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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
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" I’ve been looking forward to reading Gabriel’s Inferno for quite some time now. I can’t recall exactly how it cameReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" I’ve been looking forward to reading Gabriel’s Inferno for quite some time now. I can’t recall exactly how it came to my attention, but I was aware of it being compared to Fifty Shades of Grey and being included on lists of what to read after FSoG. That being the case, I was certainly expecting a super-sexy erotic romance, but that’s not what I got at all. I cannot stress enough that despite some online book sites having this book categorized as such, it is not erotic romance, just a sensual contemporary. However, it does contain so many similarities with FSoG it’s almost eerie, which I’ll get to in a moment. In fact, there were so many similarities, I thought perhaps it was conceived as FSoG fan fiction. However, after doing a bit of research, I discovered that both series supposedly got their start as Twilight fan fiction, but IMHO, the two stories generally bear more similarities to each other than to the series that inspired them except for the fact that Gabriel’s Inferno is on the sweeter side like Twilight. If anything, it almost seems that Gabriel’s Inferno was conceived more as Dante’s Inferno fan fiction, since that classic piece of literature plays a huge part in the story. In any case, however it got started, it seems to be better liked than FSoG, so as a huge fan of FSoG, I thought I was in for some great reading. Unfortunately, though, it just didn’t quite live up to the hype for me.
Back to the similarities between Gabriel’s Inferno and FSoG. I wanted to make note of these, because I’ve looked and thus far haven’t found any comparisons between the two even though to my way of thinking, they’re pretty glaring. So here’s what I found: Julia is a virgin who is pretty meek and submissive. She's a graduate student in literature. She has little money and her possessions are rather shabby, prompting Gabriel to want to replace them. She has a habit of biting her lip. She has a nice, but bland guy interested in her, and like one of the two similar guys in FSoG who was into Anastasia, his name is Paul. Gabriel is wealthy, and although he isn't as stalkerish as Christian, he does insinuates himself – or rather his money – into Julia’s life, giving her extravagant gifts that make her uncomfortable. The author uses the word mercurial to describe him, though not excessively. He has a fixation with making sure that Julia gets enough to eat. He has eclectic tastes in music and art. He uses, "Come" and other imperatives liberally. He had a crappy biological mother, didn’t really know his father, and was adopted as a young boy by his family. His adoptive mother's name is Grace (just like Christian’s), and she's the one who found him. He has one brother and one sister who is pretty outspoken. He has anger issues. He’s very sexually experienced and has engaged in some unusual sexual pursuits. Both Gabriel and Julia have a tendency to use more formal words of address, ie. Miss Mitchell and Professor Emerson, even in private. There's also some emphasis on them sharing several "firsts" together.
There were a few other almost carbon copy similarities between the two stories, but this is more than enough to demonstrate what I was talking about, so I got tired of jotting them down. What accounts for this I can’t say for sure. At first, I thought Sylvain Reynard liberally borrowed from E. L. James, but it isn’t entirely clear to me which story came first. A little more history on the books: Both fan fiction versions appear to have been posted online around the same time. Both received their initial small-press publications within one month of each other, and both received their large press releases about a year later, also within one month of each other. Additionally, I discovered that the two authors are supposedly friends. So, whether one borrowed a little too liberally from the other or they both borrowed from each other, or something else accounts for this, I couldn’t say. But for me, the near identical elements were enough to raise my eyebrows and make me start asking questions even though what I found didn’t entirely appease my curiosity. All I know is that, at first, I felt like I’d just picked up a FSoG knock-off from a street vendor, although I’ll admit that as the story progressed my opinion began to change somewhat.
So, now that I’ve satisfied my geeky fascination with comparative analysis of the two books, what did I think of Gabriel’s Inferno independently? Well, for starters, Gabriel himself did not initially draw me into the story. During the first half of the book, he comes off as too cold and distant and rather stuck-up, especially for someone who purportedly had a very poor early childhood. Whereas, to me, Christian always seemed to want to give Ana nice things as a means of protecting and cherishing her, it felt like Gabriel wanted to replace Julia's things because they flat-out offended his sensibilities. At first, he only seemed to be nice when he was drunk, which IMHO, didn’t speak well to his character. It takes until over a third of the way into the book before he even realizes what an ass he's been and starts groveling a little. Until then, I barely even liked the guy. Before that he showed a few glimmers of something deeper, but it just took way too long to get to any sort of meaningful reveal. However, that said, the Gabriel in the second half of the book got a personality transplant and practically became a dreamboat overnight. Once he remembers who Julia is, the transforming power of love takes over completely, changing him in an instant, which was maybe a little to much to be fully believable, but nevertheless very welcome. Second-half Gabriel thoroughly cherishes Julia and treats her like a precious jewel. He refuses to take her virginity for so long, it became a combination of sweetness and frustration for me. Then at the very end, when they finally do make love for the first time, he takes his time, focusing solely on her needs, which was very romantic. So overall, I’d say I had mixed feelings about our hero. First-half Gabriel I wanted to kick to the curb, while second-half Gabriel was worthy of inclusion on my favorite heroes list.
Like I mentioned before, Julia is very sweet, meek, and generally submissive, a little too much so at times. Gabriel was the older brother of her best friend and was away at college, so it was a long time before she met him and then only once. It seems that her attraction for him is based solely off that one meeting, during which she and Gabriel spent a magical, but chaste, night together in an apple orchard. Gabriel was kind to her but drunk the whole time, so when they meet up again, when she’s a student in his literature class, he doesn’t remember her at first. It was also that meeting that made Julia choose to study to become a Dante specialist, which is what Gabriel is, too. While that interaction was sweet, it just didn’t impact me enough to make me buy into the idea that she's pined after him all this time. But she had, and when they meet up again, he treats her abominably. At this point, I was kind of questioning her judgment, because it seemed like Gabriel had a penchant for getting drunk and then having blackout episodes, as well as a monster temper and possible violent tendencies. I felt like she should have been more concerned by this, especially since she had an alcoholic mother and an abusive boyfriend. I’ve seen some readers comparing Julia and Anastasia, saying that Ana had no self-respect, letting Christian walk all over her, while Julia stands up for herself. However, I have to disagree on both counts. Ana did often stand up to Christian in what I felt was a generally healthy way, often loosening him up and/or changing his mind. However, the main instance where Julia stands up to Gabriel, she did so in a passive-aggressive way, which IMHO, showed immaturity on her part, something Gabriel rightly pointed out after a blow-up argument. Then one other feisty episode came off as more petulant than genuinely spirited. Much like with Gabriel, though, I grew to like Julia more as the story progressed, mainly because she’s very accepting of his past transgressions, and we get to see more of her own past with her abusive jerk of an ex-boyfriend that drew my sympathy.
Not only do the characters change considerably from the first half of the book to the second half, it seemed like nothing really happened during the first half. I was getting so impatient for some meaty tidbit that I was about ready to chuck the book out the window in frustration. It felt like they did little more than attend classes, go out someplace in the evening, either alone together or in the company of others, shared some mostly banal conversation, and then Gabriel would have a temper tantrum that put distance between them again. Wash, rinse, repeat for about 300 pages. During that time, I desperately wanted to know more about why Gabriel felt unworthy as indicated in the cover blurb, even though his emotions surrounding that weren’t brought out very well. And I wanted to know who Paulina was and why she kept calling him. I was also dying to know what happened between Julia and her mystery guy back home that had freaked her out so much. Of course, all that doesn’t come out until the second half and even then it’s still a painfully slow process to get to all the reveals. I have to say, as well, that this is what mainly constituted the plot of the story. It was mostly about all these secrets that both of them have and are reluctant to share and them working their way up to trusting each other enough to do that. I also found something of a disconnect between all these past secrets and the characters’ present emotions and motivations that made it harder to connect with them. The only other thing of note story-wise is them working their way up to making love for the first time, because a lot was made of that. Overall, this is rather thin material for a plot, and IMHO, the first 300 pages or so probably could have been cut in half to speed things up.
The other thing that wasn’t quite up to par for me was the author’s writing style. For starters, I found the narrative during the first half of the book to be too pretentious for genre fiction. It felt more like literary fiction, but then magically, like everything else, that changes somewhat during the second half of the book, making the narrative more accessible. There was a lot of passive narration as well, with too much telling and not enough showing, which made it difficult to feel the deep connection that supposedly existed between the characters. The author also has a penchant for head-hopping, including secondary and even minor character POVs (I really didn’t need to know what the waiter or the bouncer were thinking). This nearly always drives a wedge between me and the main characters, because I’m not getting that deep POV that I crave to really understand what’s going on inside a character’s mind. Then there was the author intruding with his/her (I use both pronouns here, because the author is notoriously reclusive and the original fan fiction was published under the name Sebastien Robichaud, so no one really knows if the author is male or female) omniscient narration which also puts the reader at a distance from the characters. Some of the narration, especially during the first half, drones on, with lots of words and not much of import actually being said. There were way too many parenthetical asides, which are generally frowned upon in fiction. Pretty much every one made me roll my eyes, because they were either trying to be too cute or they were pointing out the obvious that was already implied in the previous text and would have been better if left subtle. The word "for" as a conjunction was way over-used. It only added to the pretentious feel of the narrative, and in nearly every case, was completely unnecessary. It could have been eliminated altogether or the sentences simply rearranged. I found occasional repetition that I think was intended to emphasize, but IMHO, would have been more powerful if said only once. Also there was occasional unnatural dialogue and awkward body movements that were hard to picture as written. In general, there was a lot of overwriting here that needed a good editor to really tighten it up and make it shine.
So, why you may ask, did I give the book 3.5 stars? Well, in short, the first half may have frustrated me, and I admit that there were parts of this section that were dropping the story into the 2-star range, but once things picked up, after that 300-page mark, they moved along at a reasonably steady pace, holding my attention much better. Even though the character changes for Gabriel were a little drastic, I loved the man he became during that latter half of the book. What woman wouldn’t want a man who takes his time and focuses all his passion and love on her alone? So despite the weaknesses in the writing, I could easily have rated this section at least 4 stars. That would average it out to 3 stars and having the book end on a high note made me to bump it up the extra half-star. Will I read the rest of the series? Gabriel’s Inferno wrapped everything up in such a way that it could be treated it as a stand-alone, so at first, I wasn’t too sure. But after realizing I already have the second book, Gabriel’s Rapture, on my TBR pile, I think I may give it a chance. I just won’t be in as much of a hurry to dive into book #2 as I was with Fifty Shades of Grey....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews While I can’t call myself a big fan of the Divergent series, I have enjoyed all the novellas written from Four’s POV. That’s pReviewed for THC Reviews While I can’t call myself a big fan of the Divergent series, I have enjoyed all the novellas written from Four’s POV. That’s part of why I decided to buy and read Free Four. Even though I knew it was only a retelling of the knife-throwing scene in Divergent, I thought it would be interesting to see it through Four’s eyes. The other reason is that I wanted to complete the series, which for me means reading everything associated with it, although it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen now that there’s another wrap-up novella. It appears that novella was only given as a special gift to readers who pre-ordered Veronica Roth’s new book Carve the Mark (which I didn’t), so it will probably be next-to-impossible to get my hands on a copy. Not to mention, IMHO, the author seriously broke faith with readers by ending Allegiant the way she did, and based on critical reviews of We Can Be Mended, the final novella, she’s ruined the story even further, so I can’t say that I’m all that interested in reading it anyway.
So back to my review of Free Four: I enjoyed it every bit as much as the other novellas from Four’s perspective. Throughout reading these novellas, I couldn’t help feeling that Four is a much more dynamic narrator than Tris was. While it’s hard to say whether I would have liked the series better if the entire thing had been written in his POV, I really think that Ms. Roth did Four a disservice by not including his perspective. It should have, at the very least, been written in dual perspective. Of course, that’s just my opinion, but I felt like Four brought a whole new depth to the story that just wasn’t there for me in the original read. However, that’s water under the bridge now, so I’ll simply have to console myself with the knowledge that Four was a much better character than what was originally portrayed in the three novels and leave it at that.
While I did enjoy this novella and I did only pay $0.99 for it, I still felt like it was just a money-grab and that the publisher should have given it away for free. After all, it is a rehashing of a scene that we already knew about, whereas the other novellas about Four were mostly original content. The other thing that was deceptive about it is that Free Four is only approximately ten pages or so, which is a tiny fraction of the full e-book file. The rest of it consists of a two-chapter sample of Divergent, a two-chapter sample of Insurgent, The Transfer, which is the first of the Four novellas and is included as a sample of the anthology Four, a one-chapter excerpt of Carve the Mark, and ads for Veronica Roth’s other books. This means that the vast majority of this “book,” (more than fifty pages by my eReader’s count) is nothing more than advertising. So do I think Free Four was worth the read? Yes. But was it worth the price? Probably not....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Feeling Death, the first book of my author friend, D. T. Dyllin’s DeathReviewed for THC Reviews I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Feeling Death, the first book of my author friend, D. T. Dyllin’s Death Trilogy. It was the first of her books I’d tried and was certainly different than any other romance I’d ever read, so I have to give her major props for her creativity. That said, it was a pretty dark read, which I already knew was her thing, but now after reading Embracing Death, I can say that it went even darker still, which leaves me wondering what the final book might hold. I did still enjoy the story, but the ending left me with mixed feelings, which I’ll address shortly.
At the end of Feeling Death, the heroine and first-person narrator, Samantha, had just reunited with the love of her life, Austin, after being in the clutches of the villain who taught her how to use her empath skills to “feel death.” It became an exhilarating sensation for her, so much so that when this book opens, she’s essentially addicted to it. Austin is using his own empath skills to block hers in an attempt to keep her in check and help her recover from it. However, it seems like it might be too little, too late. Sam has grown a lot from the first book. She’s now pretty much a bad-ass who isn’t afraid of hardly anything except losing Austin. Unfortunately that becomes an all-too-real possibility when circumstances require that Austin loosen his hold on Sam’s mind so that she can work a case. While doing so, she unintentionally draws him into her warped world of experiencing deaths with her, which leads to him being torn away from her yet again and in danger of either being killed or losing himself completely to the siren song of death. I had to admire Sam for her determination. She knows that Austin would do anything for her, and she’s trying to be equally as selfless for him, even though things aren’t exactly going her way. She’s also intent on finding out the truth about the past and just who is pulling the strings behind the scenes of the operations where she worked with both Austin and Nixon, the other point in their love triangle. That being the case, this is a pretty intense read with almost non-stop action and revelations.
I’ve loved Sam and Austin together from the start. It’s been obvious throughout that they share a deep, unbreakable connection that is explained in more detail in this book. I have to say that the information added to this relationship took it to a whole new level for me. It’s almost like they’ve always been a part of each other and it was only other people toying with their minds to make them forget their respective pasts that have kept them apart. Even when they’re separated, they still share a psychic connection that makes it possible for them to communicate over long distances. This being the case, when they’re together, their love is almost all-consuming and very emotional. The one thing about them that might weird readers out a bit is that in this book they begin to experience deaths together, and this raises such intense emotions within them that it’s a major sexual turn-on. Throughout most of the story, I wasn’t overly bothered by this, because I viewed it as similar to the phenomena of some people engaging in sex as an affirmation of life after going through the experience of losing a loved one. It’s just that Sam and Austin kind of take this to a whole different level by being inside the minds of those who were dying before making love. It wasn’t until the end that I started to feel a bit uncomfortable with it, because things seem to go a little too far at that point. But I shall try to wait until the final book to make a full judgment call on that.
For most of the previous book, Sam had believed herself to be married to Nixon, who was also Austin’s best friend. What she didn’t know is that he’d engineered the whole thing in an attempt to save her from herself, or so he said, and that it was nothing but a pretend marriage. Once again, Nixon plays a big role in the story, especially after Sam and Austin are separated again. Sam is finally married to Austin, but Nixon is most definitely not giving up. There is no real love triangle anymore except in Nixon’s own mind, but he’s extremely persistent, particularly once Austin is out of the picture. In the previous book, he was pretty much the consummate nice guy, who seemed to have good intentions even if his actions were a little misguided. Late in this story, however, we get a few short chapters from his first-person POV, which show that his motives aren’t entirely pure, and in fact, he might be behind some of the things that are happening. Just how deep his involvement goes, though, I’m not sure yet. I’ll just say that I didn’t like him as much in this second installment as I had in the first. I’m very intrigued to find out where things go with his character, because he’s much more powerful than anyone realizes.
There were a lot of things that I loved about Embracing Death, most especially learning more about Austin’s and Sam’s past. This added a lot of depth to their characters and their relationship. I also enjoyed that we’re finally let in on how the two respective teams of people with powers were formed and given a little background on who the driving forces are behind many of the events in these books so far. There are still things left unknown, though, so I look forward to getting that final piece of the puzzle. Right up until the end, I was planning on giving the book keeper status, but as with the previous book, it left me a little unsatisfied. At least Feeling Death had what I would call a positive HEA, or at least HFN, ending with Sam and Austin reuniting, even though she was completely messed up with her death addiction. But in Embracing Death, we don’t even get that. In fact, things are even more messed up than before. In the epilogues of both books, Sam breaks the fourth wall by talking directly to the reader, and I have to say that based on what she tells us, I’m starting to doubt whether there will be a positive ending to the series at all. Since I mostly enjoyed both of the first two books, I’m kind of hooked on the series. I also can’t stand to leave things unfinished, so I’ll definitely be reading the final book, Becoming Death, soon. However, I’ll be doing so with a healthy dose of trepidation while keeping my fingers and toes crossed for some kind of happy resolution to the romance that doesn’t result in Sam and Austin becoming the serial killers that many of the other empaths in these books so far have become....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I’ve been eager to try a Rob Bell book for quite a while, so when his newest one, What Is the Bible? was chosen as our latestReviewed for THC Reviews I’ve been eager to try a Rob Bell book for quite a while, so when his newest one, What Is the Bible? was chosen as our latest church book club read, I dove right in. I can easily say that I was not disappointed. I may have mentioned in some of my previous reviews of Christian books that I’ve been on a spiritual journey for the last sixteen years, and throughout that time, my thinking has evolved beyond the general beliefs of the traditional evangelical church in which I was raised. I no longer think that a literal interpretation of the Bible is the only way to read it. Not to mention, as one of our other book club members pointed out, whose interpretation is truly literal? Depending on who you talk to, what church denomination they come from, and what translation of the Bible they’re reading, a single verse could have multiple interpretations. That’s why I’ve come to believe that it’s not just up to ministers and other authority figures in the church to interpret Biblical meaning. We each have to look at it on an individual basis and figure out for ourselves what it means to us.
In What Is the Bible?, that’s largely what Rob Bell encourages us to do. Our pastor who leads our books club, as a parallel, told us how the children’s ministry of our church works with regards to teaching the little ones. She explained that rather than telling them a story and what the takeaway message is from that story, the lessons are designed to get the kids asking questions. So why shouldn’t we, as adults, do the same? Yes, I know some faith leaders of a more authoritarian mindset feel that questioning God’s Word is subversive, but as Rob Bell points out, many stories in the Bible are subversive. Personally, I feel that when we ask questions, we show that we’re open and seeking answers, and it’s in those teachable moments that we can grow spiritually. Can asking questions lead us away from our faith as some believe? Possibly, but I think that it can also strengthen faith if we let it. After all, faith is all about believing in a power greater than ourselves, and as long as you have that foundation, then learning more about where the Bible comes from and what it has to say shouldn’t cause that faith to waver even if you find something that seems to disprove what you previously knew.
Rob Bell has a fresh and interesting way of looking at the Bible. While I was reading the main chapters, the heavens opened up, light shone down, and angels sang.;-) Yeah, I know I’m being pretty hyperbolic there, but that is how I felt through most of the first three sections of the book. I learned so much and saw both old favorite Bible stories and passages with which I was less familiar illuminated in a whole different light. Occasionally I might feel just a tad uncomfortable, and I realized it was because my old way of thinking was being challenged. Yet at the same time, everything Rev. Bell said somehow made perfect sense in a way it never had before. For the first time in years, I felt excited about the Bible, because I was seeing something new that was worth exploring.
I know in recent years Rob Bell has become a controversial figure in the Christian church, but I also know that he has a lot of followers, many of whom are like myself. We’ve seen contradictions in our reading of the Bible, or can’t reconcile it with our knowledge of known history, science, or other facts, or we simply struggle with some of the things it seems to be saying, which is one of the dangers associated with trying to adhere to a literal interpretation. Critical thinkers like myself eventually hit the proverbial wall where things just don’t make sense anymore. What I appreciate about Rev. Bell is that he seems to understand all these doubts. I love his use of “turning the gem” as a metaphor for needing to look at the Bible from many different angles to see all of its facets. In using this imagery he also illuminates the idea that the Bible is the living Word of God that is still speaking to us and revealing things to us centuries or even millennia after it was first recorded. Part of my issue has been that I didn’t know the right questions to ask to find some of the answers I’m seeking, but What Is the Bible? gave me some great questions with which to begin. Although where to find the answers, since I’m not a biblical scholar, is perhaps a little murkier, there is also a recommended reading list at the end of the book, at which I’m planning to take a closer look. At the very least, this book has given me a jumping off point on where to start, and after reading this book, I’m definitely leaning toward becoming a Rob Bell fan. At the very least, I’m very much looking forward to checking out his other books, and if they’re half as illuminating at this one was, I’m sure I’ll enjoy them as well....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Devil’s Cut is the final book in J. R. Ward’s Bourbon Kings series. Even though they’re highly dysfunctional, I’ve loved readiReviewed for THC Reviews Devil’s Cut is the final book in J. R. Ward’s Bourbon Kings series. Even though they’re highly dysfunctional, I’ve loved reading about the Baldwine family and all of their trials and travails from the beginning. Where some readers saw nothing but a spoiled rich family, I saw four siblings who were emotionally wounded on a deep level and torn apart by their father’s terrible abuse. I also saw a family in shreds from everything he’d done and their fortunes in question as his death revealed the true extent of his greed and misdeeds. As this story opens, we see that none of the Baldwine siblings – neither Edward, Lane, Max, nor Gin – really care one whit that their father, William, is dead. Quite to the contrary, they’re glad that he’s gone, and I can’t blame them. But with his death, they’ve discovered just how bad of a businessman he was. He embezzled money from both private family trusts and the family owned Bradford Bourbon Company to invest in a string of fake or failed businesses, leaving the family legacy on the verge of bankruptcy, with creditors practically knocking down their doors to get repaid, when they don’t have the liquidity to do so. This leaves them in a very precarious financial position. On top of that, the four siblings have basically scattered to the four winds, each nursing their own wounds from William's mistreatment. By the end of the previous book, it was also revealed that William's death was indeed murder, one which Edward confessed to. Devil’s Cut didn’t end up being quite the mystery I was expecting, though. Instead, it’s about the family pulling together in the wake of their father’s destruction. And perhaps more importantly it’s also about them finding reconciliation in a number of different ways that left me with a warm, content feeling in the end.
As the youngest of the three brothers, Lane never thought he would ever find himself in charge of BBC if and when his father passed away. As the oldest, it was always expected that Edward would take up that mantle, but circumstances changed it all in a heartbeat. Lane is not the businessman that Edward is, so from the start, he’s been having a hard time of it, not only because his skills aren’t as good, but also because of the mess William left him to clean up. With the help of his best friend, Jeff, an investment banker, he’s been slowly making sense of the company books and trying to keep the BBC solvent. On top of that, he’s been doing his best to try to hold the family together, and that’s a big job indeed. Luckily he has the love of his life, Lizzie, to help him out. They reunited in the first book of the series, and she’s been his rock throughout all the problems that have come their way. Even though there have been a few bumps along the road, each book has taken them to the next step of their relationship, which I’ve very much enjoyed. Lane and Lizzie have been the core couple around which the rest of the characters and the plot revolve, and they’re very well-suited to that role.
Edward is the oldest and he has always looked out for his younger siblings. Even when they were just children, he often took the severe punishments meted out by his father to save one of the others. That’s why I never truly believed that he was guilty when he confessed to his father’s murder at the end of the previous book. I couldn’t have blamed him if he had been the perpetrator, though, because William treated Edward abominably, even trying to have him killed at one point. As a result, Edward spent weeks in a South American jungle being tortured, and he’s never been the same since. Broken in both body and spirit, he retreated to his horse breeding farm, The Red & Black, avoiding everyone and drowning his sorrows at the bottom of a bottle. However, he’s always been in love with Sutton, who is the daughter of BBC’s chief competitor and now that her father is disabled, she has become the CEO of their company. Luckily for Edward, his feelings are reciprocated, but before turning himself in to the police, he broke off the relationship of a sort that they’d begun. I’ve always loved Edward for his selflessness, and I also love Sutton for loving him in spite of everything. If anyone in the series deserved an HEA, it was these two.
Gin is the youngest Baldwine, who started the series more worried about where she was going to get the money to continue living in the manner in which she was accustomed, than about anything that was going on with the family or the company. She also has a teenage daughter, Amelia, to whom she gave birth when she was just a teenager herself and whom she’s largely ignored for most of the girl’s life. Gin has basically had a habit of making one bad decision after another, perhaps the worst of which was marrying a man for money who ended up abusing her. It was also pretty crappy of her to not tell the man who fathered her child that he had a daughter. However, William’s death and the subsequent problems that arose from that event have slowly been making an impact on Gin, causing her to turn her life around. The love of her life has always been Samuel T., who is also Amelia’s father. Samuel T. is a brilliant attorney and a playboy who tries to self-medicate with tons of booze and women even though Gin is the one who he’s never been able to get out of his system. Throughout the years, these two have shared a highly dysfunctional, tit-for-tat relationship, where they sometimes sleep together but always end up hurting each other. Underneath all the anger and bad feelings, though, it’s obvious that there’s no one else in the world who completes these two except each other. Out of anyone in the series, I think Gin and Samuel T. showed the most growth. In this book, they really impressed me by finally maturing into the responsible adults they always should have been.
Last but not least, middle brother, Max, was absent throughout the first book with no one really knowing where he was for the past few years. He returned to the family estate of Easterly but was still barely seen in the second book. Now in this final book, he gets a few of his own POV scenes, and what we find is a man who’s hurting just as much as his siblings, but who has tried to run away from his problems instead of facing them. Right before he left Easterly, Max overheard his parents arguing and discovered a dirty little family secret, and that’s why he left. He finally returned, feeling that now that his father is gone, he has a responsibility to tell the truth, but he doesn’t plan on staying. The one person who might change his mind, however, is Tanesha, the woman who got away. Tanesha is the daughter of Miss Aurora's (the woman who essentially raised all the Baldwine siblings) minister and is a resident doctor at the local hospital. She and Max shared some sexy times before Max left town, and both of them are obviously still very attracted to one another. Although I didn’t really get to truly meet Max until this book, I got just enough insights into his character to like what I saw and believe that he deserved an HEA too. Anyone who loves bad boys on Harleys should love Max. That coupled with his extraordinary singing ability and the fact that he dared to engage in an interracial relationship made him all the more appealing. I almost wish we could have gotten an even closer look at this couple, but I’m happy knowing that they’re in a good place by the end of the story.
All of the secondary players who were seen in the previous books return. Jeff is still the acting CEO of the BBC and continues to do his best to help Lane out of a very sticky situation. Mack, Lane’s friend and the company’s master distiller, finally reveals that he’s found a new strain of yeast that could be worth millions, but he might have to give it all up to save the company. Shelby, Edward’s friend and employee, never loses faith in his innocence and is instrumental in bringing the truth to light. Greta, Lizzie’s friend who used to help with the landscaping but is now working as the estate’s new controller, helps sort out the books. Gary, the head grounds keeper at the estate has a big secret. Little V. E., the Baldwine siblings mother, actually seems to be doing a little better now that her abusive husband is gone. Although she’s still suffering from dementia, she’s seen wandering around the estate a few times, which leads to a surprising reveal. The villains, Gin’s abusive husband, Richard, and Lane’s soon-to-be ex-wife, Chantal, also get their comeuppances, which made me quite happy. Finally was Miss Aurora, the family’s cook and the woman Lane calls his real momma. She’s been suffering from terminal cancer throughout the series and in this one is on her death bed, not even conscious most of the time. She’s always been a driving force in the Baldwine’s lives, loving them and being their conscience. I think she can now look down from heaven and say that the sacrifices she made paved the way for the family’s reconciliation.
While Devil’s Cut perhaps wasn’t quite what I was expecting it to be, I very much enjoyed it nonetheless. There are a couple of shocking revelations that very much took me by surprise. In fact, once William's killer is finally revealed for certain, I initially thought it wasn’t real and that the person had other motives for confessing. On the one hand it seemed a little out of character, but on the other, it made perfect sense. I know I’m not being very clear here, but I can’t say much more without giving away spoilers. In any case, it leads to a very satisfying ending. The main reason I read romance is for the HEAs. Nothing makes me happier than getting that wonderful happy ending for the main couple. Well, I got that and more here. After everything William put them through, no one deserved their HEAs more than this family, and nothing could have been sweeter than seeing each and every one of them, even a couple of supporting players, happy and on the road to a brighter future, not only in their personal lives but also as a family unit and in their business dealings. That made Devil’s Cut a lovely and very welcome wrap-up to this family saga that left me with warm fuzzies all over....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" More Than Enough was recommended by Erin Wathen, the former pastor of the church I attend, when we Skyped with herReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" More Than Enough was recommended by Erin Wathen, the former pastor of the church I attend, when we Skyped with her during our regular book club meeting after reading her new book. As a result More Than Enough was chosen as our latest book club read. I’m not quite sure why I had this impression, but when I picked it up, I thought it was going to be more of a book with tips and suggestions for simpler living. So, if this is an impression that you’ve gotten, too, know that it isn’t that type of book at all. It’s more of a compilation of essays on taking a deeper look at how we’re living and making intentional choices on ways we could do better. That’s not to say that I was disappointed in the book. I wasn’t, because the author had a lot of good and thoughtful things to say. So overall, I enjoyed it even if it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.
The author explains in her introduction exactly how the book is set up: “For the most part, the odd-numbered chapters are a little more practical. That is they examine hands-on topics like money, possessions, community service, and advocacy work. The even-numbered chapters are more theoretical; they explore ideas and practices that Christians have used for centuries to make sense of their lives and their relationship with God. All the chapters ultimately ask the question: How should we live?” The even-numbered chapters have one-word titles: Enough, Lament, Confession, Sabbath, Hope, Delight. They take a more philosophical approach to examining our lives on a deeper level, while as the author says, the odd-numbered ones are a little more practical. Rev. Moses doesn’t necessarily give specifics on how to live, but she does seek to inspire the reader to take more practical steps to live out the concepts found in the other chapters. No matter which it is, I love that all-important question regarding how we should live. Ultimately that’s a question that we can only answer individually, which is perhaps why the author didn’t give more specifics.
One of the previous books our book club read pointed out just how wasteful America is as a country, and that compliments the discussion in this book of how we do live in a culture of excess that’s not merely borne out in wastefulness. The reality is that here in America, we seem to think that bigger is better: bigger portions of food when we go to the restaurant, bigger stores so we have more selection, bigger packages like what we find at warehouse stores like Costco, just everything is bigger. And at the same time, so much of all that stuff is going to waste. I looked up the statistics and found that Americans buy 80 billion new items of clothing each year, and approximately 11 million tons (about the same amount) end up in landfills during that same time frame. Awareness campaigns to keep textiles out of landfills are great, but I’ve also heard that even thrift stores are becoming overwhelmed with the sheer amount of clothes that are donated. The problem that Rev. Moses presents is that we, as a group of people, generally have the mindset of needing more even when, if we took a closer look at our lives, most of us would find that we already have enough. Perhaps, when we go shopping, we should ask ourselves if we really need that new blouse or another pair of shoes. My favorite quote from the book is at the end of Chapter 2: “More asks: What else can I get? Enough asks: Do I really need more?” I think these are questions that we need to ask ourselves more frequently.
I like how the author takes a look at the concept of simple living and admits that it isn’t necessarily so simple. We can look at others who may be growing their own food in a garden or on a farm, raising their own livestock, making their own clothes, etc., but the reality is that those things take a lot of time and effort, and ultimately aren’t really simple after all. Rev. Moses leaves a lot of room for grace in this area and admits that she herself if sometimes guilty of not doing the “simpler” thing. In this respect she gives the reader the space to do what they can, while not beating themselves up for their failings, but at the same time, she encourages and perhaps challenges us to try a little harder, such as committing to not driving one day a week or to not purchasing any new items for a month.
Another thing I particularly appreciated was the author taking a look at our charitable giving, and this is something that we discussed in our book club as well. We came to the conclusion that many times, our giving is more to make us feel better than to really help those it’s supposed to. While it’s great to give money and/or goods to charitable causes, we need to be sure that it’s something the person receiving it actually needs. In many third-world countries, some missionary efforts are actually detrimental in more ways than one. I’ve now heard of a couple of instances of the people receiving things they don’t really need and/or it can be damaging in some way to the local economy. So when giving to organizations that help the needy in other countries, we need to be sure it truly is helpful. Also we need to take a closer look at systemic causes of poverty and other social issues and perhaps search for ways to make changes in those areas rather than just throwing money at the problem and hoping it will go away. After all, one of the things the author points out is that we actually have the capability to grow and produce enough food for everyone, yet 50% of children will experience food insecurity at some point in their lives. It’s for this and many other reasons that we need to commit ourselves to advocating for deeper, more meaningful changes, or at the very least, making sure we’re supporting organizations who do. After all, as the old adage goes, “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.”
Overall, More Than Enough was a good book that is written in an easy-to-read writing style. Rev. Moses uses a lot of stories and anecdotes from her own family and the lives of those around her to illustrate her points. She also interweaves those narratives with Scripture and Bible stories to illustrate how they pertain to our Christian faith. The only reason I knocked off a half star is that there were times as I read it that I felt it wasn’t quite cohesive enough, although upon further reflection, it may have just been my perception at the time. But I can’t deny that Lee Hull Moses had a lot of interesting and thought-provoking things to say that will inspire me (and hopefully anyone else who reads her book) to take a deeper look at my life and to making changes that will benefit, not only me, but others as well....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews The Scottish Prisoner is now my favorite of the Lord John Grey books I’ve read to date. I’ve enjoyed the other books and novelReviewed for THC Reviews The Scottish Prisoner is now my favorite of the Lord John Grey books I’ve read to date. I’ve enjoyed the other books and novellas, too, but there are a couple of big reasons why this one is a step above the others. First is that, while there is a military element in the story, it doesn’t permeate it. There’s no wartime action or battles being fought. It’s all about Lord John trying to find and collect, Gerald Siverly, a corrupt British army officer, from Ireland and bring him to justice by returning him to England for a court-martial. This will also fulfill the vow he made to his friend, Charlie Carruthers, before he passed away. Charlie provided John with the necessary documents and testimony to indict Siverly in the previous novella of the series, The Custom of the Army. This doesn’t turn out to be quite as straightforward of a matter as it seems, which leads to some mystery, intrigue, and adventure along the way. Another thing that made this book more enjoyable is that Jamie plays a huge part in it. I’d say that about half the book is about him and/or written from his POV. I love how well Jamie and John play off each other. The relationship between then in this story is initially awkward and strained because of things both said in the heat of the moment at the end of Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, but as they spend time working together on the case, they slowly start getting back to that place of friendship and camaraderie they’ve always shared. The two men are very well-matched in many ways including wit, intelligence, loyalty, and honor. They’re two characters who mesh well on the page and who I very much enjoy seeing together. So, less military descriptions helped to prevent the story from being a little too dry, like some of the others of the series have been, while Jamie and John together brought a certain warmth to the character interactions that wasn’t as prevalent in past stories.
I’ve loved John since he was introduced in the Outlander series. He’s an honorable man who takes his military service very seriously as well as the vows he makes to his friends. That’s why he feels he must undertake the mission to bring Siverly to justice by whatever means necessary. And he does a very admirable job of it, I might say. However, before he goes on that mission, John’s old friend, Stephan von Namtzen, shows up in London. The author has been toying with the possibility of a potential romantic relationship between these two since they met at the beginning of the series, so I very much enjoyed seeing them finally get together in this book. It was a pretty brief interlude, though, because of Stephan’s need to get back to Prussia and John’s need to get on with finding Siverly, but it was a very romantic and sexy moment nonetheless, even though there isn’t a great deal of detail. Despite having feelings for Stephan, John also still has feelings for Jamie, too, which is part of why things are still awkward between them at first. I’ve always felt that John genuinely loves Jamie, but he’s realistic enough to understand that there can never be anything between them besides friendship. However, we see him getting one step closer to that permanent bond he shares with Jamie in the later Outlander books, though Jamie’s son and his step-son, William. John started having suspicions about William's true parentage in Brotherhood of the Blade and he finally brings that full-circle by fully realizing the truth.
Any book or story I get to see Jamie in is a real treat. He has a couple of different plotlines going in this story. One, of course, is being called upon by John’s brother, Hal, to help translate a poem connected to the Siverly case that was written in Irish Gaelic and then Hal further twisting his arm to get Jamie to go with John to Ireland as “backup.” But at the same time, Jamie is approached by an Irish Jacobite he knew from the Rising. The man wants Jamie to help lead a new Rising, but to do so, he has to go to Ireland to collect an artifact that the Jacobites believe will help them win this time. Of course, Jamie, knowing there is no hope of the Jacobites ever winning, wants nothing to do with this scheme, but the man is persistent, following him and John all the way to Ireland, only to have his plotline converge unexpectedly with Siverly’s. Throughout his part of the story, Jamie is… well… Jamie.:-) He’s smart, cunning, and always up for an adventure, although going on that adventure with John isn’t too appealing at first. I like that he doesn’t hold a grudge, though, and that he gradually comes around to rekindling his friendship with the other man. The thing that really tore at my heart is how much Jamie still loves and misses Claire. At this point, she’s been gone for a number of years, and even knowing that they’re eventually reunited, it still greatly affected me. There was one small moment that John bore witness to that tugged at his heart, too. We also get to see more of Jamie with Willy. I’m so glad that he got to be a part of the boy’s life for at least a while, but it breaks my heart that he didn’t get to be a more hands-on father with either of his kids growing up, because he’s a great one.
There were a few common secondary characters that show up again in The Scottish Prisoner. John’s brother, Hal, and his wife, Minnie, whose love story is now told in the new novella, A Fugitive Green (from Seven Stones to Stand or Fall), played a part. As John’s commanding officer, Hal is in charge of the investigation into Siverly’s misconduct, while Minnie, a former spy who actually knows Jamie, provides them with helpful information. Hal and John’s friend, Harry Quarry, shows up, too, kind of freaking Jamie out a bit at first, since he acted as warden at Ardsmuir prison before John did. Dr. John Hunter, the real-life physician known as the “body-snatcher,” plays a brief role as the surgeon called to the site of a duel in which John is involved. Of course, I very much enjoyed seeing little Willy and the Dunsanys. Isobel gets herself into a bit of hot water, while her aging parents are starting to think toward the future for both their daughter and grandchild. However, probably the most important secondary player was Jamie’s old acquaintance, Tobias Quinn, who I believe was first introduced in this book. I had to admire his persistence on some level, but at the same time, he’s a rather tragic figure who can’t seem to let go of the past and a doomed cause.
Overall, The Scottish Prisoner was a great read. John and Jamie went through a lot in this story that tested their mettle as individuals, but at the same time, I think they make a wonderful team. When things aren’t strained between them, they work and play off each other in such a way that’s fun to read. I’ve always loved them together, and it was nice to see more of the building of the friendship that led to that permanent bond I spoke of and some other events surrounding them in the Outlander series. If I’m not mistaken, Jamie has a few more years of service at Helwater before going back to Scotland, so I’d definitely be open to more stories that fill in the blanks of his time there, and if Ms. Gabaldon pairs him up with John again, all the better.:-)...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews The Cannibal Princess is a short story in the Psy-Changeling series, featuring Lucas and Sascha from Slave to Sensation. It faReviewed for THC Reviews The Cannibal Princess is a short story in the Psy-Changeling series, featuring Lucas and Sascha from Slave to Sensation. It falls between their book and the next one, Visions of Heat, in the series chronology. In this one, Lucas and Sascha are babysitting Nate and Tamsyn’s two little cubs, Roman and Julian. The boys want Sascha to tell them a story, but it ends up being Lucas who makes up a story with the same title as this one. I liked the touch of vulnerability in Sascha. Having an emotionless upbringing, she was never told stories and has no idea how to do it. Lucas not only steps in to save the day, but he also agrees to help her learn how to tell stories in the future. I also liked that she was almost as enthralled by Lucas’s story as the boys were. Roman and Julian are adorable, typical little boys with boundless energy and an eagerness to listen, especially since the story was scary. Because of it’s brevity, there were a few things I would have preferred be a bit longer and more detailed, but overall, this is a cute story that was a nice addition to the greater story of Lucas and Sascha and to the series as a whole. The Cannibal Princess can be read for free on the author’s website....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I’ve very much enjoyed all of Jessica Bird’s (aka J. R. Ward’s) contemporary romances, but From the First is now my current faReviewed for THC Reviews I’ve very much enjoyed all of Jessica Bird’s (aka J. R. Ward’s) contemporary romances, but From the First is now my current favorite of the ones I’ve read so far. When it was first published by Harlequin, it was the last of the three-book Moorehouse Legacy series that follows the three Moorehouse siblings, two sisters and one brother, as they navigate life and find love. After the death of their parents, the three inherited the White Caps Bed & Breakfast on Saranac Lake in the Adirondack Mountains, the old Victorian home where they also grew up, but it’s mostly the two sisters, Frankie and Joy, who’ve been responsible for it’s running and upkeep. Their brother Alex had a taste for adventure and heard the call of the ocean long before their parents passed away, so he’s been sailing the world ever since. He captains his own boat, and he and his crew have won the America’s Cup several times. Then he experienced tragedy when his ship was caught in a hurricane that took the life of his friend, who was also one of his crew members, and left Alex too injured to continue sailing. He had no choice but to return home, where his sisters welcomed him with open arms while he recuperates, which is a lengthy process. In the previous book of the series, White Caps caught on fire, causing catastrophic damage that is being repaired in this book. There’s quite a bit going on in From the First to keep the reader engaged, but it’s the angst-filled, tender romance between the hero and heroine that really kept me glued to the pages.
Alex has had a rough time of it throughout the first two books of the series. He’s had to have multiple surgeries to repair the damage to his body from the sailing accident that killed his friend, Reese, and nearly took his leg. But it’s Reese’s death that really has him tied up in knots. Alex has a severe case of survivor’s guilt that was brought on by more than just his friend dying. Alex has been in love with Reese’s widow, Cassandra, since the day he met her and has spent the last several years trying to avoid her in order to avoid the temptation that she presents. He honestly believes that he somehow subconsciously allowed Reese to die because he wanted the other man’s wife so badly. Therefore, even though Cass is now free to be with whomever she chooses, Alex feels it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to pursue a relationship with her, but at the same time, he can hardly bear to be without her. His dilemma presents some very angsty moments, and he does spend a large part of the book fighting his feelings for her. This would normally irritate me, and I have to admit that Alex’s inability to give voice to his feelings did skate perilously close to making me drop a half-star from the rating. But every time I was getting to that point, something happened to appease me, just enough to keep the story moving instead of stagnating in a quagmire of repressed emotions like some other romances I’ve read. I also adored Alex for his utter devotion to Cassandra. He loves her so deeply that there was never a question in my mind that they were right for one another or that she was, without a doubt, his one and only for all time. He’s also very protective of her, in much the same way that the boys from Ms. Ward’s BDB series are toward their mates, which was a plus. Not to mention, I totally understood Alex’s introverted nature and dislike of social situations, and I also liked how much he cares for his family and realizes that he hasn’t been there for them in the way he should have. He was just an all-around great guy.
Little does Alex know that Cassandra never really loved her husband with an all-consuming, passionate sort of love and their marriage was far from the perfection he imagined. Cass came from nothing and married Reese more out of a sense of friendship and a need for financial security than true love. That’s why she turned a blind eye when she discovered her husband's infidelities. Although she’s sad that he’s now gone, she isn’t the grief-stricken widow. She also developed an attraction to Alex a long time ago, when she and Reese took a boat trip with him, but she never would have dreamed of cheating. Not to mention, Alex was spending so much time avoiding her that she believed he hated her, although she never understood why. Cass is a rather unique romance heroine, in that she’s an architect and general contractor, who’s been hired to restore White Caps. This, of course, places her in close proximity to Alex on almost a daily basis, making the temptation strong. Every time Alex opens the door just a crack, Cass finds herself eagerly stepping through it, but then he confuses her at every turn, leaving her thinking that he’s only biding his time with her while really being in love with someone else. Cass is a really sweet heroine who I liked a lot. She’s very patient with Alex, but doesn’t let him walk all over her when she thinks it’s not going to work out. She was also very understanding and had a lot of trust in him when he finally confessed what happened during the hurricane, never believing for a second that he could have allowed her husband to die.
As with the first two books of the series, there are a number of secondary characters who play key roles. It’s like Ms. Bird has turned all her contemporaries into a little world of their own, where all the books connect in one way or another. Not surprisingly, Nate and Frankie (Beauty and the Black Sheep aka The Rebel) and Gray and Joy (His Comfort and Joy aka The Player) are present, with Gray and Joy getting married. Then there’s Spike, Nate’s friend and business partner, who has also become a friend to Alex, working out with him and chauffeuring him around. I love Spike’s quirkiness and an unusual physical trait makes me seriously think he’s related to a couple of the Brothers of the BDB and probably doesn’t know it. Alex’s navigator, Madeline, comes for a visit, stirring up Spike’s interest. These two become the hero and heroine of A Man in a Million aka The Rogue, which became the honorary final book of the series. Sean O’Banyon, who was introduced in the previous book as Gray’s friend, also runs in the same social scene with Cassandra, so he’s friends with her as well. He wouldn’t mind making it more than friendship, but I have to give the guy credit for recognizing that she belonged with someone else and not interfering. Last but not least, Jack Walker (An Irresistible Bachelor) is mentioned as being in attendance at a party that takes place at Gray’s house.
Overall, Ms. Bird’s contemporary world has enthralled me almost as much as her BDB world. It’s populated with similar character types, alpha heroes with a heart of gold and relatable heroines I’d love to be friends with if they were real. As with her BDB books, her writing seems to keep getting better and better with each one, leaving me wondering if I’ll like the final two of her early contemporary stories even more than From the First, which is almost difficult to imagine, since I thoroughly enjoyed it. All I can say is that I’m going to have fun finding out. From the First was originally published as part of the Silhouette Special Edition line, but was recently republished as a stand-alone book that was retitled, The Renegade....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Some long-running book series tend to lose momentum after a while or start to feel repetitive. Eight books into the Dresden FiReviewed for THC Reviews Some long-running book series tend to lose momentum after a while or start to feel repetitive. Eight books into the Dresden Files series, I can confidently say that the series hasn’t slowed down one bit and each story is packed with new and exciting plots and relatable characters. Although I’ve given a couple of the previous books in the series five stars as well, I think Proven Guilty now has an edge as the best book in the series thus far, and I have every expectation that they’ll keep getting better and better as they go along. The story was maybe just a teensy bit slow to get moving, which I’ve noticed throughout my reading of the series as being Jim Butcher's style. But once things start to heat up, they don’t really let up until the final pages. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but if I have, I’ll say it again. The author is amazing at creating mini-cliffhangers at the end of each chapter that make the reader beg for more. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s pure genius. I’ve also noticed growth in Mr. Butcher as an author. Even though the series has been good from book one, he didn’t settle for just good and has been stepping up his game ever since. That, IMHO, is the mark of a true artist and a talented writer, and something that will definitely keep me coming back for more great reading.
Much in the same way Jim Butcher has been growing as a writer, Harry Dresden has been growing as a character and as a wizard. In the beginning, Harry was something of a lone wolf, but over the course of the series thus far, he’s picked up a few sidekicks here and there, usually one or two people who help him out during each story. In this one, I felt like he’d picked up a genuine Scooby Gang, who followed him into the heart of the Nevernever to complete his mission. That he has people now who care about him and would risk so much for him is telling. No one would do that for someone who isn’t a good man. That said, though, Harry is a complex character, one who can, on occasion, be tempted by the dark side. He’s been living with the specter of the Denarian, Lasciel, for a while now. She gives some added oomph to his powers and is always trying to seduce him into going full-on baddie, but so far, he’s holding strong against her trickery, while using the powers that he safely can without losing his soul. Harry has also gone from being a wizard on probation with the White Council to a full-fledged member himself. As a Warden now, he’s experiencing things he didn’t before, but as they say, “with great power, comes great responsibility.” I’ve always loved his chivalry and that is still in evidence here, a part of his personality that I don’t think will ever change. As he’s picked up friends along the way, it’s allowed Harry to show the caring side of himself, in that he would do anything (including die) for those he cares about. Just because he’s kind and gentle, though, doesn’t mean he’s a pushover. Harry can be pretty ballsy when the situation calls for it. Sometimes, he kind of reminds me a little of Han Solo, because he often finds himself running headlong into danger while figuring out how to get out of it along the way. Harry’s just an all-around awesome character that I love to pieces.
There are lots of great secondary characters in this one. Harry’s half-brother, Thomas, always has his back. Thomas reveals a couple of things about himself in this story, but for the most part, he’s being pretty tight-lipped about his life. I look forward to seeing more of him and learning more about what he’s doing. There are some changes afoot for Karrin Murphy, head of the CPD-SI unit. She’s back as Harry’s number one ally. They actually do a little flirting and finally address the big elephant in the room, namely their attraction to one another and whether anything can come of it. Mouse proves himself to be the most loyal companion a wizard could have. We haven’t seen Harry’s Knight of the Cross friend, Michael, his wife, Charity, and their large brood of kids in a while, but they played a huge part in this story, especially Charity and their oldest daughter, Molly. In fact, some surprising twists were revealed with these characters. Lily, the Summer Lady, and Fix, the Summer Knight, who I don’t think have appeared since Summer Knight, became instrumental to Harry’s success in several different ways, while some of the other fae put in appearances as well. Several of the members of the White Council show up, as Harry must deal with a tough and unexpected problem. In doing so, some things are revealed with regards to the overall story arc.
Overall, Proven Guilty was another excellent installment in the series. I had a great deal of fun reading it, and trying to figure out everything that’s going on. The characters were amazing. I loved all of them, particularly those who help Harry in some way. I developed a new appreciation for Charity in this one. She makes a lot more sense to me now that I know more about her history. I was also glad to see Harry and Murphy address a possible future even though things didn’t go quite the way I’d hoped on that front, but I’m not giving up on them yet. I’m especially eager to follow the breadcrumb trail that was left open at the end of this book in regards to the greater story arc to see where things go next, not only for Harry, but also for the entire magical world as a whole....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Chronologically, The Custom of the Army is set approximately one year after the events of Lord John and the Brotherhood of theReviewed for THC Reviews Chronologically, The Custom of the Army is set approximately one year after the events of Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade and its subsequent novella, Lord John and the Haunted Solider. Unlike the other Lord John Grey stories, which are primarily historical mysteries, this one doesn’t really have much of a mystery to speak of. Instead of it being a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end, it feels more like a series of vignettes in John’s life that intersect in some ways. That’s not to say it isn’t good, though. I still enjoyed it every bit as much as the other novels and novellas in the series. It just has a slightly different feel to it.
The story all begins with John at an electric eel party that goes awry and ends with him unintentionally killing a man in a duel. With that man’s father, as well as the father of the young lady whose honor he was defending, breathing down his neck, John needs to find a way to lay low for a while before accepting his military promotion. Fortuitously, Charlie Carruthers, an old friend and fellow military man with whom John briefly had an affair, requests that John come to Canada, where he’s stationed, to act as a character witness in his impending court-martial. John is all too happy to oblige as a temporary escape from his own problems and immediately sets sail for the New World. There he gets his first glimpse of Native Americans, some of whom are friendly and some not so much. He also goes in search of his cousin-in-law, Malcolm Stubbs, to give him a gift from his wife, but theirs isn’t exactly a happy reunion. John meets up with Charlie and discovers exactly how he ended up being court-martialed, and last but not least, he takes part in the Battle of Quebec. It was a surprising number of events condensed down into a fairly short novella, which made it a pretty fast-paced read.
The part about Charlie is probably the closest John came to any sort of mystery in this novella, and it was left somewhat open-ended, which makes me wonder if it will be resolved in a future story of the series. John also finally receives some closure with regards to his father’s murder. There are a few past characters from the series who pop up again in this one, including John’s friend Lucinda, who hosts the electric eel party, John’s cousin-in-law, Malcolm, who raised both my ire and my sympathy, and John Hunter, a doctor who’s a little on the creepy side with his obsession over human anatomy and who according to Ms. Gabaldon’s introduction was a real person. As always the author’s attention to historical detail is superb, with some other real-life players in the Battle of Quebec present, including Simon Fraser, who is also seen in one of the Outlander novels. John also gets a little side romance of a sort with Manoke, a Native American man he meets, but that relationship is more implied than anything else.
Overall, I enjoyed this series of adventures in which Lord John takes part. I had two favorite things about the story, both of which have to do with John as a character. First, he, once again, shows how honorable he is in several different ways. The one thing I’ve always admired most about Jamie (who barely received a mention in this story) is his honor, and I’ve always felt that John is an equally honorable man, which is part of his appeal for me. The second is that we get to see him interacting with a couple of little ones in this story, which shows us a taste of the kind of father he’ll become. Aside from the fact that these stories can be a tad dry at times and that military history isn’t really my favorite type of historical fiction, I have no real complaints. John, himself, more than makes these stories worth the read. The Custom of the Army was originally published in the multi-author anthology, Warriors and was later republished as a stand-alone novella in eBook and audio 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 "4.5 stars" I’ve been friends with author D. T. Dyllin for a few years, but until now, I haven’t gotten around to reading anyReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" I’ve been friends with author D. T. Dyllin for a few years, but until now, I haven’t gotten around to reading any of her books. It might be because she told me that she prefers darker stories, so she was reluctant to read my books since they’re on the sweeter side. I guess I figured that even though I love her as a person, our writing styles might be too different for me to appreciate her books. Not to mention, it can be a little dicey to read a friend’s book and then not like it. Well, I’m so glad I finally put all my concerns aside to give one a try, because she totally wowed me with Feeling Death. I want to say, though, that the author didn’t give me a free copy, nor did she ask me to review the book. I chose this particular one to begin with, because I usually enjoy stories in which psychic powers play a part and this one has that in spades. All the characters have some type of psychic gifts, whether it be empathic, telepathic, clairvoyant, psychic healer, or something else. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I just can’t get enough of pondering the inner workings of the human mind, so these types of stories feed that little obsession of mine. That said, though, I definitely won’t deny that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill romance novel. It’s part paranormal romance, part romantic suspense, and part psychological thriller. It’s full of dark twists and turns that you won’t see coming. The reader certainly has to keep their thinking cap on for this one. But I didn’t mind, because I also love stories that make me think. So while Feeling Death was anything but ordinary and not necessarily the type of book I would usually read, I loved it anyway.
The heroine and first-person narrator of the story is Samantha, who is an empath. The story opens with her happily married – or so she believes – and working with her husband, Nixon, and others like them on an elite task force that is currently investigating a string of serial killings. Sam is able to use her empathic talents to read the crime scene and sense the emotions of the victim just before they died, which is a handy tool when trying to solve murders. Despite generally being content with her husband, she’s been having some very strong erotic dreams about another man, someone who she thinks is named Austin. She isn’t sure if they are merely dreams, or actual memories of some kind, or if she’s just plain going crazy. Then she sees Austin in the memories of their serial killer’s latest victim. But before she has time to figure it out, Sam is sent to work on another case where strippers are being targeted. She goes undercover as a stripper at the club where she used to work as a bartender before becoming a part of her psychic team. While working there, more of the visions of Austin keep coming to her, while Nixon starts acting strangely, like he’s trying to keep her away from something or someone, rather than merely protecting her from the serial killer.
I really like Sam. She’s a strong, kick-butt heroine who’s pretty independent and can mostly take care of herself, but she’s not an island. She has vulnerabilities that make her easy to relate to, such as low self-esteem. I was particularly intrigued by the fact that until she met one of the two men in this story (the one she’s destined to be with), she hadn’t had a sexual experience that was all her own. By that I mean that since she didn’t have good control over her powers, she was always unintentionally feeding off the lust and desires of the person she was with, which made her feel dirty and used. I also liked that she isn’t the type of girl who’s comfortable with casual sex, although sometimes her powers betray her into doing it anyway. Sam is loyal to those she cares about and would do anything to protect them. She grows and changes a lot throughout the story, in some ways for good and in other ways not. In fact, by the end, she’s a pretty different person who’s discovered that she has a dark side. But the one thing that remains constant is her deep and abiding love for her man, which nothing and no one can break.
Now for the two main men in Sam’s life. First, there’s Austin, another empath, who is pretty much the ultimate alpha male. He’s confident, arrogant, and basically has women falling at his feet to get into his bed. He’s pretty much your typical, unapologetic, garden-variety man-whore, who refuses to offer Sam anything more than just sex. I have no problem saying that all of these qualities, especially in one package, would usually completely turn me off, but with Austin, I totally fell for him. Why you ask? Well, somehow his arrogance managed to come off as sexy and lovable. I also suppose it’s because he, too, has a lot of vulnerabilities that make him easy to like and relate to. I fully understood why he is the way he is, so all of his bad traits didn’t seem so bad anymore. Not to mention he’s pretty much a dream lover, and when he does finally open himself up, he becomes this passionate force of nature that’s impossible to resist. And then there’s Nixon, who happens to be Austin’s best friend. Nixon is a void, which means that he can neutralize the powers of other psychics when he’s close to them. He’s basically the ultimate good guy, the beta, who gets friend-zoned more often than winning the girl. He’s kind, gentle, protective, and surprisingly understanding when some very awkward circumstances arise, but at the same time, he can be a little clueless both about relationships and about the emotional turmoil an empath goes through since he isn’t one. However, I did believe that he genuinely cared about Sam. There really wasn’t anything not to like about Nixon except that toward the very end, a decision he made concerning Sam is revealed that placed his motives into question in my mind. This wasn’t fully resolved, though, or at least it didn’t seem to be, so I’m hoping that we’ll learn more about why he did this in the next book.
All of the characters in Feeling Death are layered and complex (the best kind :-)) as are their relationships to one another. Just when you think you have them figured out, some new piece of the puzzle is added to twist things around. Even Malcolm, the serial killer and main villain of the story, has compelling reasons for why he does things, as does Jessica, a healer who is part of their team and also sleeping with Austin. She seems nice in the beginning, but even though the resolution to her part of the story is only told at the very end, it made perfect sense that she would do something like that. There are some other peripheral characters that I would love to see more of like Austin’s Native American friend, Teryn, and Natalie, the leader of their team. I’d love to see their powers explored in more detail and learn more about them as individuals, but I guess I’ll have to wait until the next book to see if I get my wish.
As I said before, this isn't your typical romance novel and not just because of the darker aspects. The main reason you have to stay on your toes is that the story isn’t really told in chronological order. It starts in the present with Sam getting bits and piece of visions with little context as to when they might have happened, if they did. Then about halfway into the story, we’re catapulted back six years in time to fill in a lot of the blanks. The next few years are fast-forwarded through at intervals of months or even years, stopping for a little while at certain points to explain specific events in more detail, before finally coming full-circle back to the present. It’s not the easiest style to follow and may confuse some readers, but for the most part I think I kept up pretty well with all the main points. It felt much like watching a movie, where they show you a compelling scene at the beginning then go back in time to show you what happened to lead up to that moment. In fact, I think this book would make a great movie. Another thing that makes this book atypical is the ending. Is it a positive HEA? Weeellll… yes. But it’s complicated. Sorry I’m not saying more, but I’ve purposely been trying not to give too much away in my review, because it’s a lot of fun just figuring it all out for yourself. However, while I was fine with how things turned out romantically speaking, there are other things at the end that made me drop the half-star. It’s mainly that I was left with a lot of questions, although I’m making some allowances since I know there’s more story coming. It’s just there were a couple of points that I think could have been explained a bit more clearly.
There’s so much about Feeling Death that shouldn’t have worked for me: an arrogant man-whore hero, a love triangle, the main couple sleeping with other people when they should be with each other, one of the persons in that pairing fighting their feelings. These are all things that I try to avoid in my romance reading, and in other authors’ hands, I’ve strongly disliked. But somehow, D. T. Dyllin managed to write the story in such a way that all these things made sense in context, so that I was OK with them. Another thing that helped immensely is that when I sit down to read a book, the thing I most want to come away from that story with is having felt something. I can definitely, without hesitation, say this happened. There’s a great deal of angst, drama, tension, emotion, and passion packed into this story that gave me all kinds of feels, and I loved that. Another thing that was awesome for me were the love scenes. They’re intense, steamy, and sensual, without ever being tawdry. It’s so hard to find an author who writes these scenes just right for me, and when I do find one, you’d better believe I’ll be back for more. And that’s not the only thing I’ll be back for more of. Like I said, there are so many questions I still have, one of which is finding out who’s really behind all the things that happened in this story, so I’ll definitely be picking up Embracing Death soon....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Six books into Victoria Alexander’s Effington Family & Friends series, I can say that I’ve found some enjoyment in each ofReviewed for THC Reviews Six books into Victoria Alexander’s Effington Family & Friends series, I can say that I’ve found some enjoyment in each of the books so far, but I’ve also found weaknesses that have kept all but one of the books from receiving keeper status from me. Love with the Proper Husband is one of the better books in that I really liked the hero, generally liked the heroine, except for one unwise decision she makes, and found their love to be sweet and heartfelt, if a little quick in coming about. However, on the downside, the plot certainly could have been stronger, especially in the details, and some of Ms. Alexander’s writing quirks that can be a bit annoying were also present in this story. That said, though, I did mostly enjoy the book, in part, because I could feel a connection between the hero and heroine. So while it was far from perfect, when compared to the other books in the series, I felt that a four-star rating made sense, because I liked it about as well as the one other book I gave four stars to, and slightly better than the ones I gave 3.5 stars to.
Love with the Proper Husband begins with a group of aristocratic mamas meeting to discuss their children’s seeming disinterest in marrying, particularly their male children, who need to find wives to carry on the family lines. They agree to work together to change this state of affairs, even if they have to meddle in their children’s lives to do it. Our hero’s mother is among them, so we know that when both he and the heroine receive unexpected news that their fathers had arranged years ago for them to be married if the hero hadn’t chosen a bride by his thirtieth birthday, it’s obvious that his mama somehow had a hand in this revelation. However the hero and heroine are both oblivious to this fact until the end of the story, and we don’t know exactly how she pulled it off until then either.
Gwendolyn has been out of the country for a few years. The only family she had left was her father, but he died when she was sixteen and since he had no male heirs, a very distant cousin took over the title and the estate that she’d called home all her life. She was bitter that as a woman she couldn’t inherit, and her father’s solicitor told her she was basically left penniless, so she decided to simply run away from her problem, a tact that she’s continued to use for most of her adult life. She managed to find a position as a governess in America, but she’s not particularly fond of children and wasn’t very good at it. Not to mention, some of her charges’ fathers made unwanted advances toward her, so in four short years, she’s held several different positions. When Gwen receives word from her father’s solicitor, she returns to England immediately to find, much to her surprise, that a mistake was made and that her father did indeed make provisions for her. She has a house and a modest income on which she could live for the rest of her life, and if she’s willing to marry a man she’s never met, she will come into a fortune. After watching her mother die trying to give her father the desired heir and having married men pawing at her, Gwen has little use for the institution of marriage, so simply taking the house and the income sounds good to her, until she also discovers that she’s been placed in charge of her three nieces who’ve just lost their parents. After meeting the girls she can’t leave them with her distant cousin who clearly doesn’t want them around. She knows what it feels like to be unwanted as a female, so she’s compelled to give them a loving home. Unfortunately, the modest income won’t be enough to support four people, so she reluctantly agrees to the marriage.
Overall, I liked Gwen and felt like I understood her most of the time. The men in her life failed her by not valuing her for no other reason than because she’s female, so it made sense that she would have trouble trusting Marcus at first. She takes quite a while before revealing the existence of the girls to him, but I understood that it was out of fear that he wouldn’t accept them or would make them feel “less than.” I did like that she gradually comes around, though, and that she recognizes that Marcus is indeed a good man. I also like that while Gwen was a little trepidatious on their wedding night and things started out pretty humorously that she warmed up to her new husband very quickly and that she was always welcoming of his love-making, especially when she found out how enjoyable it could be. However, she’s extremely reluctant to say that she’s fallen in love with him. Again, though, she slowly comes around. So the only thing about her that gave me pause is when she decided to run away again when problems arise near the end of the book. When characters have issues like this, I like to see them change and grow throughout the story, so when she reverted back to her old MO, I found myself a little disappointed in her.
I really loved Marcus. He’s been hurt in the past by a couple of women who broke off their relationship with him when they became involved with someone else, so he hasn’t been particularly eager to give his heart to someone again. Not to mention, he’s always been something of a romantic, who thought he would marry for love. However, when he receives the news that he must either marry Gwen by his thirtieth birthday, which is mere months away, or forfeit his fortune, he tries to put things in perspective. If it were just himself, he didn’t really care if he lost his money, but since he has his mother and his tenants to look after, he figures he’d better do as he’s been told. After meeting Gwen, he knows he could do a lot worse, so even though the lady is reluctant, Marcus vows to persuade her before the deadline. He’s just surprised when she’s the one who comes back to him. He eventually begins to wonder why that is but doesn’t think too much of it until his best friend spots her entering the dowager house on his estate with another man. Then the lovers who jilted him come back to haunt him a little as he wonders if she’s stepping out on him. Luckily his reservations don’t last long, though. Generally speaking, Marcus is a very trusting and understanding man who gives Gwen a great deal of latitude with her independence. He’s also the first to say, “I love you” and is quite patient while waiting for her to return his affection. Overall, he was pretty much the perfect man, so I had absolutely no issues with him at all.
Since I loved the hero and mostly liked the heroine, the main reason I knocked off a star is for the plotting and the writing. The plot of the story is on the weak side. For as long as the book is, I felt like there wasn’t enough actual story to fill the pages. It probably could have been pared down quite a bit and still hit all the major plot points, and that’s because there’s a lot of filler dialogue that doesn’t really advance the plot like it should. Although I could definitely feel the love connection between Marcus and Gwen, it comes about with little thought or fanfare. They just happen to be quite well-suited and don’t encounter a whole lot of problems in this area, which is OK, albeit a bit bland. The sexual tension is well done, though, as are the couple of love scenes. However, the other thing that really drove me to distraction was the author’s extreme overuse of the phrase, “blew a long breath” or some derivative thereof to indicate someone sighing. Also she has a penchant for having the characters ask two word rhetorical questions such as, “Am I?,” “Did I?,” “Are you?,” etc. I think they were meant to be cute, but they just about drove me batty. I could have played a drinking game with these phrases and gotten quite foxed.;-)
Overall, since the characters were pretty likable and I could feel the romantic connection between the hero and heroine, I generally liked Love with the Proper Husband. It may not have been perfect, but I’ve read far worse. I liked Gwen’s nieces who each had their own age-appropriate personalities, as well as her two good friends Madames Freneau and de Chabot, who are like older sisters, offering her unconditional love, support and sage advice. Marcus's best friend, Reggie, came off in a much better light in this story than he did in one of the previous books of the series in which he appeared. He’ll become the hero of book #8, The Pursuit of Marriage. While some things could have been better, I liked the book overall and will probably continue with the series for now....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Some old-school romances from decades ago don’t really do much for me, because of cruel heroes or other elements that I don’tReviewed for THC Reviews Some old-school romances from decades ago don’t really do much for me, because of cruel heroes or other elements that I don’t care for. But others, like Prairie Embrace, make me long for the romances of yesteryear, when it was a somewhat simpler time and these stories were written in a different style. First, most publishers wouldn’t touch a romance of this length (475 pages) these days, but often having more space to write a story like this can really help to develop it much better. Another thing is that this is an epic romance that spans two and a half years from the time the hero and heroine meet to the time they finally get their HEA ending. No one I can think of really writes like this anymore, which is a shame in this age of romance insta-love. IMHO, taking more time to allow the romance and passion to simmer made the ending of this story all the more sweet. Everything they had to go through to be together, even though one of the things that entailed was a lengthy separation, really helped to solidify their love for one another in my mind. They just never gave up, and that’s one of the big things I feel love is all about. So while the older vibe of the story might not work well for some readers, I personally thoroughly enjoyed it and would dearly love to read more romances just like it.
I would say that the heroine’s journey is one of the primary focuses of Prairie Embrace. In her short nineteen years, Katie has been through hell. Her mother died when she was young, and her father and brothers taunted and abused her, treating her like nothing more than a slave. Then her father got tired of providing for her and forced her to marry his friend who was just like him, including being more than twice her age. Her husband beats and verbally abuses her, and she finds no joy or pleasure in their marriage bed, likening it to essentially being raped repeatedly. Her husband's dream is to own a farm in Nebraska, so they make the hard journey west, where Katie’s existence on their land, which is two days ride from the nearest fort, becomes a bleak and lonely one, living in a dugout home with no one for company except a man who treats her abominably. Into that life comes Tohave, a Native American brave, who likes to tease the settlers. At first Katie, who has never known an Indian before, is a little afraid of him, but she quickly warms up to him, when she realizes he means them no harm. Tohave starts to visit Katie when her husband leaves her all alone to go to the fort or to chop wood in a forest that’s a good distance away, and she often senses his presence even when she can’t see him. Soon their friendship grows into love and passion, with Katie experiencing the first true love of her young life.
I love that Katie comes to trust and love Tohave despite them being so different and it being a forbidden love in more ways than one. Given her background and how poorly her husband and father treated her, she easily could have shut him out and refused to trust any man at all, but her heart was open when he came into her life. Through his love she learned that not all men are monsters and his love gave her strength to sustain her through the hard times and even to eventually stand up to her husband. Some readers may not like the fact that Katie stays with her abusive husband for so long and even sometimes feels like she’s the one who’s failed in their relationship, but I understood that she was a classic abuse victim and was also simply a product of her upbringing and the era in which she lived, where it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to leave her husband. I also loved that she never quite fully gave up on Tohave even after she was told he was dead. It was like she still sensed his spirit and couldn’t let go until she had some kind of proof. And it was in part, because she hung on that they were able to eventually reunite. While Katie might not be the kick-butt heroine that is often seen in more modern romances, she has a quiet, understated strength of spirit that can be easy to miss if one isn’t looking deeply enough, and I very much liked that about her. Overall, she’s a sweet girl who I related to quite well and think that she definitely found the perfect mate in Tohave.
Tohave is an amazing hero, and I loved him to pieces. He’s one of the young warriors who’s half Sioux and half Cheyenne. He’s old enough to remember the Battle of Wounded Knee and the heyday of the Indians, but he’s still young enough to be restless and discontent with staying on the reservation. With their buffalo herds depleted and them being expected to live off government supplies, there’s little for the young men to do, so Tohave and his friends often play pranks on the white settlers. He met Katie when they rode down on their wagon as she and her husband were approaching their new homestead, making them think they were going to attack, but only showing a little intimidation. From the moment Tohave caught sight of Katie, he was smitten and couldn’t help following them at a distance, then keeping watch over her once they arrived and started setting up their new home. When Tohave realizes her husband beats and mistreats her, he sorely wants to kill him and steal her away, but he’s wise enough to know that it would only bring trouble upon himself and his tribe, so he bides his time. Once he and Katie become more deeply involved, though, he begins to make plans to spirit her away to Canada, where they can hide in the wilderness, but the unexpected happens and he’s unable to do what he wants.
Much like with Katie, it would have been easy for Tohave to distrust Katie. His mother was raped and murdered by white men, so he doesn’t trust them easily, but he’s smart enough to recognize that not all whites are bad. He and his friends mainly only tease the settlers who are already afraid of them, while they tend to be friendly with those who are friendly back. He senses from the moment they meet that Katie isn’t with her husband by choice, and his heart aches for her when he finds out just how badly her husband treats her. He may be a strong warrior, but when he’s with Katie, he’s kind and gentle, treating her with the utmost respect and tenderness. He knows she’s been through hell already and he doesn’t want to add to that. Instead he wants to heal her wounds, both physically and emotionally. He saves her life on more than one occasion when her husband wouldn’t have cared if she died. Tohave is still a man who has his pride, though, so when fate deals him a cruel blow, he stays away from her, not wanting her to see him as less than a man. But he never, ever stops thinking about her and wishing that things could be different. She’s the inspiration that keeps him alive through all the hardships.
Tohave and Katie share a relationship that is sweet and tender, everything that she doesn’t have with her husband. I will mention for readers who can’t abide cheating of any kind in romance, that they do technically cheat on Katie’s husband, but there are so many extenuating circumstances, not the least of which is Katie being forced into the marriage and the way her husband treats her, that I couldn’t muster one iota of outrage over that. It’s mainly only the white man’s unjust laws that keep Katie in her loveless marriage. What Tohave and Katie share is beauty personified, a love that persists despite the most difficult hardships. Their emotional connection is deep and heartfelt, even across time and distance. The fact that they are separated a little over halfway through the story and aren’t reunited until the very end would normally be a detractor for me, but in this case it wasn’t. Somehow the author kept their connection alive despite the time and distance that passes between them. I never for a minute doubted that they still loved one another. It helps, too, that it was outside forces keeping them apart, rather than their own stubbornness or stupidity, which is often the case in romances. These two were clearly made for each other and their love for one another never would have died no matter what the outcome was.
There are several key secondary players who keep the story moving along. First, Katie’s husband, Ezra, is a detestable man, who doesn’t have an ounce of compassion in him. I thoroughly hated him every time he hurt Katie, but I still have to appreciate that the author gave him just enough of a backstory to make him seem slightly human and make me understand why he is the way he is. McBain, the original commander at the nearest fort, as well as his lieutenant, Will Rogers, are genuinely good men, who see that relations between the whites and Indians are a two-way street. They both always encourage the white settlers to simply be friendly with the Indians, even though their words often fall on deaf ears. They also both see what Katie’s husband is doing to her and are sympathetic to her plight even though there’s little they can do to help her from a legal standpoint. Late in the story, Will also courts Katie and could have kept her from Tohave but didn’t. This made him a wonderful man as far as I’m concerned, and it might have been nice if he’d gotten a story of his own, although that’s unlikely this long after the fact. Katie makes friends with two other settler couples, although she rarely gets to see them. Tohave has his Indian friends as well who ride with him and give him advice. There is also an Indian woman named Rosebud who is older than Tohave, widowed and barren. In white man speak, she’s basically his mistress. He provides her with food and protection, while she acts as his female companion, providing for his sexual needs, and later she nurses him back to health, which is a long journey. Somehow the author managed to write her in a way that made me like her rather than be jealous of her for Katie’s sake. Rosebud is a good person who cares for Tohave and bears genuine affection for him, even though theirs isn’t a love-match, and Tohave is never with her when he’s with Katie, which was a plus. She also looks out for and greatly helps Katie on one occasion.
As if you couldn’t tell, I really loved Prairie Embrace. It’s everything I look for in a romance: sweetness, tenderness, a deep emotional connection between the hero and heroine as well as between them and me as the reader, awesome characters who are easy for me to relate to, and a beautiful, romantic story. It was a little torturous having Tohave and Katie separated for so long, but like I said, Roseanne Bittner really knows how to keep me turning the pages. I just had to find out how they would finally get together when the odds seemed to be stacked against them. I also have to commend her on her historical research. I learned a few things about Native American history as she intertwined Tohave and Katie’s love story with events that were actually occurring on the American frontier in the late 1800s. The racism and xenophobia that the Native Americans faced within the story seemed all to real as well. So kudos for her attention to real-life history. Overall, Prairie Embrace was a near-perfect read for me that will be a favorite of mine for a long time to come. It was my first read by Roseanne Bittner, but it definitely won’t be my last. I look forward to checking out some of the other titles on her backlist soon....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Green Like God is another of our church book club picks that highlight the reasons why Christians should be more iReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Green Like God is another of our church book club picks that highlight the reasons why Christians should be more involved in creation care. I felt that author Jonathan Merritt had an excellent persuasive argument for this that was biblically rooted. In fact, many of his points are things that I’d already thought of a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think this book is good. After all, I didn’t choose to write a book about it, so someone had to.:-)
In the first half of the book, Mr. Merritt outlines the hidden truths in the Bible that support creation care. First and foremost, he points out that if we believe that God created the Earth and everything in it, then we must believe that it is holy and good. It’s like God handiwork as a master artist. We wouldn’t go and destroy the Mona Lisa or any other famous artwork, so why should we destroy God’s. We should respect his artistry above all others. The author also discussed how in God’s giving mankind dominion over his creation, he was really setting up more of a benevolent monarchy where we are expected to care for and tend it rather than subdue it and strip it of all its natural resources for our own selfish gain. If we engage in the latter, then we are abusing our dominion. The author further demonstrates that God values all life, and therefore we must as well by protecting and preserving it. He further explores the idea that the whole of God’s creation is our sanctuary and that through his creation God can reveal himself to us, so we should strive to preserve nature for future generations so that they too can connect with God through natural revelation. Finally he wraps up this section by showing that green living and conservation isn’t just a liberal or “far left” issue, while trying to dispel some of the common arguments and misperceptions that often keep more conservative Christians from engaging in this important work.
In the second half of the book, the author discusses how we should respond to the information he imparted in the first half. First he talks about the facts regarding exactly what is occurring in the natural world today, including many statistics that should alarm people, and how we can’t just stick our heads in the sand and pretend that they don’t exist or try to twist the facts to absolve ourselves of any responsibility. He also points out that we can be our own worst enemy and how our wasteful lifestyles, particularly here in the U. S., the most extravagant and profligate country in the world, are affecting not just our own country but everyone else on our planet. He posits that because of this we need to reinvent the “American way.” Finally he shows us how and why we should adopt a J-O-Y lifestyle: Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last. If we do this, then care for God and everything he has made should come first, while caring about how our actions affect others comes second, with our own selfish agenda last. Unfortunately most corporate and political policies are the exact opposite, but things are slowly changing and the church should be leading the way on these issues. There are also a couple of appendices at the end, one of which gives a few practical ideas for living a greener life, while the other addresses the big elephant in the room known as climate change.
I’ve tried to live a greener life for many years now, and have spent all this time wondering why many Christians are so resistant to the idea. The author himself ran into many of these people after first publishing a treatise on the topic. I suppose it has a lot to do with conservation, ecology, and “going green” being equated with liberal ideology, but nothing could be further form the truth, IMHO. This shouldn’t be a conservative or a liberal issue. We should all care about our planet, because it’s the only one we have. If we ruin it beyond repair, there’s nowhere else to go. That’s why I appreciate that there is a book like Green Like God. Although it may not be apparent from what I’ve described of this book, the author is a self-described conservative who has even gotten the attention of the Southern Baptist Conference, and IMHO, we need more voices from that side of the aisle speaking up about creation care in order to fully affect change in this area.
While I agreed with all of the arguments for why Christians should be more involved in greener living and creation care, the one thing that I didn’t really agree with the author about and why I chose to knock off a half-star is that in Chapter 2, I felt like he was setting up a false dichotomy between those who are "going green" as an act of obedience to God and those who are doing it for other reasons. He talks a lot in this chapter about how trendy it's become to buy organic foods, hybrid cars, etc. and seems to imply that this is the only reason non-believers are “going green.” While I agree that many companies are probably taking advantage of increased sales of "green" items, and there have been many celebrity endorsements of such products and lifestyles, I hardly think that every person who doesn't believe in God is doing it merely because of a trend. It makes non-believers or believers in other faiths look shallow when they might be doing it for perfectly legitimate reasons, such as wanting to eat healthier, reduce carbon emissions, or simply because they appreciate our planet and want to look after it. I also think that scientists, many of whom are atheists and agnostics, are doing it because they fully understand the implications of not engaging in caring for our would, so they would probably take umbrage to this as well. Otherwise, though, I thought this was a great book, particularly for encouraging Christians to take a closer look at how they’re living, as well as how and why they can and should be more engaged in caring for God’s masterpiece....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews The Maze Runner is a YA, post-apocalyptic, dystopian story in much the same vein as The Hunger Games or Divergent. The main diReviewed for THC Reviews The Maze Runner is a YA, post-apocalyptic, dystopian story in much the same vein as The Hunger Games or Divergent. The main difference, though, is that with those stories, particularly The Hunger Games, the reader knows what the characters’ main objective is right from the start and it’s just a matter of them reaching their goals. In The Maze Runner, Thomas, the main character, has no idea who he really is or why he was sent to the Glade. Also, no one who lives there has any idea what the Maze is all about, how to solve it, or if there even is a solution. This gave the book an air of mystery and suspense throughout that kept me reading and coming back for more. A couple of times, I figured things out before the kids did, which made those parts ever so slightly predictable. I also remember coming up with questions on occasion, some of which were answered and others that I don’t think were. For this reason, if a reader really wanted to deeply scrutinize this story, they could probably come up with some things to complain about. However, I found myself quickly forgetting my ruminations not long after they occurred to me, simply because the book was so darn entertaining. I couldn’t help wanting to know what was going on, since the reader is every bit as much in the dark as Thomas is, and I couldn’t wait for him to uncover the next piece of the puzzle. Not everything is revealed by the end, so even if I wasn’t a latecomer to the series, I’d know that a sequel was in the works. And that little bit of mystery that’s left at the end makes me eager to read the next book soon.
Thomas is the main character and third-person narrator of the story. It begins with him waking up in a metal box which he quickly realizes is an elevator. Aside from his name and basic knowledge of the world around him, he has no memory of who he is, where he came from, or how he ended up in this predicament. When the Box finally stops, he has arrived in a place called the Glade, where about fifty other boys work and live. None of them remember their lives before the Glade either. They just keep going through the same motions every single day, with one of those daily activities being that some of the boys go out into the Maze surrounding the Glade, searching for a way out. Unfortunately a few of them have been there for two years and still haven’t had any success in solving the maze. Plus the stakes are raised by the horrific monsters known as Grievers who live in the Maze that have either killed or “stung” several boys who came before Thomas. Although he has no idea why, Thomas longs to become a Runner, one of the boys who run the maze every day, from the moment he arrives in the Glade.
I really liked Thomas. He’s a smart kid who helps the Gladers figure out some things they might not have without him. He has a curious nature that serves him well in many ways, although it can be frustrating for him (and me too :-)) when the Keepers, the boys who are in charge of each area of the Glade, refuse to answer his questions. Thomas is also very intuitive about a number of things, which when added to his intelligence and curiosity, makes him a mentally well-rounded character. On top of that, he’s quite brave, daring to do things that the others are afraid to attempt. He’s also a natural born leader, stepping up to the plate on more than one occasion to kind of take charge – I say “kind of” only because he’s not an official Keeper – but ultimately, he’s the person who finally helps them solve the puzzle that’s been plaguing them for so long. I also like that Thomas is an emotionally balanced character. He’s tough and strong when he needs to be, but he shows emotion when it’s appropriate to do so rather than trying to hide his feelings. I also like how protective he is of Teresa when she becomes the first girl to enter the Glade. Overall, Thomas is a great friend and an all-around stand-up guy.
Thomas may be the main hero of the story, but there are plenty of supporting characters he meets along the way who play important roles, too. There’s Alby and Newt, who are both Keepers, but who are also the de facto co-leaders of the Gladers. Alby can be a bit abrasive at times, which doesn’t endear him to Thomas, but unlike some of the others, he can be reasonable. Newt is a little more of a peace-keeper who Thomas looks to for guidance and who sees the potential in Thomas. Chuck becomes Thomas’ younger shadow and their easy friendship makes them seem more like brothers. Gally, one of the Keepers, is confrontational from the start. He was “stung” by a Griever, which changed him, but most seem to agree that he wasn’t particularly easy to get along with even before that. There’s Minho, the Keeper of the Runners, who has no trouble believing in Thomas after Thomas saves his life. And then there’s Teresa, who not only shakes things up by being the first girl in the Glade, but after she arrives, everything about the Glade starts to change, leaving several Gladers thinking that she had something to do with it.
From a parental perspective, I feel that the book is fine for its intended audience. Although a few of the boys make some slightly objectifying comments about Teresa after she arrives, nothing untoward happens. Although Thomas has feelings for her that seem to be reciprocated, there’s no sensuality of any kind, not even kissing. The language issue is somewhat murky. While there are no genuine bad words from American English, the author does use a couple of moderate British profanities (bloody and bugger) as well as a few slang and euphemistic words (eg. shuck and klunk) that stand in for real bad words. These are peppered throughout and the Gladers sometimes use them as insults toward each other, but since they aren’t actual profanities, I’m inclined to mostly give them a pass. Savvy young people will probably figure out the meanings anyway, but they might go over the heads of younger readers. That leaves only the violence, which I would say is on par with The Hunger Games or Divergent, as a possible detractor. The kids engage in a couple of bloody battles with the Grievers, and what the Griever venom does to a person when they get “stung,” can be pretty grotesque. Thomas learns of the boys who previously died in the Glade, one of whom was sliced in half. Along the way, some characters we meet also die, including ones that readers will likely come to care about. Overall, though, it’s not too bad, definitely no worse than a PG-13 movie, so I’d say that it’s perfectly acceptable for a teenage audience, and I might possibly even say it’s OK for middle-school aged kids with some mild reservations and a recommendation of parental or educator guidance.
IMHO, The Maze Runner was an excellent story that’s bound to get kids reading with its fast-paced action and adventure, as well as keep them reading with its mystery and suspense. With its male-centric perspective, I think it would especially appeal to boys, but I’m sure many girls will like it, too, since I did. I was particularly impressed with the diversity of the characters, who come from different races and backgrounds (what little we know of them anyway). I think there are also some lessons to be gleaned from the way the Gladers must pull together and work as a team, as well as a couple of characters’ selfless sacrifices. They also exhibited persistence in not giving up on solving the Maze, even though no one had been able to figure it out in two long years, and in spite of the frustrations of not knowing exactly who they were or why they were there. So, overall, The Maze Runner was a great story that’s left me eager to dive into The Scorch Trials to see just how deep this rabbit hole goes....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews K Is for Karin is the final book in my author friend, Jossilynn’s Book Convention Romance series. It was a satisfying denouemeReviewed for THC Reviews K Is for Karin is the final book in my author friend, Jossilynn’s Book Convention Romance series. It was a satisfying denouement in that it wrapped up all the loose ends from the previous books, but I felt that the romance itself in this one simply wasn’t as strong as the other couples’ stories were. Not to mention, I had very mixed feelings about the epilogue. In the time that I’ve been friends with Jossilynn and have read this series, I’ve discovered that she doesn’t really tell her stories in a traditional romance format. Past series’ characters get their own POV scenes, while she also occasionally does things that most romance authors wouldn’t dare to do. Depending on your perspective, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I like to give authors credit sometimes for creativity and writing outside the box, but at the same time, these things might not resonate with many seasoned romance readers like myself in the same way that more traditionally written romances do. Such was the case with this particular book. So while I enjoyed visiting with these characters who’ve become a close-knit family of friends, I found myself wishing that the romanticism of this book had been stronger to really make this series go out with a bang instead of what IMHO was more of a whimper.
The other thing I’ve discovered through my friendship with Jossilynn is that she and I have very different tastes in men. Despite that being the case, I’ve still liked all the heroes of the series and had no major issues with any of them – until now. Mine and the author’s disparate opinions on the opposite gender came to light when she read one of my books and my hero completely rubbed her the wrong way. Well, now I can say the same of one of her heroes, so we’re even. LOL!;-)
To call Mike the hero of this story would be overly generous, I think. He’s, without a doubt, one of the biggest jerk heroes I’ve ever read in a romance novel. He’s a total man whore, which under other circumstances I might have been able to live with, except that, when it comes to sex, he acts more like a college freshman than a mature thirty-something father who’s been married before and is dealing with the aftermath of his crazy ex-wife murdering his mother and trying to kill their daughter, too. Far from seeming to be grieving, the guy has a different woman in his bed every week, and even the heroine of the story doesn’t seem to be able to entirely tame him. I was having a very hard time believing that he was even capable of having a monogamous relationship, especially since the sex with his wife was apparently terrible the entire time they were married. This also called into question his ability to be with one woman (the heroine) at all in the future, even if their sex was off the charts. I also might not have been bothered by his behavior if he was only acting this way before Karin came along, but one thing I can’t abide in a romance is the hero sleeping with someone else after meeting – or at the very least after becoming more seriously involved with – the heroine. Right at the point where Mike appears to be ready to make some kind of commitment to Karin, he suddenly gets upset about her saying she doesn’t want kids, but instead of communicating and clarifying what she meant like a mature adult, he simply broke it off instantaneously. However, the real last straw for me with Mike is when he almost immediately brings a new woman home, sleeps with her in the next room (he and Karin live in the same house), and then without Karin knowing he’d done that, he tries to have sex with her without protection, mere minutes later. I’m like “Eww, please tell me he did not just do that!” I wasn’t convinced by his later explanation for why he did this, either. Not to mention, the “other woman” is someone that all of his friends can’t stand because she’s proven herself in the past to be a lying skank. This made me very dubious of Mike’s judgment, as well as his maturity level.
I thought that Mike’s one saving grace was him being a devoted father, and admittedly for the most part he was, but when he brought the “other woman” into the house around his daughter and seriously upset Heather by trying to force her to let the “other woman” take her to school when Karin was already scheduled to do it, I was just done with him. In the end, after a traumatic event, Mike finally realizes he’s been a jerk, but it was too little, too late for me. Regardless of whether Mike and Karin were supposedly soul mates brought together by the ghostly matchmaking Nurse K or not, Mike would have had to do a whole lot more groveling than what he did to get back in my good graces if he ever could’ve after being such an ass.
Although my personality is very different from Karin’s, making it a little difficult to relate to some of her choices, I did mostly like her. She’s the long-lost sister of Molly (K Is for Kismet). The two women are reunited in this book and fall into a sisters relationship fairly easily. After losing her adopted mom and later finding out her boyfriend was gay, Karin has been feeling pretty alone and like she doesn’t fit in well anywhere. So finally finding Molly after so many years of unsuccessfully searching is like a dream come true. Molly, her husband, Kade, and their large group of close-knit friends give Karin the place to belong that she’s always wanted. When she discovers that Mike, a guy she had a one-night stand with in Vegas, is a part of this group of friends, it’s a little awkward at first. The sex had been off-the-charts hot that night and she soon finds out it still is, but she barely even likes the guy and with good reason if you ask me.:-) (Having crazy hot sex with someone you don’t even like has always been pretty antithetical to me, but that’s just my opinion.) The one person Karin does like, once she gets to know her, is Mike’s daughter, Heather. Karin is somewhat uncomfortable being alone with Heather, because a child she was babysitting as a teenager drowned in the family pool on her watch. It was nothing more than a tragic accident that no one ever blamed her for, but Karin can’t stop blaming herself. However, that doesn’t stop her from treating Heather kindly, which is why I never understood Mike getting all bent out of shape and jumping to false conclusions over Karin’s comment about not wanting to have kids.
The romantic relationship (if you can even call it that, since there are no real romantic interludes) between Mike and Karin didn’t really do much for me. They start off with what was supposed to be nothing but a one-night stand, but Mike enjoyed it enough to leave Karin a note asking her to meet him again the next day. He got called home on the emergency involving his crazy ex, so Karin thought he’d stood her up, and that was that. Even after they find out that they have friends and relatives in common and they start things up again, it’s still just sex with no emotional connection and no commitment at all. In this instance, it’s not just me saying this subjectively, because the characters themselves admit as much. They argue all the time. Some of their banter could be mildly amusing, but even that wore thin after a while. They refuse to even say they like, much less love, one another, and it’s months before Mike kind of makes his quickly rescinded offer of a deeper commitment. During that time, they engaged in unprotected sex at least once or twice, which made me very uncomfortable, especially considering what a womanizer Mike is. He could have been carrying all kinds of diseases but miraculously isn’t, not to mention the pregnancy risk since Karin isn’t on the pill. Eventually, after STD tests and her getting birth control, they agree to a monogamous sexual relationship, only because Mike still wants to do it unprotected and she rightly won’t allow it otherwise. But then he has his lame-brained moment. The sex wasn’t even all that sexy to me this time, either. Sure they shared some fun, kinky times, and if that’s what floats your boat, then you’ll probably enjoy these scenes more than I did, but there’s little to no foreplay or post-coital bliss involved. They pretty much always just get down to business (even anal without lube – ouch!), and then when it’s over, that’s it, aside from sleeping next to one another. They don’t even kiss until about 2/3 of the way into the story, and even then I think I could count on one hand the number of times they kissed total. Normally having a paranormal element like the whole Nurse K/soul mates thing would have helped my disbelief a lot, but this time, even that couldn’t overcome the lack of romance and a strong emotional connection for me.
What I did like about the story and why I was able to give it three stars is the secondary characters. As has been the case with all the previous books, we get to revisit the hero and heroine of the last book. In this case, it was Molly and Kade getting several of their own POV scenes. They’re moving into a new house and awaiting the birth of their first child. They helped bring a little bit of romance into the story, because they exhibit the love connection that the main hero/heroine pairing lacked. We also get treated to Randy and Oscar’s wedding, which was nice, too. In fact, all the past heroes and heroines were present, supporting one another through the difficulties that life has handed them. Heather was a breath of fresh air as well. She breathes life into every scene she’s in, and I love that she acts like a pretty normal five-year-old, except for the fact that she can see dead people and animals. I was a little surprised, though, that she made it through the death of her mother and grandmother, as well as nearly being killed herself, relatively unscathed from an emotional standpoint. There is also one other supporting character who’s been there throughout the series and who was involved in that epilogue I mentioned that left me with mixed feelings. What Jossilynn did with him was kind of romantic in a way, but if she was going to write it that way, I wish she hadn’t previously paired him romantically with another secondary character. If not for that, I probably would have been OK with it, but because of that, the ending was very bittersweet for me.
I’ve liked all of the characters in this series, with the exception of Mike, so the opportunity to visit with them more in K Is for Karin definitely made it worth the read. The author tied up all the lose ends involving the past characters, so that I could easily see the whole group living their HEAs together. In the past books, Nurse K was a minor enough part of the story that I was still comfortable classifying them all as contemporary, but I felt the paranormal element in this one was much more prevalent. As I mentioned, Heather sees dead people and animals all the time and can communicate with them. Not to mention, we’ve now had several characters, both human and animal, who’ve been reincarnated, so I feel like I need to categorize this one as paranormal as well. Aside from some repetition (the characters do way too much smirking, shrugging, and eye rolling:-)), the writing itself is solid, so it was an easy read. If only Mike had been a more likable person and his relationship with Karin had been an actual romance instead of just sex, I know I would have liked this one just as much as the others in the series. As is, it’s still a decent wrap-up, just not one that I would likely revisit again.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations, including anal sex, light bondage, use of sex toys, and public sex acts, which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews More Than Words was chosen as our latest church book club pick, in part because the author, Erin Wathen, used to be the pastorReviewed for THC Reviews More Than Words was chosen as our latest church book club pick, in part because the author, Erin Wathen, used to be the pastor of our church. Her tenure there pre-dated my attendance, so I never knew her personally. However, I discovered quite by accident that I actually am somewhat familiar with her, because I’ve, on occasion, read her blog, Irreverin, on Patheos. What a small world! After reading her book and her blog, all I can say is that if I had known her I’m sure I would have liked her very much, and I’m looking forward to “meeting” her when our book club holds a conference with her over Skype during our monthly get-together in a few days.
Reverend Wathen wrote this book to offer a different perspective on what the phrase “family values” means. Unfortunately, in our current divisive political climate, family values has become synonymous with only a certain brand of Christianity and with only a couple of hot button topics. In this book, the author endeavors to show that actual family values should encompass much more than that. The values she covers are: compassion, abundance, Sabbath, nonviolence, joy, justice, community, forgiveness, equality, and authenticity. She contends that these are values that we should teach and model for our children and that we should practice them on a daily basis in all our relationships. And this book is a blueprint for how to accomplish that.
Each chapter is devoted to one of the values I mentioned above. The chapters begin with anecdotes from the author’s life that illustrate the need for that particular value. She then continues with practical suggestions for ways in which you can practice that value, first at home with your own family, and second within your church or the wider community of your neighborhood or city. Finally she explores ways in which that value is illustrated within Scripture. Then at the very end of each chapter you’ll find a four-question discussion guide that could be used with your family or in any small group setting to explore the topic further.
I really enjoyed More Than Words and agreed with virtually everything the author said. I wholeheartedly believe that genuine family values need to begin at home and focus outward toward others rather than inward toward insulating ourselves from others. Erin Wathen has a very engaging writing style that immediately drew me in. I loved reading all the little stories from her family life and could relate to them in a deep and meaningful way. While my own children are now grown and my responsibility for instilling in them the values espoused in this book has mostly passed, I still gleaned a lot from its pages and look forward to the day I might be instrumental in helping my grandchildren to learn these values as well. Not to mention, practicing these values in community is still very important even as an adult without young children. So whether you’re a parent or grandparent looking to guide your own children or grandchildren in a positive way, or you’re someone looking for ways to engage within your community in meaningful ways, or if you’re simply someone who is searching for a deeper meaning for the term “family values,” I highly recommend More Than Words. This well-written and highly readable book reclaims the meaning of these two little words from those who have used them as a divisive weapon and turns them back into a truly beautiful expression of their intended purpose, showing that real family values truly are more than just words....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" The Traitor was a nice wrap-up to the Four anthology and to the group of novellas that have now become widely viewReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" The Traitor was a nice wrap-up to the Four anthology and to the group of novellas that have now become widely viewed as prequels to the Divergent series. Despite that, I personally still think it’s better to at least read Divergent first. Otherwise, the reader will get major spoilers for that book and some things might not make a lot of sense. That’s especially true with this novella, which takes place pretty much simultaneously with events in Divergent. In this story, we learn how Four became aware of the unholy alliance between Dauntless and Erudite and their plans to attack Abnegation. He goes through some soul-searching as he tries to decide whether to warn his birth faction or not, as well as whether he can trust anyone enough to tell them these things. As he struggles with figuring those things out, he meets Tris and becomes her trainer, and we get to see some of the early parts of their relationship from his POV.
I think I’ve said it with each new novella I read in this series, but it might bear repeating that IMHO, the Divergent series as a whole would have been much better if it had been written in dual perspective. Getting Four’s POV on many of the events of the series has been great and has really helped to deepen my understanding of him as a character and some of the things that happened. It’s been so long since I read Divergent that I can’t recall precisely how the specific scenes in this novella compare to those same scenes in the main book from Tris’s POV, but I do recall complaining in my review of that book that the parts where Four takes Tris into his fear landscape along with their subsequent discussion and first kiss at the chasm afterward didn’t hold the emotional weight I felt they should have. Well, in this novella, that’s completely different, and I believe it’s all owed to the fact that we’re seeing what all this meant to Four. We learn why he chose to take Tris into his fear landscape and what it felt like for him going through that with her. We also get a richer conversation afterward and get to see his burgeoning feelings for her, too. It all made their relationship much more cohesive for me. The only reason I chose to knock off a half-star is because a few of the scenes seemed a bit repetitive with us only getting a slightly different perspective, but overall, I liked this novella a lot and really think that these scenes should have been included in the main Divergent book....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" The Witness of Religion in an Age of Fear is another one of our church book club picks, and one that is very timelReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" The Witness of Religion in an Age of Fear is another one of our church book club picks, and one that is very timely in its subject matter. Fear in our society has been on the rise for quite a while now, and it only seems to have been exacerbated by the recent presidential election. While some fears are legitimate, others, when looked at critically, are not. Eg. A recent study found that nearly half of Americans are very or somewhat fearful that they or someone they love will become the victim of a terrorist attack, when in reality, this risk is fairly minuscule. One is exponentially more likely to drown in a bathtub, die in a car accident, or get struck by lightening, statistics that are detailed in the book. One thing that the book points out that I wasn’t too surprised by is that studies have shown this high level of fear seems to primarily be a US phenomenon. While people in other countries have fears, too, they tend to exhibit less fear than Americans despite sometimes being at higher risk for certain situations. Another example is the recent Ebola outbreak, which had Americans freaking out, when it was the people in the affected countries or the surrounding areas who should have been the most fearful.
The author breaks his book into five chapters, the first of which takes a look at the rising culture of fear in America, which helps to put things in perspective. In many cases, it’s politicians who are fear-mongering, making constituents afraid of what might happen if they don’t elect a certain person to office. The media is also largely to blame, because, let’s face it, reporting of bad news – a form of fear-mongering – draws viewers and/or readers, which means more money for the various news outlets. The instant availability of news via social media doesn’t help matters either. So, what is to be done about this rise in fear? That’s what this book tries to answer, at least with regards to people of faith. The author examines the role religion can play in easing fears and how the faith community can help spread this into the wider world. One chapter is devoted to Judeo-Christian teachings since these two religions are so closely intertwined. Then the next chapter explores other religions, primarily Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. The author endeavors to explain each religion’s teachings on the subject of fear. I found it quite interesting that all of them have a similar focus on not fearing people or things that are happening in the world, but only to fear God (in the sense of awe or reverence). This served to show me that we actually share beliefs in common with our brothers and sisters of other faiths if we take the time to look for those things. The author then discusses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a real-world example of the ways in which fear can take root and affect adversaries on both sides. Finally he wraps up with ten practical recommendations for ways faith communities “can model a world without fear by refusing to live in fearful isolation from one another.”
This is a very short book with less than 100 pages of actual text. The remaining 25 or so pages cover a study guide for small groups and end notes. In spite of its brief length, this is a rather dense book that took me longer than average to read. This is because I had to focus my attention more fully as I was reading it. Some places seemed a bit more philosophical and harder to follow, which is why I knocked off the half star, but I fully acknowledge that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and that it might have just been me being overtired while reading those parts rather than a weakness of the book. Overall, this was a great read that can really challenge faith communities and people of faith to live out their religion’s teachings on overcoming fear if they can open their hearts and minds enough to accept this challenge. I fully agreed with all of Rev. Kinnamon’s suggestions for faith communities, and the idea that we, as people of faith, need to be leading the way in dispelling fear rather than encouraging it by marginalizing others for any reason. However, I can say that it’s probably going to be an uphill battle to convince my fellow persons of faith who harbor a certain mindset to get on board with these recommendations. Despite that, it won’t stop me from trying to make a difference in my little corner of the world and beyond when the opportunity arises, and I hope that other persons of faith will follow suit in promoting peace, understanding, and freedom from fear, so that we can live more emotionally healthy and productive lives....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews It’s hard to believe that the first Black Dagger Brotherhood book was released more than a decade ago and that we’re now fifteReviewed for THC Reviews It’s hard to believe that the first Black Dagger Brotherhood book was released more than a decade ago and that we’re now fifteen books into the series. With many long-running series like this, the stories can sometimes become old and stale, oftentimes feeling repetitive, or they may simply lose their momentum, which in turn, loses my attention. Not so with this series. If anything, I think the books have been getting better and better. Out of the most recent five books of the series, all have rated keeper status for me, compared with only two of the first five. But hey, really they’re all keepers, because I love the series so much, I just can’t get enough of it. Unlike some readers, I’m not even remotely tired of the Brothers yet. They still enthrall me, thrill me, and make me fall in love with them all over again with each subsequent book. And as usual, I’m left begging for more and can’t wait for the next one.
The Chosen took a slightly different track than previous books of the series and than what I was expecting. By that, I mean that Xcor and Layla, despite being the main hero/heroine pairing in this story, didn’t have quite as much page time as the couples from previous books. Maybe about a third of the way into reading it, I realized that this is most likely because their story has been developing as a sub-plot in the last several volumes, since they first met in book #10, Lover Reborn. That meant that there was less to tell. Since they were already in love and had been for some time, it was just a matter of them consummating the relationship and overcoming the hurdles to reach their HEA. These weren’t small things by any means, but since they already had the getting-to-know-you stuff out of the way, their part simply didn’t take up as much page time as it might have otherwise. I did thoroughly enjoy it, though. These two captured my attention and imagination from their first meeting and I’d been rooting for them to get together ever since. Although their journey to the HEA has been fraught with many pitfalls and Xcor needing to overcome his own selfishness and hardened warrior instincts, I was happy with how everything turned out. The ending was absolutely perfect and I look forward to seeing more of this couple as the series story-arc progresses.
Xcor is a badass, plain and simple. He entered the series with his Band of Bastards fully intending to dethrone Wrath and take that seat for himself and even went so far as to attempt an assassination. Then he met the Chosen, Layla, and his entire focus began to change. Like so many of the males in this series, he was brought to his knees by his love for one special female. He never felt like he was good enough for someone like her, which eventually led him to push her away. Then he was captured by the Brotherhood and spent the entire previous book in a coma, only being kept alive so they could torture him for information and then execute him for treason. Well, of course, none of that could happen or he wouldn’t get that happy ending with Layla that he’d been dreaming of, but never expecting to get. I was really happy with how things went in the book for Xcor. We learn his heartbreaking backstory, beginning with being rejected at birth by his father for having a cleft lip, and things didn’t get any better from there. He suffered through a pretty wretched childhood, learning to be independent from a very young age. Then after his transition, he chanced to meet the Bloodletter and was tricked into joining his war camp, and we all know from Vishous’ story just how horrifying that experience was. But it also turned him into a hard, unforgiving warrior, who had never known genuine love and had no softness or emotion left in him until Layla came along. He doesn’t fully understand why she loves him unconditionally and half expects her to leave him at some point if she learns too much of his past. But at the same time, he soaks up her affection like a starving man, and in reality he has been emotionally starved. I like that upon meeting Layla he started to gradually soften toward Wrath and the Brotherhood, and by the time we get to his first scenes in this book, he no longer holds any animosity for them. However, it’s still a long road to him gaining the Brotherhood’s trust and respect, and I really liked how this part of the story played out. I also love how an intense, stalwart warrior like Xcor who’s never been given to displays of affection turns into a gentle pussycat and an incredibly tender lover in Layla’s arms. It all made me totally fall for him.
Layla has been a part of the series for a very long time. I can’t even recall when she first appeared on the scene, but she has always been one of the main Chosen who were freed by Phury from service to the Scribe Virgin but who still provide for the blood needs of the Brotherhood and their allies. Somewhere along the line, she became best friends with Qhuinn, so when she went into her needing in Lover Reborn, she asked him to service her. The young were finally born in the previous book, The Beast, which was a joyous occasion for all. However, the joy quickly turns to sorrow when Layla finally reveals to Qhuinn that she’d been meeting with Xcor off and on for the entire time she was pregnant. Needless to say, things do not go well for her after that, and even her reunion with Xcor is marked with anxiety over either his impending demise or exile. But she tries to make the best of the time they have left. I’ve loved Layla from the beginning. She’s grown and changed in unexpected ways throughout the series. She’s a wonderful mother, always trying to put her young first, and we get another little taste from her of why the female of the species can be more dangerous than the males.;-) I adored her for the way she loves Xcor unconditionally and for the way she stood up for him to those who would do him harm. She’s an all-around awesome female and I’m so glad that she finally gets the happy ending she deserves.
Since Xcor’s and Layla’s scenes don’t take up as much page time, we get lots of other POVs. This is pretty much par for the course in these books, but I think there were more than usual, as I counted no less than ten other characters’ perspectives. Since Qhuinn’s and Blay’s lives are inextricably linked with Layla’s due to them sharing parenting duties, I’ll start with them. Qhuinn kind of disappointed me with his off-the-rails behavior, but then again, he disappointed nearly everyone else in the story, too, and it’s not without consequences. The toughest one to read about, though, is the rift in his relationship with Blay that’s caused by his angry, irrational outburst. Blay, unsurprisingly, tries to be the calm voice of reason throughout, but even a peacemaker like him can have a breaking point. I felt like he was completely justified in his reaction to Qhuinn’s words and actions. I would have been upset too. Even though Qhuinn’s anger persists throughout a large part of the story, I have to give him credit for things that he does later on and was happy with how it all turned out in the end.
Trez and iAm are also a part of this story, though their sub-plot runs parallel to the things happening within the Brotherhood and doesn’t intersect this time. Trez is still deeply in mourning for Selena, which made me a little sad. iAm is there helping to support his brother in his hour of grief, while each of them continue running their respective businesses. I thought maybe I had an idea of where things were going for Trez, but I was wrong. Instead, I was surprised by the addition of a new female character named Therese, who applies for a job at iAm’s restaurant. It appears that a major revelation in her life either made her run away from her family or she doesn’t have a family anymore. I can’t say much more about her without giving away a major spoiler. All I can say is that a deep, instant attraction sparks between her and Trez, and I look forward to learning more about her.
In addition, three of the Brothers get their own POVs. First is Wrath (yeah, I know he’s technically the king, but I still think of him as a Brother :-)), who continues to prove himself as the benevolent ruler of the vampire race. I was very impressed with his ability to forgive and his wisdom (with a little “encouragement” from Beth) in mediating some difficult circumstances. Then there’s Tohr, who opens the story depressed, because it’s Wellsie’s birthday. That, the household recently losing Selena, and Tohr witnessing Trez’s grief over his mate’s death have stirred up old memories of his own devastating loss. All of this causes him to make some unwise choices that put a little tarnish on his previously pristine veneer for me, but eventually he comes to see reason. Last, but certainly not least, was Vishous. He’s been getting several of his own scenes throughout the past couple of books. In this one, he’s protecting his king and continuing his role as all-around geek extraordinaire. However, his contemplations over his mating with Jane from the previous book continue, with him now feeling rather neglected by his shellan, who is always busy playing chief medic to the Brotherhood and their families. This makes him begin to consider the unthinkable. Based on the Warden’s answers at her recent in-person Q & A, it looks like things may get worse for this couple before they get better. They certainly wouldn’t be the first couple in this series to have to work through difficulties, and with a long-running series like this, I know I can’t expect all the previous couples to get along perfectly without any problems (after all real life couples certainly don’t), so as long as Vishous doesn’t do something stupid, I think I’ll be OK with that.
Former Bastard, Throe, has now gone full-on evil and is poised to become the newest arch-enemy of the Brotherhood, as he’s now the one seeking the throne. He gets into some really freaky stuff in this story that I’m sure will have repercussions throughout the next few books. Then the final character who has a couple of his own POV scenes is Zypher, who has kind of become the defacto leader of the Band of Bastards in Xcor’s absence. They go searching in a last-ditch effort to find their real leader, while making plans to return to the Old Country if they can’t locate him.
While they didn’t get their own POVs, there are a few supporting characters with key roles, chief among them Lassiter. After bringing Tohr back to the land of the living many moons ago, the fallen angel was mostly just mooching off the Brothers, annoying the crap out of them, and being the comic relief, but now he's finally getting some great material. I’ve loved all the wonderful little things he’s done throughout the last couple of books and that continues here. He shows that under all the flamboyancy and flippancy there beats a vulnerable heart. There are some surprising developments with regards to Lassiter as he takes on a fuller role in the series. Jo Early, the human woman who is trying to prove the existence of vampires is barely seen, but she’s still out there doing her thing and causing trouble for Vishous to clean up. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of her. And finally, while not actually seen, Assail is heard in the background as he continues his detoxing process and it isn’t pretty. But it looks like he’s finally going to get his HEA with Sola in the next book of the series, The Thief, most likely releasing next spring (2018).
Overall, The Chosen was an excellent story and I loved every minute I spent reading it. Each time a new Black Dagger Brotherhood book comes out, I feel privileged to spend a little more time in their world. It feels so real, and I can’t get enough of these guys and their gals. There have been a few things happening in the series that have given me the feeling that things are moving toward the ultimate goal of eliminating the Omega once and for all, which makes me question whether the Warden is slowly wrapping up the series. However, in her Q & A, she gave me hope that I’ll still get to spend plenty more time with the Brothers, when she said that as long as they keep talking to her and as long as we, the fans, keep reading, she’ll keep writing them. You better believe I will do exactly that, and with the Black Dagger Legacy, we now get two books in the Brotherhood’s world each year. I can’t wait for Blood Fury coming at the very beginning of next year (2018), and for The Thief to follow shortly thereafter....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Thus far, I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Lorraine Heath, and Never Marry a Cowboy is no exception. It was a wonderful wrapReviewed for THC Reviews Thus far, I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Lorraine Heath, and Never Marry a Cowboy is no exception. It was a wonderful wrap-up to the Rogues in Texas, and my favorite of the series. This final book features, Kit Montgomery, the last of the three English nobleman friends who were sent to Texas to earn their way. Grayson and Harrison each lost their hearts in turn to Texas ladies in the first two books of the series, but Kit has vowed never to love again. The one time he allowed himself to love, it turned out disastrously and broke his heart into a million pieces. But he didn’t count on a frail woman who has been told she’s dying to capture his heart once more. Ashton’s brother, David, caught her trying on her mother’s wedding dress and read in her journals that she had a crush on Kit, who had visited her family only once, but had captured her imagination and her heart during his short time there. Thinking it will provide Ashton with her dying wish, David asks Kit to give his sister a marriage in name only. This leads to a great deal of complications for this tortured hero with a heart of gold. I absolutely loved Never Marry a Cowboy. It’s a sweet, emotional, and sensual read that gave me all kinds of warm fuzzies and left me with a smile on my face.
When I first saw hints in the previous book, Never Love a Cowboy, of just how tortured and vulnerable Kit was, I knew he was going to be a great hero, and he definitely didn’t disappoint. Kit is the second-born of identical twins, who never felt like he could live up to his father’s expectations. He was a weak and sickly child, so he worked twice as hard to earn his father’s respect but never really had it. Then he and his identical twin brother Christopher fell in love with the same woman, but since Christopher was the oldest and the heir, he is the one who ended up marrying her. Then Clarisse became seriously ill. Unable to deal with Clarisse being in unbearable pain during her final hours and knowing that Kit would want to say goodbye, Christopher sent for Kit, who secretly overdosed Clarisse on pain medication and then held her in his arms as she died. What he did has tormented him ever since, yet he knows he would do it all over again. It broke his heart so badly he vowed never to love again. Now he lives in Texas where he was sent by his father, and after trying his hand at picking cotton and driving cattle, he’s finally settled in as the new marshal of the little town of Fortune, where he and his friends live. Kit is more or less walking through life in a blur, unable to get over his lost love, when David comes calling asking Kit to marry his sister. Getting involved, even in a pretend marriage, with a dying woman is the last thing Kit wants to do, but when he sees Ashton again, he’s drawn to her ethereal beauty. After spending a day with her and seeing the childlike joy she takes in such simple things, despite her illness, he knows he can’t deny her this final wish. But the more time he spends with Ashton, the more he wants to give her and make all her wishes come true, yet the guilt over what he did to Clarisse still haunts him, making him hold back a part of himself from her.
I loved Kit to pieces for not only wanting to make Ashton’s wish come true, but for insisting on going above and beyond. He’s a very detail-oriented person who doesn’t forget a single thing and treats her like a princess. Kit is so giving and loving toward Ashton even though he knows that the further he falls in love with her the worse his heart is going to break if she dies in six months as the doctor predicted. This motivates him to do everything he can to help her get better, and I loved how he coaxes her to eat more and encourages her to take long walks with him on the beach where they’re honeymooning. His efforts pay off as she slowly gains weight and becomes stronger. I adore the way he pampers her and wants to give her everything he can to make as many beautiful memories as possible in the time they have left, so they will both have something to sustain them in her final days and beyond. Kit is a wonderful man who wears his heart on his sleeve, but at the same time, he’s incredibly strong and brave in ways it would be easy for others to miss.
Ashton is a sweet, unassuming young woman, who has been sickly all her life. She nearly died the previous winter, which is why the doctor, who diagnosed her with consumption, doesn’t expect her to live more than another six months. Because of her illness, she’s been doted upon and protected by her family, rarely doing much outside the house. When Kit came to visit her brother in the previous book, she was very attracted to him and started daydreaming about a life with him, which she detailed in her journals. When she travels to Fortune with David, she has no idea of his plans to ask Kit to marry her. When she finds out, she doesn’t want his pity, but after spending some time with him, she finds herself falling more in love with him, so that when he proposes, she can’t resist accepting, even though she knows it’s a pretend marriage in name only. But that all changes when Kit insists upon taking her on a proper wedding trip to Galveston, where they spend a month at the beach, thoroughly enjoying each other’s company. Ashton may have been pampered and brought up in privilege, but she’s no spoiled miss. In fact, she craves her independence and wants to experience a few firsts before her time comes. Despite supposedly dying, she has an unquenchable zest for life and wants to seize every moment of the time she has left. Because of Kit’s first love dying, she doesn’t want to cause him any more pain and fully intends to go back to her brother’s in Dallas when their time at the shore is up but finds herself falling more and more in love with him. She basks in Kit’s love until she discovers his darkest secret. Then she isn’t sure how she feels about what he did. The part of the story surrounding her uncertainties and shying away from Kit was hard to read after the beautiful romance they’d shared, but every part of the story was important to them finding peace, redemption, and an HEA.
There are several notable supporting characters in Never Marry a Cowboy. Kit’s brother, Christopher, shows up, unintentionally confusing the townspeople into thinking he is Kit, which was amusing. I really liked that he became a part of the story, because the two brother have such a close connection. They share that twins thing, where they can feel each other’s emotions even with an ocean separating them, and they’ve always been close, never begrudging each other anything, even when they fell in love with the same woman. Christopher suffered, too, when Clarisse died, so it was nice to see him get a new happy ending as well. Gray (A Rogue in Texas) and Harry (Never Love a Cowboy) prove to be Kit’s loyal friends to the end. I love the bond that these men share. We also get to see Gray’s and Harry’s wives, Abby and Jessye, as well as their ever-expanding families. It was also nice to see Kit reconcile with his father. Then there are the villainous outlaws who cause no end of trouble for Kit.
Overall, Never Marry a Cowboy was a splendid read that was full of the sweetness, emotion, and swoon-worthy romance that I crave in my reading. I truly felt Kit and Ashton falling in love from the very beginning and throughout the first two-thirds or so of the book. I just loved all the time they spent together, getting to know one another and coming to realize they couldn’t live without each other. During this part of the story they’re so loving and giving. Even though the distance that develops after Ashton learns the truth of Clarisse’s demise is heartbreaking, it brings each of them to a deeper understanding of each other and their feelings, so it served a valuable purpose. For me, Never Marry a Cowboy was a perfect read and an equally perfect wrap-up to the series. Now I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing the next generation of these men’s families in the Daughters of Fortune, which also includes Kit and Ashton’s son, Devon, as the hero of the second book, To Marry an Heiress....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I first read Lisa Kleypas’ Bow Street Runners series about ten years ago when I’d just been coming off a book drought that hadReviewed for THC Reviews I first read Lisa Kleypas’ Bow Street Runners series about ten years ago when I’d just been coming off a book drought that had lasted at least that long. I still marvel at how I, a self-confessed bookaholic, could have gone so long without reading much at all, but I guess becoming a mom can completely rearrange your life and priorities that way. In 2007, I promised myself that I would get back to reading regularly and I haven’t looked back in the decade since. If memory serves, Someone to Watch Over Me was the very first book I randomly chose from my overstuffed bookshelves and it was also the first one I ever read by Lisa Kleypas. I didn’t even realize it was part of a series at the time, but lucky for me, it was the first in the series. I remember that it made me fall in love with the author’s work and immediately run out to the library to get the others in the series that I didn’t yet own. When I joined GoodReads in early 2008, I added all the books I read in 2007, rating them as best I could with my faulty memory. I recalled really enjoying Someone to Watch Over Me and the entire series, but I wasn’t sure if I had loved it (and them) enough to warrant 5 stars, so I gave all of them 4 stars (thinking they were really more like 4.5’s). Now that I’ve re-read this book, I can unequivocally say that it is indeed a 5-star read for me. Even though I remembered the big plot twist, I still loved reading it again for all the romance, sweetness, and all the little details that had since been purged from my memory. And since I read it before I started writing reviews in mid-2007, I never wrote one for it, so now I get the pleasure of doing that with double the impressions of the story.:-)
One of the things I got to rediscover is all the reasons why I loved Grant so much. First his backstory is very sympathetic, and while it doesn’t play a huge part in the story, he has experienced a lot of loss in his life. Lisa Kleypas is known for her self-made men and for her everyday historical heroes who aren’t part of the aristocracy. Grant is both. As a teen, he met a Bow Street Runner and idolized the work he did, vowing to become one some day. And that’s exactly what he’s done. He worked his way up through the ranks quickly to become the top Runner at Bow Street. His fame precedes him, and after having many ha’penny novels written about him, he’s become a sought-after guest at many aristocratic functions. It also brings him some of the most lucrative private cases, which has helped him to amass a fortune larger than some aristocrats. But he still moves quite easily in the streets of London where he grew up. He first met Vivian at a society party and was thinking about making an offer to become her protector, but he immediately changed his mind after figuring out how shallow and manipulative she was. This is one of the things I loved about him, because it showed that he's a man of depth and character who wants more than someone with a pretty face to warm his bed. His spurning of Vivien led to her spreading untrue rumors about him. However, in spite of wanting revenge on her for that slight, he can't seem to stop himself from feeling a sense of protectiveness toward her and caring for her tenderly when he finds her near-dead, the victim of an attempted murder. He also senses an innocence about her all along, even though he believes that's impossible given her position as a famous courtesan. While he does have a few moments of hardness when he's determined to make Vivien pay and does lie about their prior relationship, those lies do come back to bite him. He also can't seem to help but soften when he's with her. And his library? I'd marry him for that alone.;-) For a giant of a man, Grant is an incredibly gentle lover, and I loved him to pieces for declaring his love for Vivien before bedding her the first time.
The reader knows nothing about Vivien prior to her being dragged out of the Thames, half-dead and with no memory of who she is. I like how the author keeps the reader just a little off-balance with regards to what's going on with her. I seem to recall when reading it the first time that much like Grant, I was never quite sure whether she is the infamous courtesan Grant believes her to be or not. He knows that she looks exactly like the Vivien he knew, and his eyes can't lie. But she acts so differently, it’s almost like she’s another person. Could the blow to the head have somehow altered her personality as well as caused the memory loss? Half the fun of the story is in finding out the answer to that question. Having previously read it and already knowing the answer, I could look at it from a different perspective, and I think that it was a very well-written and well-plotted story. The Vivien we see recovering at Grant's house has an air of sweetness and innocence about her. She's absolutely mortified to learn that she was a courtesan. Somehow deep inside, she doesn't feel like that's her at all, but Grant says it’s true and she trusts him. I love the way she melts when Grant is around and how she sees the man within and seems to truly understand and appreciate him in a way other women perhaps haven’t. Vivien may be sweet but she certainly has a back bone, too. She bravely puts herself at risk to help Grant find her would-be murderer, and when she discovers Grant's lies, she doesn't let him off easily. I also found her to be very calm and collected, never a woman given to histrionics like many women in her situation might be. When shocking revelations occur, she generally takes them in stride, so I admired her for that. Overall, Vivien (or is she?:-)) was a very well-rounded heroine who I related to quite well.
Someone to Watch Over Me also had a couple of very notable secondary characters who go on to become amazing heroes in their own stories, and I got to start falling for them all over again by re-reading this book. Sir Ross Cannon is the head magistrate and leader of the Bow Street Runners. I love how protective he is toward women and children and how seriously he takes his job. He even has a cat that doesn’t seem to like anyone else but him, which is cute. Ross is definitely an honorable man and it shows even in his supporting scenes. I remember loving him just as much as I loved Grant, maybe even a little more, so I can’t wait to re-read his book, Lady Sophia's Lover, which is the next in the series. Then there’s Dr. Jacob Linley, who’s also a total dreamboat. I seem to recall him playing a supporting role in all the Bow Street Runners books. He’s a young doctor, who is more progressive-thinking than some of his older colleagues. He’s also absolutely wonderful with his female patients, which means that women often seek him out for treatment. Jacob becomes the hero of the novella Against the Odds, which is considered the final story in the Gambler’s of Cravens series. I was so sad when I realized that I hadn’t read his story yet, which is probably the result of it being connected to another series that I also haven’t read, but I’m definitely going to have to rectify that soon.
Overall, Someone to Watch Over Me was a thoroughly enjoyable re-read. It’s a deeply emotional and romantic story. I love how Grant and Vivien bond over a shared love of books, something that surprises Grant, as he didn't think Vivien cared one whit about reading, much less had an intelligent and philosophical mind. The sexual tension between them is exquisite as our hero and heroine navigate the treacherous mystery of who tried to kill Vivien and why, while falling in love. The love scenes are beautiful, tender, and steamy, too, exactly what I expect from Lisa Kleypas. The mystery was well-done, keeping me guessing (the first time I read it :-)) as to whether Vivien is really Vivien and who had it in for her (something I didn’t recall until the story began to progress). It was just an all-around great read that I’d be happy to revisit in about another decade, once I’ve forgotten much of the story again.:-)...more