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Reviewed for THC Reviews Duke of Desire is the twelfth and final full-length novel of Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series, so I’m starting to become saReviewed for THC Reviews Duke of Desire is the twelfth and final full-length novel of Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series, so I’m starting to become sad that the series is winding down. There are two more novellas to be released before the end of 2017 that I’m very much looking forward to reading, but I’m not looking forward to this ride being over. I’ve fallen in love with all the characters from the series and thoroughly enjoyed reading each of their stories in turn. Duke of Desire was no exception, and if the series had to end, this book sends it out on a high note for me. It was quite possibly the darkest book of the series with plenty of angst and drama, just the way I like my romance reads, and we finally get to see the dissolution of the evil Lords of Chaos once and for all. In the previous book, Duke of Pleasure, Hugh thought he’d rooted them all out, but as it turns out, enough of them still remained to reform, as vile and heinous as ever. But now a new hero, Raphael de Chartres, has returned from exile with a vendetta against the Lords and is prepared to die if necessary to see them all destroyed. He just didn’t expect to fall in love with a feisty, headstrong beauty and find something worth living for along the way.
Raphael is right up there along with some of the most tortured romance heroes I’ve ever read. He’s the son of the previous Duke of Dyemore who also happened to be the former Dionysus, the ring-leader of the Lords of Chaos. With his father now dead, Raphael has returned to England from his home in Corsica to take up the title and see justice served. As it happens, the Lords hold their revels on his land, so between that and his connection to the former Dionysus, he has no problem infiltrating their ranks in hopes of figuring out the identity of the new Dionysus and taking him down along with everyone else involved. However, Raphael considers this to be his fight, and his alone, so he really has no one backing him up besides the accomplished fighters he brought back with him from Corsica. His hatred for the Lords stems from childhood abuse relating to the revels. I won’t give away the details so as to not reveal spoilers, but if you’ve read Eve’s (Sweetest Scoundrel) or Val’s (Duke of Sin) books, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what happened to Raphael. He also has a deep scar down one side of his face that makes him look fierce and which no one really knows how he acquired. But trust me when I say that when you find out the story behind it, it’ll rip your heart out. Raphael is so psychologically damaged, he’s determined to end the family line with himself so as to not pass on his father’s evil to his children. He just didn’t count on an equally determined woman getting under his skin and becoming irresistible to him. Raphael is one of those heroes I want to wrap up in my arms and give him all the love and comfort he was denied. He’s one of those people who is truly beautiful inside but who doesn’t recognize it because of the terrible things that happened to him. I’m so glad he found Iris, because she does see it and was his perfect match.
I loved Iris in the previous book of the series, because she showed that she’s a very intelligent woman. She’s a widow who didn’t have a particularly fulfilling first marriage. Her husband was a good man, but he was nearly twice her age and very aloof, so when he died, she vowed that if she ever married again, it would be for love or at the very least for affection and friendship. That’s why she’d been prepared to marry Hugh even though it wouldn’t have been a love match. However, she was never broken up about him marrying Alf, because she realized how much they loved one another. But due to her close relationship with Hugh and the scandalous nature of him marrying a woman so far beneath his station, they allowed the public to temporarily believe that Iris was one marrying him after all. This led to her kidnapping at the hands of the Lords of Chaos who were trying to strike back against Hugh for daring to take them down. This is where she finds herself at the beginning of the story, at a Lords of Chaos revel at which she’s the main course, so to speak. She had previously met Raphael at a ball, where there was definite chemistry between them, so he rescues her from the Lord’s clutches and spirits her away. The only problem is he goes about it in such a way as to not blow his cover, which leaves her thinking that he’s still a bad guy, so she shoots him. She soon finds out otherwise, but at that point, he believes marrying her immediately is the only way to keep her safe from the Lords, who are expecting him to kill her.
Iris was a wonderful heroine in so many ways. She traveled on the Continent with her husband who was in the military, so she has some experience with nursing a wounded man which she puts to use saving Raphael's life. She’s not put off by his scar and still finds him attractive despite it. Even though Raphael is reticent in more ways than one, she keeps gently prodding to get him to open up to her and to see things differently. Iris is curious and headstrong, not really listening to Raphael, except when it counts. She may have had to marry him under duress, but she decides to make the best of it and and try to make it work. Despite being a widow, she still has a sweetness and innocence about her. Yet because of her best friend who took many lovers, all of whom she told Iris about in detail, Iris got an unusual education in the sexual arts, which she boldly puts into action with Raphael. She wants more than anything to simply love a man and have him love her in return, as well as to become a mother and have a family with him. But it takes some determination on her part to make that happen with her new husband. Most of all, though, I loved her for loving Raphael, no matter what new horror he revealed or how determined he was to never have children. She just gave all of herself to him unconditionally. It’s no wonder Raphael called her his light in the darkness, and he felt he couldn’t live without her.
The only secondary characters of note were Raphael's Corsicans, who are fierce and loyal to a fault, and his loving maternal aunt, who took him away at the age of twelve and finished raising him. If not for her, I think his life would have turned out very differently. Then on the villainous side were the Lords of Chaos, whose depraved and perverted rituals make my skin crawl. I’m so glad that they’re finished for good this time. Hugh (Duke of Pleasure), as Iris’s good friend, put in a couple of appearances, but he was the only common character from the series to show up. This is probably because Raphael's and Iris’s stories didn’t really intersect with any of the other main characters except Alf. Not to mention, the bulk of this book is all about Raphael and Iris building a relationship after marrying out of necessity, as well as him overcoming his abusive past and doing what he needed to do to root out the Lords of Chaos.
Overall, Duke of Desire was an incredible wrap-up to the main books of the series. I loved both Raphael and Iris, and thought they were perfect for each other. Her lightness and positivity balances out his darkness and pain. Their strength and determination combined makes them a formidable pair. I love that Raphael gets to a point where he simply can’t resist Iris anymore even though he thinks he should. I also love that Iris never gives up on helping him heal from the past and on making a real life with him. It’s her love, loyalty, and tenacity that gradually wins over her dark, brooding duke. I love a good tortured hero, and they don’t get much more tortured that Raphael. I adored these two together and wouldn’t have minded the story being a bit longer to read more about them, but at the same time, it was a great book as is. Now it’s on to the final two novellas of the series before saying farewell to Maiden Lane for a while, but I have no doubt that I’ll come back at some point to reread Duke of Desire and the entire series.
Note: The love scenes in this book are fairly hot and steamy, though content-wise not quite erotic. However, the author uses some explicit language which gives them a more erotic feel. Also there is one explicit scene at a Lords of Chaos revel (basically an orgy) that is described in some detail. Sensitive readers should also be aware that this book contains descriptions of child abuse, including a sketchbook that is the equivalent of 18th century child porn....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews A Plague of Zombies falls about one year after The Scottish Prisoner in the Lord John Grey series chronology. In this one, JohReviewed for THC Reviews A Plague of Zombies falls about one year after The Scottish Prisoner in the Lord John Grey series chronology. In this one, John has now been promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and is finally the one in charge of the troops. He’s been sent, along with a number of other soldiers, to Jamaica to put down a slave revolt. As with most things in life, this isn’t as simple and straight-forward as it seems. As John starts looking into matters upon his arrival on the island, he starts to uncover government corruption and other criminal deeds, some of which have led to the slaves rebelling. Add in tales of the supernatural and John being attacked by what appears to be a zombie, and you have the makings of a fun and engaging read.
As always John shows that he’s an honorable man who always tries to do the right thing, standing out in contrast to the corrupt officials who think nothing of using and abusing slaves, as well as engaging in other misdeeds. He also proves himself, once again, to be highly intelligent, methodically investigating the root cause of the slave uprising and later a murder, and of course, figuring everything out in due time. John gets to show his diplomatic side as well, when he must negotiate with the maroons (those who are essentially at the head of the rebellion) for the release of his men. In this, he also proves his bravery again, too. According to Diana Gabaldon’s author note, all of this is apparently in preparation for John eventually becoming governor of Jamaica, which is where he is when Jamie and Claire find themselves there in Voyager. Last but not least, I love that for a man from his time period, he’s almost surprisingly colorblind. In Custom of the Army, he had a very brief affair with a Native American, and although nothing comes of it this time, he, nonetheless, finds himself extremely attracted to one of the governor’s black servants in this story. So all in all, John is still the amazing hero I’ve come to love over the course of reading the Outlander series and now his own books.
Overall, I really enjoyed A Plague of Zombies. Out of the shorter novellas of the series, this is now my favorite one. It may have partly been because the military theme was fairly minimal this time. But I think it may also have to do with it being a little more closely related to events in the Outlander books than some of the other Lord John stories are. Not only do we get to see John taking actions in Jamaica where he will eventually be in charge, but he also interviews Geillis Duncan who, of course, is now Mrs. Abernathy of Rose Hill plantation, right after her husband dies. Being the sharp investigator that he is, John almost immediately realizes that she’s probably guilty of murdering the man herself, although he has no proof, merely a hunch. John also briefly meets up with a couple of members of the Twelvetrees family who’ve been a thorn in his side, while trying to keep his duel with Edward Twelvetrees back in London a secret. The last thing that really made this novella pop for me was the zombie theme, which is really interwoven with the black African culture of the island. I don’t know if it’s actually possible to make a zombie as presented in the book, but I know Ms. Gabaldon is a master at research and if she included it, there must be at least some anecdotal evidence for such a thing. I think I’m an armchair anthropologist at heart, so I loved learning about the cultural aspects of voodoo and other mystical practices that the Africans brought with them, as well as how the former slaves escaped into the hills of the island. It all made for a fascinating story that kept me riveted throughout. A Plague of Zombies was originally published in the multi-author anthology, Down These Strange Streets, and was later republished as a stand-alone novella in eBook format. It’s most recent publication is in the single-author anthology, Seven Stones to Stand or Fall, along with several other Outlander related novellas....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I just started this new-to-me YA series this year, and I have to say that so far, I’m pretty impressed. I’m not loving it quitReviewed for THC Reviews I just started this new-to-me YA series this year, and I have to say that so far, I’m pretty impressed. I’m not loving it quite as much as The Hunger Games, but it’s still been an exciting, action-packed thrill-ride that’s kept me on the edge of my seat and my brain engaged, wondering exactly what’s going on and why these kids are being put through all of these Trials. Whereas the first book, The Maze Runner, was more about them figuring out how to escape the maze, The Scorch Trials is pretty much a survival story. The Gladers escaped The Maze, thinking that it was all finally over and they were safe. But they’re not. It’s just the beginning of yet another challenge. They’re now tasked with crossing The Scorch, a stretch of land that’s broiling hot and dead as far as the eye can see. They only have a limited amount of time to reach the Safe Haven on the other side of a mountain range beyond a decimated city that’s now only populated with Cranks, people who are infected with a disease known as the Flare. Along the way, they’ll lose comrades to various diabolical challenges, not unlike the Grievers in the Maze. But perhaps most surprising of all is that the Gladers discover they weren’t the only ones who had to go through the Trials, and now Thomas, our intrepid hero, is essentially being hunted by the other group for an unknown reason. It all made for some great reading that really held my attention and kept me coming back for more.
As with the first book of the series, the entire story is told from the third-person perspective of Thomas, the main character. He was the last of the boys to enter the Glade and proved himself to be a strong leader even though he didn’t entirely take up that mantle. When he awoke in the Box, headed to the Glade, he could no longer remember anything about himself or his life up to that point. After being stung by a Griever and going through the Change, he started to remember bits and pieces of his life before the Glade, but everything was still pretty murky. He begins to remember more in this volume, giving the reader a few more glimpses into his past, but his memories are still disjointed enough to not present a full picture of who he was and why he was sent into these Trials. We do know, though, that Thomas was aware of the experiment and consented to it beforehand. In fact, he may have somehow been in on the planning of it. We also learn that Thomas is an important player in the experiment, so much so that WICKED is willing to intervene on his behalf when things don’t go as planned. However, most of Thomas’ life and the reasons behind the Trials are still in shadow.
Thomas has an ensemble cast of secondary characters to back him up, but he interacts with different ones at different times throughout the book. As the story opens, he is still with his friends and fellow Gladers who survived the escape from the Maze. After learning of their new mission, this small band, including Minho, Newt, Frypan, and others from the Glade, as well as newcomer, Aris, but minus Teresa who’s been taken elsewhere, must cross The Scorch. Aris is an intriguing character, because like Thomas and Teresa, he can communicate telepathically. On their way to the Safe Haven, the Gladers must pass through a destroyed city, where they meet two Cranks, Jorge and Brenda, who unlike many other Cranks there, are still in control of their faculties. These two help the Gladers and join them on their journey, while Brenda becomes a second possible love interest for Thomas. Along the way, they’re also reunited with Teresa and a group of girls who they learn were their counterparts in a parallel experiment. But Thomas is no longer certain he can trust Teresa after she orchestrates some unexpected events.
Since this is a YA book, this is where I’ll diverge for a moment to give my take, as a parent, on the book’s appropriateness for a younger audience. There’s very little in the way of sensuality. Thomas shares a couple of fairly chaste kisses with one of the girls and there’s a small amount of very mild sexual tension between Thomas and each of the female leads. Thomas and Brenda end up at a Crank party, where they’re forced to drink something presumably alcoholic that’s also been laced with a drug, and we briefly see the aftereffects on the partygoers the next morning. Language is a little murkier. There are only maybe three instances of a mild profanity being used. However, there are additional instances of some British profanities, and the characters frequently use Glader slang such as shuck and klunk that stand in for actual bad words. These euphemisms may go over the heads of younger readers, but savvy teens are sure to understand the meaning behind them. What would probably be of most concern, though, is the violence. Much like in other YA post-apocalyptic science-fiction stories, these kids are put through the ringer and many of them die along the way, sometimes rather hideously. They frequently find themselves fighting for their lives against various monsters and nature itself, never quite sure who might be taken from them next, and there’s a certain degree of fallout to Thomas’ psyche each time one of his friends dies. He also sometimes struggles psychologically with the Trials themselves but always manages to find the strength to keep fighting. The long-gone Cranks, who’ve succumbed to the Flare, are basically grotesque, zombie-like creatures who apparently feed on human flesh. All of these parts of the story could be a little too scary for younger kids, so I would only recommend the book for around age thirteen and up, who aren’t overly sensitive or prone to nightmares and with a recommendation of parental or educator guidance.
Overall, The Scorch Trials was another entertaining read for me in this series. In addition to the virtually non-stop action and adventure, the thing that really kept me reading was the mystery. There’s the big question of who Thomas and the others were before being put through the Trials and exactly why they’re being put through it. I believe the general answer lies in these experiments somehow being humanity’s last hope for survival, but all the details are still yet to be revealed. Then there’s also the mystery of exactly who Thomas can trust, because people he thought were friends start betraying him along the way, leaving a lot more questions in their wake as to why they’re doing the things they’re doing. There was at least one major event that occurred, which left me wondering what its purpose was, but since everything else is still a big question mark, I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt and trust that he’s going to have it all making sense by the end. And speaking of the end, I have very high hopes that the ending is going to be great. There’s certainly plenty yet to reveal, and I’m very much looking forward to The Death Cure to find out exactly what’s going on and who makes it to the end of this crazy test alive while hoping that it’s all worth the journey....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Prince Charming was an excellent conclusion to Gaelen Foley’s Ascension Trilogy. There were a few moments when I wondered if iReviewed for THC Reviews Prince Charming was an excellent conclusion to Gaelen Foley’s Ascension Trilogy. There were a few moments when I wondered if it was going to get tops marks from me, and I have to admit that it was ever so slightly my least favorite of the series, but in the end, it definitely won me over. I loved it almost as much as the other two, giving the series a perfect 5.0 record for me. In this one, Rafael, Lazar and Allegra’s (The Pirate Prince) son and heir to the throne of Ascension is left in charge of the fictional island nation as Prince Regent while his parents travel abroad to visit his sister, brother-in-law, and their family. Lazar has been suffering from a mysterious stomach ailment, which the doctors believe is some form of cancer, but only the Prime Minister and Rafe know about it. Rafe wonders if someone might be trying to poison his father, but if so, no evidence of it has been found yet. His heroine, Daniela, lives a double-life as both the daughter of a duke and the Masked Rider, a hero of the people who robs from the rich to give to the poor. When she tries to rob the Prince, she finds she’s met her match when she ends up in jail. But knowing he needs to find a bride in order to fulfill his parents’ wishes and carry on the regal line and also knowing that Dani is respected by the people of Ascension, Rafe bargains with her, offering her and her cohorts their freedom in exchange for her hand in marriage. He just didn’t expect to fall in love with his new bride or for her to prove to be such a worthy match. The two must then stand up to a villainous kinsman, who is trying to usurp the throne.
Rafael is known throughout Ascension as Rafe the Rake. Despite being the heir to the throne, no one takes him seriously because of his reputation as a ladies man and his seeming disinterest in anything other than the pleasures of the flesh. But underneath his devil-may-care facade beats a loyal and tender heart. He loves his country and longs to be a good leader, but he fears he can never live up to his beloved father’s legacy. He also feels that his father has been too hard on him throughout the years and that the King doesn’t believe in him any more than his advisers or the people of Ascension do. When Lazar leaves Rafe in charge of Ascension during his absence, it’s a responsibility that he’s been itching to be given, but at the same time, he’s uncertain if he can pull it off. Years ago, as a callow youth, in his sister’s book Princess, Rafe was taken in by a devious woman who played upon his sympathies to get him to rescue her and become her lover, then she cruelly betrayed both him and the entire country. Needless to say, it left him with a bad taste in his mouth where women are concerned and he doesn’t trust easily. When he’s robbed by the Masked Rider and tracks the miscreant to Dani’s estate, he’s instantly smitten with her, but when he later discovers her hidden identity, he isn’t sure he can trust her. However, he sees marrying her as no hardship and believes it will raise his worth in the eyes of the people if not the royal advisers.
Rafe may be a rakish playboy who can charm the stockings off most women, but he’s a young man whose emotions run deep and who can be hurt easily. That’s why I think he’s at least partly a beta hero. He wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to Dani, even though he doesn’t realize at first that he’s in love with her. But once he does, he wants no other woman. Despite seeming a tad immature, he does take his responsibilities as Prince Regent seriously, which I found admirable, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to save the country, as well as both her life and the lives of his family members. The only two things that gave me pause were his inability to make up his mind regarding whether to keep his mistress after marrying Dani and his charm skating a little too close to forced seduction for me. In regards to the mistress, at first, he’s a bit too easily swayed by her manipulations and doesn’t immediately give her the boot like I felt he should have. This was another reason for me saying he’s part beta, because he can’t stand her tears and doesn’t want to rock the boat. But in his defense, he does come to his senses before things go too far and doesn’t technically cheat on Dani (although other readers may disagree on this point). In regards to the second issue, in one scene, he brings Dani to his room while he’s drunk, fully intending to seduce her despite her protestations and probably would have if he hadn’t discovered her secret. His saving grace here was that he gave her an opportunity to leave, but she didn’t take it. Then on their wedding night, something similar happened, where she was fighting him and telling him no, but he continues trying to make love to her for a while anyway because he thinks it’s just maidenly fears that he can overcome. Again, this incident made me a teensy bit uncomfortable, but he does eventually stop. Otherwise, Rafe was a great hero, and his later gallantry pretty much erased these early slight missteps for me.
Daniela may be a noblewoman, but she’s been living in genteel poverty, trying her best to provide for an ailing grandfather, the only family she has left, and her tenants. She’s always been a tomboy and knows about things that most women don’t, such as how to shoot and make bombs, so when finances became too tight, she took up the persona of the Masked Rider. She may occasionally humiliate a rich man, but she never harms anyone when stealing from them. Unfortunately she picks the wrong man to tangle with when she and her cohorts, who’ve been her friends since childhood, accidentally try to rob the Crown Prince. It doesn’t happen right away, but eventually she and her friends are arrested for their misdeeds and threatened with hanging, until Rafe makes his offer of marriage in exchange for their lives. She’s had a fairytale crush on the prince since she was a girl and finds it hard to resist him, but she’s been an independent woman for so long, she can’t imagine being under a man’s thumb. However, the prince can be very persuasive.
Dani loves Ascension and her people every bit as much as Rafe does, so when Rafe’s cousin comes to her saying that Rafe could be in danger of being disinherited for marrying her if she doesn’t resist consummating the marriage so that it can be annulled when the King and Queen return, she’s willing to go along with it at first. She’s also afraid of getting pregnant, because her own mother died in childbirth, which also played into her decision. I liked that she was smart enough to not entirely trust Rafe’s cousin, though, and asked one of her friends to investigate him. When she begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together with regards to what’s happening politically and when she realizes how much she loves Rafe, she doesn’t hesitate to give him all of herself and her love. I loved that Dani is loyal to a fault and would never betray Rafe or Ascension. She’s the perfect mix of sweetness and spice, a gentle, giving woman by nature but a strong, feisty one when she has to be and the perfect match for Rafe.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Prince Charming. Rafe and Dani complemented each other in every way. Their love for each other gave them strength to stand up to the villain when he tried to tear them and their country apart, and it gave them faith and trust in one another. They share some very romantic moments, as well as some super-sexy ones. The villain was very compelling with strong characterization and motives, and his manipulations made perfect sense. Rafe’s friends helped him out a lot and were generally loyal to him if a bit too outspoken at times. Since Darius and Serafina (Princess) live in Spain and Lazar and Allegra are off visiting them for most of the story, Rafe’s family don’t play much of a part, but we do get to see Lazar at the very beginning, as well as him and Allegra at the end. Darius and Serafina come back to Ascension to make a brief appearance at the end as well. The story is well-plotted with plenty of suspense, and although we know who the villain is from very early on, his motives are much more of a surprise. I didn’t guess those until it was revealed. Everything came together to make this a wonderful story and a clean sweep for the series....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews White Night was another thrilling adventure for our intrepid private detective wizard, Harry Dresden. This case was pretty mucReviewed for THC Reviews White Night was another thrilling adventure for our intrepid private detective wizard, Harry Dresden. This case was pretty much tailor-made for a chivalrous guy like Harry, because women in the magical community, mid-level practitioners who mostly fly under the radar, are being attacked. They’re either going missing or turning up dead of apparent suicides, but it only takes Harry a few minutes investigating the scene where one of these ladies died to know something supernatural is afoot. Then all signs start leading him back to his own brother, Thomas, as the prime suspect, even though Harry is certain Thomas would never do such a thing. It’s a mystery that takes him right into the heart of vampire politics, where he discovers that someone may be trying to sabotage peace talks between the White Council and the Red Court. And it all culminates in an epic battle with supercharged ghouls that appear to be controlled by the entity Harry calls Cowl, who may be a traitor within the ranks of the White Council. Like I said, it was another exciting installment of the Dresden Files that really kept me on the edge of my seat.
Harry has been a wonderful character for me from the start. He’s pretty much everything I look for in a male lead of any novel, and it didn’t take me long to understand why my romance-reading friends kept recommending this series to me. I’m so glad they convinced me to give the Dresden Files a try, because they were all right, and he just keeps getting better and better as the series goes on. He’s daring and courageous, never afraid to try something that sounds crazy in an attempt to save the day, even though doing so in the past always seems to lead to a death-defying moment, which of course, is half the fun of the stories. And while he may be a little rough around the edges, he’s a kind soul who really cares about people and is loyal to a fault when it comes to his friends. He’s also strong, always putting himself in harm’s way to save others. He’s simply awesome, and with each new book, he seems to discover something new about himself. In this one, he encounters some unexpected anger issues that appear to be related to his uneasy alliance with Lasciel. I love how he handled that situation, which showed that he hadn’t allowed himself to become corrupted by her presence. Then how things ended between them leaves me wondering how he might be different in future books of the series. But before that all happened, Lash (as he nicknamed her) let him in on a secret about himself that he didn’t know and that I suspect will also lead to some additional changes for him. In any case, I can’t wait to find out what those changes might be.
As always, Harry has an incredible cast of supporting characters to back him up, some of whom appear in most of the books and others we may only see occasionally, but I love them all. At the top of the list in White Night is Thomas. Like Harry, I knew he couldn’t possibly be guilty of killing the magical women, but he has been pretty secretive, not only in this book, but the previous one as well. All I can say is that I loved Thomas before, and when his secrets came out, I loved him even more. He’s another character who could easily be a romance novel lead. Right alongside him would be Warden Carlos Ramirez, another strong, courageous young wizard. When this guy’s big secret came out, I was laughing right along with Harry, but in a delighted way. I can’t help wondering if he might become a possible love interest for Harry’s apprentice, Molly, who is still youthfully stubborn but learns some valuable lessons in this story. Murphy is right there by Harry’s side, too. This petite woman packs a huge punch when she has to, and I love how she’s become completely accepting of Harry’s crazy world. She’s also there to call him on the mat when his rage goes a little too far. I still don’t know if anything romantic is going to happen between these two, but I’ll be eagerly waiting to find out. Another possible contender is Harry’s ex, Elaine, who shows up again. I admit it’s been so long since I last saw her, I don’t recall much about her previous appearance, except that they were on opposing sides. But this time, they’re fighting on the same side with her trying to protect the women as well. It’s obvious that she and Harry still have chemistry, although she lives in LA where she also works as a PI, so I don’t know how likely it is for a romantic reunion between them. If something did happen, I wouldn’t be averse to the idea, because I liked her here. She has enough power to be a Warden, but chooses to avoid that life, although she does want to make a difference and cares deeply about her clients. Then there’s Mouse, who shows some new powers of his own in this book. These are the most important of the good guys.
On the side of Harry’s frenemies, those people with whom Harry has a tentative working relationship in the interest of fighting a common enemy, we have Marcone, the Chicago crime boss who’s been there from the start. Even though he’s a criminal who’s generally only looking our for his own interests and can’t entirely be trusted, I’ve always kind of liked him. He has his own sense of honor. It seems that he can be taken at his word, and he’s gotten Harry out of a few tight spots even though there’s usually a price attached. It’s looking like Marcone is going to be taking on an even greater role on the supernatural side of Chicago. Helen Beckitt, one of the secondary baddies from the very first book, Storm Front, resurfaces, but isn’t entirely all that she seems. Then there’s Thomas’ older sister, Lara, and with her having control over their father, Lord Raith, the leader of the White Court, she is now really their de facto leader. This means that when other vampires try to sabotage the peace talks, she and Harry find themselves mostly on the same side, although she proves craftier in the whole process than it seems at first glance. The real baddies are a total mystery at first, but they turn out to be a combination of new characters and one old character we’ve met before. As a whole, they cause a boatload of trouble for Harry to clean up.
Overall, White Night was another great installment in the Dresden Files. There were maybe a few places where I thought perhaps the descriptive prose could have been pared down just a bit, because my mind wandered a little. Also, the vampire politics got just a tad confusing, but by the end, I think I’d gotten a pretty good handle on everything. Because of these two things, the book was running around a 4.5 on my star meter until I got to the nail-biting conclusion. That kept my attention fully engaged wondering exactly how Harry and company were going to get out of yet another extremely dangerous situation and it didn’t disappoint. Not to mention, there were a few things revealed in the final pages that made it more than worth the wait to get there. So, I decided that White Night was worth the full five stars. I can’t wait to keep reading about our intrepid hero and all his friends to find out what happens next in their lives....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Wow! Becoming Death was an awesome wrap-up to my author friend, D. T. Dyllin’s Death Trilogy. In my review of theReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Wow! Becoming Death was an awesome wrap-up to my author friend, D. T. Dyllin’s Death Trilogy. In my review of the second book, Embracing Death, I’d expressed concern over whether the story could ever have a happy ending, but I shouldn’t have worried. That’s not to say that this conclusion isn’t still dark, because it is. The author takes the reader on a twisting, turning, action-packed, emotional roller-coaster ride that left me wondering more than once how on earth this was all going to end well. But that ended up being part of the beauty of the story. It kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end, always guessing and never really knowing what might happen next. The story was certainly anything but predictable, and that, in my estimation, is a very good thing.
This volume opens with our heroine, Samantha, being taken captive by the powers-that-be who she used to work for, or at least, that’s who she thinks is holding her. Throughout her imprisonment, things happen, but she’s never quite sure if they’re real or if someone is messing with her mind again, implanting memories of things she didn’t actually experience. Then when Austin, the love of her life, finally comes for her, they go on the run. But eventually, they realize that the only way they’re ever going to have any chance at something resembling a normal life is to go after the people they used to work for and take them down – as in kill them all – so there’s no one left who knows anything about the government program that made them into what they are today. However, they quickly discover that someone is one step ahead of them, which might make it impossible to reach their goal. Not to mention, Sam is having strange dreams about people dying and just before they do, they always say, “Fifteen.” It’s all a huge mystery that I really enjoyed unraveling, along with the nail-biting suspense that accompanies it.
Killing everyone associated with the project that completely altered their minds and memories isn’t much of a hardship for Austin and Sam. Their story is so dark and they’re so dark as characters as to pretty much be anti-heroes. Throughout the previous book, Sam was addicted to the high brought on by experiencing death emotions using her empath skills, and she unintentionally dragged Austin into her addiction as well. In some ways, he’s even further gone than Sam is by the time this book opens, and many other empaths who were part of the same program ended up turning into serial killers. As a warning here to sensitive readers, Austin and Sam left a number of bodies in their wake, some of whom arguably deserved it, but a few others who were basically innocent of any wrongdoing. If this would be bothersome, I’d say this book may not be for you. But the saving grace of these characters all throughout is that they can’t really help who they’ve become, and they became who they are as a result of extreme mind control that was inflicted from a very young age on them and others like them who also possessed psychic powers. In addition, even though their kills sometimes seem cold-blooded and they bask in the afterglow of the death emotions they experience by having wild sex, the author still manages to keep their humanity intact. At the core of everything they do and of their very souls is their unshakable love for each other that transcends everything. That’s what made me able to read this dark story, containing elements which in the hands of a less-talented writer would have been a total turn-off, and still feel empathy for the characters and want to root for them despite them sometimes doing bad things.
Throughout this book, Nixon is still there as a strong supporting character and the third point in this ongoing love triangle. It’s been obvious since the end of the first book that Austin and Sam are unbreakable soul mates, and Nixon is the only one who thinks he still has a chance with Sam. I’ve had a roller-coaster relationship with Nixon throughout the series. In book one, I mostly liked him. Even though he stole part of Sam’s life by taking her memories of Austin and making her think she was married to him, it seemed that he did it for a good reason, and I could tell that he genuinely cared about her. Then in book two, it appeared that Nixon had a much stronger connection to the powers-that-be than we first knew about, but at the same time, he was hiding some of his own psychic abilities, while in reality being much more powerful than anyone realized. By the end of that book, it appeared he had devious plans of his own to get Sam away from Austin and take her for himself. To some extent, those plans continue in this book and he does play the antagonist for part of the story. But what made me come back around to liking him again is that we learn the full impact of what was done to him as a child as well and exactly why he’s so obsessed with Sam, something he can’t really control any more than Austin and Sam can control their obsession with death. I couldn’t help feeling sympathetic toward him and his actions in the end were very heroic, so he was also a great character for me.
Overall, Becoming Death and the entire Death Trilogy in general was a phenomenal read. I’d highly recommend it for fans of more plot-driven, action-oriented stories, but at the same time, the author doesn’t skimp on the romance and emotional connection, especially in the first book. It’s absolutely clear that Austin and Sam are made for each other and there is no one else on the planet for either of them, even though many people and forces beyond their control have tried over and over to keep them apart. What was done to them was appalling and the people who took them and other children like them from their families at such a young age were reprehensible. I was very happy with the conclusion and how the author wrapped everything up and resolved their death addiction. I may have gone into the story doubtful of a happy ending, but I definitely got what I was hoping for. It was just a really dark and dangerous road to getting there.
Note: The love scenes are what I would deem steamy (typically a four on my sensuality scale), but most of them occur as a result of the characters experiencing the euphoria associated with them still being alive after someone else dies. Also, one scene contains asphyxiation, giving it a more erotic feel....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Forward Together was our latest church book club read. I somehow got the impression that the book was more about Rev. Barber dReviewed for THC Reviews Forward Together was our latest church book club read. I somehow got the impression that the book was more about Rev. Barber discussing how we can move forward in our country, making progress toward social justice and equality for everyone. However, it’s more of an accounting of many of the Moral Monday Marches. If you’re unfamiliar with these marches, they started in North Carolina, where Rev. Barber lives, pastors, and is head of the state NAACP. They were in response to regressive policies that were being instituted by the conservative-dominated state legislature that were waging assaults against the poor and marginalized of the community, as well as infringing upon the voting rights of the people. If you’ve payed any attention to North Carolina politics of the last several years, you’ll know that there have been allegations of a lot of political perfidy, the most prominent of which was the Supreme Court ruling that declared the state had engaged in gerrymandering. So the situation in the state has been ripe for activism and Rev. Barber was one of the leaders heading up these peaceful protests that became knows as the Moral Monday Marches. Thousands of people took part in these marches and just over a thousand were arrested for civil disobedience over the course of the time the marches were taking place.
This book is formatted such that each chapter covers one of the marches, but there are only selected ones included. It begins with brief background information on that particular day’s march, typically one-page or less, in which the reader learns about the focus of that day’s event and a little of what happened. It’s followed by the transcribed text of Rev. Barber’s speech at that day’s rally. I found the content of several of the speeches inspiring and invigorating, and while I’ve never seen or heard him in person, I can tell from his written words that he’s a great orator. However, as other book club members pointed out and with which I agree, having the book formatted in this way did lead to some repetition. Occasionally things are repeated nearly verbatim from one event – and chapter – to another, while in other cases, it’s the general ideas and sentiment that seem to be repetitious, which I suppose is the reason that only certain ones were included in the book. When the marches are protests of the same issues over and over, it’s probably hard to be original every time. In light of that, though, I agreed with our other members in that it might have been a little more interesting if a more detailed history of the events and what took place at them had been included. I wouldn’t have minded reading a more personal narrative of both Rev. Barber and the other protesters, especially those who were arrested.
The strength of the book, however, is IMHO two-fold. First there were a lot of issues presented as reasons for the people coming out in protest including voting rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights, labor rights, education, health care, unemployment, protections for the poor, and many others. What I liked, though, is that regardless of what the reason was that brought people out, Rev. Barber frames all of the issues as moral issues, calling upon persons of faith to not stand idle in the face of these inequalities. He makes it clear that our faith should inform our actions on behalf of marginalized people of all stripes. Secondly I like that he talks about a Fusion Movement and how historically it has taken people from all walks of life coming together to make a difference. The Moral Monday Marches were just such a movement in which persons of faith banded together with such diverse groups as labor unions, women’s activists, LGBT activists, voting rights advocates, teachers, health care workers, and many others. They may not have agreed on everything but they took to the streets and the halls of the legislature on the combined strength of the topics they did agree on, without letting the things they disagreed on get in the way.
While Forward Together didn’t end up being quite what I expected it to be, it was still a good read. It’s certainly something I would recommend for community activists and organizers, who I’m sure would find great inspiration within its pages. I’m more of a behind-the-scenes kind of person, who prefers to follow rather than lead, but I still found sparks of inspiration in Rev. Barber’s words to the crowds that gathered at these events. I also agreed with the sentiments behind the Moral Monday Movement and admire the people who got out to protest, especially the 92-year-old lady who allowed herself to be arrested. Now there’s a story I’d dearly love to hear more about. In any case, I would recommend this book for anyone interested in progressive concerns or who is looking for a way to put their faith into action....more