitely entertained by this book. 4 stars because I'd like to see more of this type of work. If you like either romance, or fantasy, or especially if you like one but dabble in the other - give this book a try, you won't be sorry!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
After reading some of Gwyn Cready's other books awhile ago, and enjoying them, I was in the mood for something light so I went back and got this one f...moreAfter reading some of Gwyn Cready's other books awhile ago, and enjoying them, I was in the mood for something light so I went back and got this one for my Kindle. Apparently this was her first book. I enjoyed it, but found it very true to what I know to be her formula from other books - modern woman either time travels or somehow is transported into romance novel setting (in this case a pirate ship; the other works were Regency England and Dutch Master's painting studio), and quirky love story ensues with hot native hero - meanwhile simultaneous love story occurs with contemporary hero.
In this case Persephone (Seph) is a fledgling historical romance writer who's been transported into her own book, where she is met with wry indignation by her very own hero, who is a real English privateer ship captain who's had his whole life turned upside down by her wacky romance novel musings.
I will say that Cready clearly has a great imagination, and a true talent for navigating twisty plots in a very clear and transparent way. For these reasons I recommend her. But, this novel lacked a little of the characterization I found in her other, later books. I also think she got a little more comfortable with exactly how much sex to include in later books - that is, more. They're definitely better with more lusty sex in them - let's face it, a novel about romance novels should definitely play up the sex angle. I think Cready found her step a bit better once she was more comfortable with her formula - which, although it is definitely hers and only hers, nevertheless exists. So my recommendation among her work at this point would be Seducing Mr Darcy.(less)