Reviewed for THC Reviews I really don’t know how J. R. Ward keeps doing it, but even at book seventeen (and counting), I still love the BDB series. TheReviewed for THC Reviews I really don’t know how J. R. Ward keeps doing it, but even at book seventeen (and counting), I still love the BDB series. There’s so much that happens in this book, you won’t want to miss it. In fact, I’m going to have a hard time writing this review while avoiding any major spoilers, but I’m going to try my best. This is primarily Murhder’s story, and in case you’ve forgotten, he’s the rarely seen, insane former Brother who has the dubious distinction of being expelled by the Brotherhood for acts he committed twenty years ago. He’s paired with a research scientist who accidentally discovers that the biomedical research company she’s working for has been holding a captured vampire and doing hideous experiments on him. This story also brings John Matthew and Xhex back to the forefront as they deal with the fall-out of Xhex being reunited with her former lover. I’ll admit that The Savior was just a tad slow in the beginning for me. I was enjoying the story, but for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, I wasn’t entirely connecting with it and the characters in the way that I wanted to. It might be because the romance between Murhder and Sarah ramps up very quickly once they meet, but I also freely admit that it might also have been my own fickle mood. Whatever it was, that all changed when Murhder made his sacrifice (one of those things I can’t say much more about). After that I was totally hooked and couldn’t wait to read more. And by the end, my emotions were all over the place. I went from cheering, to feeling like my heart might burst with happiness, to tears, to smiling so big my face hurt, to outright laughing, and back to a final “Awww…!” moment, all in the space of only fifty pages or so. Any book that can wring that much emotion out of me deserves five stars, so that’s what I’ve given it.
Murhder has been living a tortured existence in South Carolina in the attic of the Bed & Breakfast he owns. He masquerades as one of the former owners of the house, one Eliahu Rathboone, while terrorizing his guests by making them think the house is haunted. It seems like an almost metaphorically fitting life for this insane former member of the Brotherhood. However, his life is about to change in ways he never expected. First, he has legal papers from the King that were delivered by Saxton and Ruhn in the previous book that must be returned, but he also has other unfinished business to attend to in New York. A female vampire whom he had tried – and failed – to rescue from a medical research facility years ago has contacted him to say that she escaped but her son is still in the facility and nearing his transition. She wants Murhder to find and save him before that happens. So Murhder returns to his old stomping grounds, a male on a mission, but once that mission has been successfully completed, he plans to end his life. However, he didn’t count on finding another woman whose face has haunted him for years and with whom he instantly bonds, finally giving him a reason to live. The snippets we’ve seen of Murhder thus far in this series have painted a picture of a grumpy, get-off-my-lawn, I’m-insane-and-I’d-rather-shoot-you-as-talk-to-you kind of vampire. So imagine my surprise when in the opening chapter, he rescues a hapless bat who’s about to be killed by two of his guests. This one scene set the tone for his character for the entire rest of the book. The title is incredibly fitting as well, because Murhder definitely has a savior complex. He turns out to be a selfless male who lays his life on the line time and time again in spite of the Brotherhood no longer accepting him. In fact, he has a kind-hearted nature that’s similar to John Matthew’s or Phury’s. And all that stuff he got expelled for? Well, it turns out he had damn good reasons for all of it, and because he was protecting someone at the time, the Brotherhood never knew the real story. So I ended up absolutely loving Murhder and he’ll be ranking highly among by favorite Brothers.
Sarah is a doctor who works on the research side of medicine, specializing in immunology. She and her fiancé went to work for BioMed straight out of college, but her fiancé died two years earlier. It was believed to be natural causes, but when an FBI agent shows up at her door, asking questions, she begins to wonder. Then she discovers a thumb drive in a safety deposit box she didn’t even know they had, and the data on it is more than disturbing. It proves that her company – and probably her fiancé as well – was involved in torturous experiments on a “patient” whose test results don’t make any sense to her from a medical standpoint. Even though she knows it will likely mean losing her job, she’s determined to find and save this person before they can do anything else to him. As she’s attempting to do just that, three “commandos” show up with the same intention and end up drawing her into a hidden world she never knew existed. Sarah isn’t unlike Murhder. She has a strong moral compass and is determined to do the right thing no matter the cost. Once she finds out that Murhder, along with his cohorts and Nate, the boy they save, are vampires, she’s very open-minded. Her curious scientist’s brain kicks into gear, wanting to learn everything she can about the species, and she becomes instrumental in saving the life of one of our main characters. I think what I loved most about Sarah, though, is her kind, gentle heart that is so giving and loving toward both Murhder and Nate. She was the absolute perfect mate for Murhder and I can’t wait to see if her research work plays a role in future books of the series.
Our other focus characters in this book are John Matthew and Xhex. Murhder and Xhex were once lovers, so when Murhder comes back to town, John Matthew’s little green monster roars to life. He’s intensely jealous until the hidden Darius part of him recognizes Murhder as a friend. The biggest hurdle they face, though, is John being bitten by one of the zombie vamps, because no one really knows how it’s going to affect him or how to help him. Through everything, Xhex is John’s rock, trying to help him when he needs it and giving him space when he needs that as well, while also trying not to worry. She breaks the unspoken rule, too, by using her symphath abilities to read his grid and discovers something very interesting about him. Best of all, there are some exciting changes afoot for John that will make long-time fans very happy.
There weren’t as many perspectives in this story as there often are in the BDB books. Other than the four characters mentioned above, there are only two other characters who get their own POV scenes. The first is Throe, who’s gone full-on, Gollum “My Precious” with the creepy book that he’s been using to create his shadow army. He’s also attempting to manipulate the glymera in order to eventually gain the throne. However, things take a surprising turn for him when J. R. Ward’s Fallen Angels world collides with the BDB world. Also, Nate gets one short scene from his POV. After spending his entire life as a lab rat, he isn’t quite sure how to live free, but I know he’s going to get lots of help with that. I love this guy and can’t wait to see what might be in store for his future. The Warden says that he’ll eventually get his own story, and I’m very excited by that prospect. Even though he doesn’t get his own POV, Lassiter is another key character and I have to say the more I see of this fallen angel, the more I love him. His ridiculously flamboyant style and the way he gets under the Brothers’ skin make me laugh, but at the same time, he’s settling nicely into his role as the race’s new deity. He has a genuinely kind heart and is fast becoming the deity they’ve always deserved but never had when the Scribe Virgin was in power. Although he was only in one scene, Boone, the final trainee from the new Brotherhood training program, makes a fateful choice that I’m sure is going to have repercussions in his book, Blood Truth, which is the next in the Black Dagger Legacy series and due for release in August (2019). I can’t wait for that.
It’s sometimes hard to believe that the BDB has been around for so long. It’s almost even more surprising that I still eagerly await each new release. Some long-running series tend to lose their momentum, but this one has never disappointed me. The Savior was equally as good as many of the other books of the series. Murhder and Sarah were perfect for one another. I loved the story arc for John Matthew. I can’t wait to find how this new Fallen Angels cross-over is going to play out. And by the end of the book, there was a fun juicy tidbit dropped that I’m even more eager to see come to fruition. There’s still so much to look forward to with this series. After Blood Truth, there’s Where Winter Finds You, a new between-the-books story about Trez and Selena, which I can’t wait for. These two deserve their happy ending, too. And after that, the next BDB book will be, The Sinner, the story of Band of Bastards member, Syn, and Jo Early, the vampire/human hybrid who doesn’t know she’s part vampire and is nearing her transition. This upcoming volume will also see the fulfillment of the Dhestroyer prophecy as well. So much excitement to come. I can’t wait!...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Love in the Light is a short novel that continues the story of Caden and Makenna that began in the novella, Hearts in DarknessReviewed for THC Reviews Love in the Light is a short novel that continues the story of Caden and Makenna that began in the novella, Hearts in Darkness. That story took place over just one night in the lives of these protagonists, and it had more of an HFN ending than an HEA. However, they shared such a phenomenal connection, I had no trouble seeing them being together forever and always. That said, though, I went into reading it knowing there was more to come, and I’m so glad that Laura Kaye decided to continue their story. The things they have to go through in this book to fight for their HEA really solidified their bond in my mind and made them even more cherished characters in my heart. Even though it also broke my heart a little, I loved every minute I spent reading Love in the Light. It’s a deeply emotional story that I won’t soon forget and that has earned Laura Kaye a spot on my favorite authors list.
Caden and Makenna have been magical together right from the start, but that magic falters a little in this book as Caden experiences an intense flare-up of his PTSD brought on by his relationship with Makenna moving so fast. He’s let few people into his life and hasn’t truly loved anyone the way he loves her since losing his family in a fatal car accident when he was only twelve. He harbors feelings of inadequacy, like he doesn’t deserve someone as wonderful as Makenna and that if he allows himself to admit to loving her, she’ll be taken from him like the rest of his family was. Not wanting to burden her with his problems, Caden ends up breaking up with her, while also spiraling out of control and finding himself buried deep in depression. He must work hard to find peace and closure for the past in order to move into a promising future. Caden is easily one of the most vulnerable heroes I’ve ever read in a romance. He’s tormented by memories of the terrible accident that took his mother and younger brother, while also dealing with a severe case of survivor's guilt. But at the same time, he’s a kind, compassionate man who wants nothing more than to help others in the same way that a kind EMT helped him at the crash site. He loves Makenna like crazy, but he’s scared of losing her, too, which sends him into a funk. I just adored Caden and wanted to wrap him up in my arms to offer comfort and reassurance. I also give Ms. Kaye kudos for exploring the topic of mental illness – in the form of clinical depression, anxiety, and PTSD – through his character in a very realistic and sympathetic way.
The bulk of the story is about Caden’s journey back to wholeness, but of course, Makenna has her own issues to deal with. Unexpectedly finding herself pregnant at about the same time Caden implodes leaves her wondering what the future holds for herself and her unborn child. Makenna is exactly the kind of woman Caden needs. She’s no stranger to loss, her mother having died when she was a child. She’s also a kind, understanding woman who wants to be an equal partner with him, but there comes a point where he doesn’t allow her to do that. During the break-up, she leans on her family, her dad and three protective brothers who, for the most part, are all there for her. Makenna never stops loving Caden and doesn’t give up on him finding his way back to her, even though things look bleak for a while. She’s also incredibly forgiving once he does make it out of that dark place. I just loved her for being strong and determined to do whatever she had to do to make a life for herself and her child with or without Caden, but for leaving room in her heart for the man she cannot forget.
If you can’t already tell, I absolutely loved Love in the Light. It’s everything I read romance for. There are many books that I give five stars to, because they are extremely well-written and entertain me. But it’s more rare for me to find five-star reads like this one that also give me all the feels I’m looking for when reading a book. My heart hurt for Caden as he battled his anxiety, depression, and PTSD, but it also hurt for Makenna, who was left alone, wondering and worrying. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out how they were going to find their way back to one another. This was a deeply emotional story that broke my heart a little, but mended it back together with a sweet HEA ending. Caden and Makenna will always be near the top of my favorite heroes and heroines list as well as being one of my all-time favorite romance couples. I can’t wait to read the final wrap-up short story, Forever in the Light, even though I know, after that, I’ll have a hard time letting them go. But I’m also eagerly looking forward to checking out Laura Kaye’s other works....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Maid kept coming across my reading recommendation in various places online, and then I caught a snippet of an interview with aReviewed for THC Reviews Maid kept coming across my reading recommendation in various places online, and then I caught a snippet of an interview with author Stephanie Land on NPR. As someone who grew up with a single mother who struggled to make ends meet, I have a strong interest in these types of stories and how we, as a society, can make life better for those living in poverty, so I immediately put the book on my TBR list. I also suggested it as a possible read for my church book club, and other members apparently agreed with me, because it was voted to become our latest choice. I was thrilled to get the chance to read it sooner than I probably would have otherwise. (I’m a slow reader and my reading list is always jam-packed, but I leave room each month for book club reads.:-)) It definitely didn’t disappoint. Many non-fiction books tend to be rather dry, but this one was an easy read that held my attention and kept me eagerly coming back for more. Ms. Land has a very relatable writing voice that tugged on my heartstrings and made me empathize with her situation, while also being a talented story-teller whose tales of the houses she cleaned and snippets of her own life engaged me in a way that many other non-fiction books haven’t. I can easily say that Maid is the best book I’ve read so far in 2019.
Just as she was about to head for Missoula, Montana to enter college and study writing, Stephanie Land unexpectedly found herself pregnant. She briefly considered going anyway and not telling the father, but feeling that he and his unborn child had a right to know one another and trying to do the right thing, she did tell him. Unfortunately it led down a path toward the relationship turning abusive and ended with her as a homeless single mother. From there, she lived in a systemic cycle of poverty for years even though she was working her butt off cleaning houses, a job that paid only minimum wage, leaving her reliant on government assistance and the generosity of others for hers and her young daughter's survival. But through all the health problems, stress, and strain, she persevered, going to school while working full-time and caring for her child. In what little spare time she had, Stephanie kept trying to follow her dream of becoming a writer by keeping a blog, which was her lifeline to the outside world. After several years, she finally set out to do what she’d intended before her daughter was born and got her writing degree, which led to more writing opportunities and eventually this book.
I thoroughly enjoyed Maid, although “enjoy” is a strange word to use when one is reading about the dire struggles of another person. However, at the moment, I can’t think of a better one to describe my experience reading it. I simply related very well to the author and her life, maybe because of my own mother’s experiences or maybe because of my early adult life, both of which mirror Ms. Land’s in some ways. But I think that it was more than that. The author had a way of drawing me into her world and making me feel everything that she was going through, stirring my empathy and compassion. Beyond that, I love how she gives her story a sense of place. Nearly all of the chapter titles are either a place where she lived or a place she cleaned for a living. When it came to the houses she cleaned, Ms. Land gave each of them names and brought each one to life as a character in itself. I loved learning about those houses and the people who lived in them. Even if the author never met the residents personally – which was often the case – she created narratives for them by observing their living habits. All the little details breathe life into the stories she tells and engaged me as a reader, making me want to see what her next house might be like.
Even though Ms. Land spent a number of years feeling like she was merely spinning her wheels in the never-ending morass of poverty, I sensed a hopefulness in her, a drive to better herself and create a more stable life for herself and her child that I found inspiring. For that, I commend her, and hopefully with the publication of this best-selling book, she’s finally found the security she’d been lacking for so long. For a debut author, I thought this was truly a work of art that speaks volumes. It shows just how difficult it is for those on the bottom rungs of society, those who are largely invisible and forgotten. It’s a poignant reminder that these people are human, too, and that we should treat them with respect rather than simply assuming that, if they’re on government assistance, they’re lazy or don’t want to work. That definitely was not the case with Ms. Land, and she demonstrates all the obstacles that, for a more financially well-off person, might not even be obstacles at all, but for someone who’s poor, can be absolutely devastating. I recommend the book for everyone. Those who are living in poverty like the author may find comfort and inspiration from her words, while those who are better off may come to see the workers around them who make less money in a different light. In any case, I thought Maid was an excellent read, one that will definitely be going on my keeper shelf, and that has made Stephanie Land an author for me to watch in the future....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is a novella that is part of the Twilight series and takes place concurrentlyReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is a novella that is part of the Twilight series and takes place concurrently with certain events in Eclipse. It’s kind of a paradox of a book in that, if you read it before reading Eclipse, you’ll get some significant spoilers for that book, but if you read it after Eclipse (which I highly recommend), you’ll already know how this story ends. Unfortunately that ending is not a positive and uplifting one, which is why I haven’t categorized the book as romance, even though it does have a touch of romance in it. All that said, I did enjoy it, because it gave me new insights into certain parts of the Twilight story that we couldn’t see since the entire series is written from Bella’s first-person POV.
Bree Tanner is a character who inhabited the pages of Eclipse for only a short while, but she left a big impression on me. So much so that I couldn’t help wondering “what if… ?” When I heard that Stephenie Meyer had written her story, I was excited to learn more about this young girl turned newborn vampire, and I wasn’t disappointed. Bree comes from a throwaway background as do many of the newborn vamps in this scenario. This makes her a sympathetic character right from the start, even though she’s pretty consumed by the blood lust that is common in new vampires. However, she does have a better grasp on it than most of the others in her coven, with the exception of Diego and Fred, the other two stand-out characters in this story. These three at least seem to have their higher brain functions still intact, whereas the rest are little more than an unruly mob. Bree tries to keep to herself and remain “invisible” by hiding behind Fred, who has some special talents. Then she meets up with Diego one night while out hunting and the two become friends. As they talk and begin to realize that some of the things they’ve been told by their leader about being a vampire aren’t true, they forge a bond that turns a bit romantic.
Although I’m on my second reading of the Twilight series, this is my first time reading The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. The main reason for this is that this novella came out two years after Breaking Dawn, and I felt like I was too far away from having read the rest of the series to remember it well enough. So it’s been languishing on my bookshelf while waiting for me to do a re-read. I’m so glad I finally got a chance to read it. It was nice to get some behind the scenes insights into the building of the newborn army and a slightly unexpected twist involving the Volturi. I also enjoyed seeing the Cullens through an outsider’s eyes. I really liked Bree, as well as Diego and Fred. Even though I kept telling myself not to get attached, because I knew what was ahead, I couldn’t help myself, which made the ending all the more bittersweet. Much like Ms. Meyer said in her introduction, I almost regret her decisions regarding these characters and wish the outcome had been different. But even still, I enjoyed reading about them. My only slight complaint is that the early parts of the story seemed a tad slow-paced, but otherwise, it was a great read that I highly recommend to fans of the series....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Prisoner of Night is a between the books story that takes place in the Black Dagger Brotherhood universe. It’s shoReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Prisoner of Night is a between the books story that takes place in the Black Dagger Brotherhood universe. It’s short novel length, about the size of a category romance. The book is populated with characters who, to the best of my recollection, have never been introduced anywhere in the series before. It also takes place entirely in the Appalachian region of the US, far away from Caldwell, the fictional city that’s the hub of this universe. While Wrath and the Brotherhood are mentioned, no other BDB characters actually play roles in the story, so this one could probably be read as a stand-alone with little or no problem understanding what’s going on.
Ahmare is from Caldwell. It’s where she grew up and has spent most of her life. She’s one of the working class vampires who lost her parents during the raids, so the only family she has left is her brother, Ahlan, who has gotten himself into a lot of trouble. After getting mixed up with drugs, he now owes a lot of money to an evil, autocratic vampire named Chalen, a madman who trained under the Bloodletter and who basically rules his own little medieval-style castle far off the grid. Chalen is holding Ahlan hostage in his dungeon and torturing him until Ahmare brings him the head of the drug dealer who cheated him. But after she reluctantly does as she’s told for her brother’s sake, Chalen reneges on the deal. He’ll only release Ahlan if Ahmare brings him back his beloved, and he temporarily gives her use of a secret “weapon” to do so. Ahmare is a strong female for whom family means everything. She really would go to any lengths to get her brother back safely, but once she realizes what her “weapon,” Duran, has been through, she can’t throw him under the bus just to get what she wants. Ahmare is the perfect mix between a fighter who won’t give up no matter what and a kind, compassionate female, who gives freely of herself to her emotionally damaged male.
Duran grew up in a cult, where his father abused both him and especially his mother. He loved his mother more than anything in the world and vowed to find a way to escape and get her out. But she died before he could, leaving him devastated. Then his father, recognizing the threat Duran posed, basically dumped him at Chalen’s doorstep. Duran has spent the last twenty years in Chalen’s dungeon being tortured for information on where the beloved is, but in all that time, he hasn’t broken. He merely burns with vengeance, living for the day when he can take his revenge against his father. Then suddenly, Duran finds himself released into the custody of a beautiful female who needs his help to get her brother back. He doesn’t have much choice but to assist her, but he has no intention of going back to Chalen’s castle after their mission is completed. Duran is a very emotionally damaged hero who rivals some of the most tortured heroes of the BDB series. Aside from his mother’s love, he’s basically never really known anything but abuse, and yet he still has a gentle side. He’s a dichotomous character who ping-pongs between being viciously lethal with those who’ve harmed him and being tender with Ahmare. Duran is a deeply sympathetic hero who made me want to wrap him up in my arms and love on him.
Overall, I really enjoyed Prisoner of Night. Ahmare and Duran are both awesome characters, and I liked the supporting characters as well. Duran’s friend, Nexi, a female Shadow whom he helped escape the cult was a particular stand-out, and it was fun to see her get a happy ending, too. There are two reasons I dropped the half-star, both of which are a product of the story being shorter in length. First is that the romance is insta-love (not one of my favorite tropes), with Ahmare and Duran falling for one another within only twenty-four hours of meeting. The other is that Duran, not surprisingly, has a lot of issues stemming from his time in both the cult and the dungeon. While I wouldn’t exactly say that Ms. Ward glossed over these issues and I freely admit that she handled them as well as could be expected in this shorter format, it did leave me slightly unsatisfied that we didn’t get to see more of his healing process. Otherwise, though, it’s an excellent story with plenty of action to keep me turning the pages, as well as some tender emotions that created a strong romantic connection between the main characters....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Caressed by Ice is the third full-length novel in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series. It pairs Brenna Kincaid, the SnowDanceReviewed for THC Reviews Caressed by Ice is the third full-length novel in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series. It pairs Brenna Kincaid, the SnowDancer wolf who was kidnapped in the first book, Slave to Sensation, with Judd Lauren, a Psy who defected from the PsyNet with his family to save them from rehabilitation. The entire Lauren clan has been harbored by the SnowDancers ever since, and as a former soldier, Judd sometimes helps them with sticky situations involving the Psy, while trying to keep the full nature of his powers under wraps. In the previous two novels, we’ve had female Psys coupled with male leopard changelings, so this new pairing of a female wolf changeling and a male Psy was an intriguing one that I looked forward to exploring, and I wasn’t disappointed. Most of the heroes in this series so far have been pretty intensely alpha, which is always a hit and miss proposition for me. Whether I like an alpha male depends on how he’s written. When I discovered in the previous book that Judd seemed equally as alpha as the changelings, I had a few reservations, but they soon dissipated in light of his sexiness and vulnerabilities. Brenna was the perfect mate for him, a strong woman with a few alpha tendencies of her own, but an underlying gentleness and vulnerabilities that made her likable and relatable. So I very much enjoyed this book, which has edged into the top spot as my current favorite of the series so far.
After her ordeal of being kidnapped, tortured, and brutally mind-raped by a powerful Psy serial killer, Brenna was a broken shell of her former self. It’s taken a lot of time and work with Sascha, the empathic, healer Psy, to find some peace and normalcy in her life again. But just as things start settling down for her, she begins to have frightening, blood-soaked dreams and visions that are more Psy in nature than changeling, leaving her believing that her captor did something to alter her mind and that she might be going crazy. These episodes have a tendency to leave her extremely agitated and the only person who seems to be able to calm her is Judd. She’s deeply attracted to him on a physical level, but with the cold, emotionless Psy existence brought about by the Silence Protocol ruling his life, she’ll have her work cut out for her convincing her Psy protector that they’re meant to be together. Brenna is a very strong young woman who had a promising career ahead of her in the technical field. She has a genius-level mind that proves extremely helpful in sending a message to the Psy after they attack defenseless changelings. She’s still affected by the things done to her during her kidnapping ordeal, but she’s determined to put it all behind her and live the fullest life she can, which I found very admirable. She’s often the pursuer in her relationship with Judd and refuses to give up on him finding a way for them be together.
Judd was trained as an Arrow, one of the elite Psy soldiers, from a very young age. Ever since taking refuge with the SnowDancers, he’s been working as a freelance operative, making hits on Psy targets under instructions from the Ghost, a mysterious person with high-level intelligence who is trying to dismantle some Psy structures. The SnowDancers also sometimes use him for certain purposes, but haven’t yet fully integrated him into pack life. Judd has a powerful telekinetic gift that makes him a lethal killer. In fact, before Silence, those with his talents always ended up accidentally killing someone they cared about. Under Silence, he’s able to keep himself in check, but it also means that every time he gets close to Brenna, his own body rebels against him, causing him great pain that will eventually kill him if he maintains his course. He soon realizes that being without Brenna isn’t really a choice, but he isn’t sure if it’s possible to undo the extensive programming of his mind to make a relationship work. Judd may be a hardened soldier, but he has a sexy intensity that I like in my alphas. Although he has the typical cold, robotic, Psy veneer on the outside, I could sense a gentler heart beating inside. For quite a while, he braves a significant amount of pain to be with Brenna, which IMHO, showed how much he loves and cares for her. His virginal status brings a small touch of sweetness to his character, but he’s no slouch in the bedroom, using that logical Psy brain of his to plan an incredibly sexy seduction for their first time together while giving freely and generously of himself during their love scenes which again showed his tender side.
As with seemingly all the Psy-Changeling books, Caressed by Ice boasts a plethora of supporting characters to make things interesting, so many that it’s sometimes hard to keep track of them all. There are the members of the Psy council working in the background in an effort to maintain what they see as order, but which is usually damaging to society as a whole. Some of them get their own short POV scenes, including Kaleb, who I’m starting to have suspicions about. I’m eager to see how his part in the greater story-arc plays out, and to eventually see him as the hero of book #12, Heart of Obsidian. Then we have lots of changelings from both the SnowDancer and DarkRiver packs. On the cat side, we have Lucas and Sascha (Slave to Sensation), Dorian (Hostage to Pleasure), and Faith (Vision of Heat). Since this is primarily a wolf story, there are lots of wolves present, including Brenna’s brothers, Riley, who ends up paired with DarkRiver lieutenant, Mercy, in book #6, Branded by Fire, and Drew, who’ll be coupled with SnowDancer lieutenant, Indigo, in book #9, Play of Passion. Then there’s Hawke, the SnowDancer alpha, who will get a romance with Judd’s niece, Sienna, in book #10, Kiss of Snow. I felt a little tension between these two even though Sienna is still just a teenager, so I’m pleased to see this future pairing. And finally, Judd’s brother, Walker, will find love with SnowDancer healer, Lara, in the novella, “Texture of Intimacy,” from Wild Invitation. I very much look forward to eventually reading all these characters’ stories.
Overall, Caressed by Ice was a wonderful read. There were a couple of tiny things that made me waver just a bit on my rating, but in the end, I had to give it the full five stars. Judd and Brenna play off of each other so well, and have a tendency to electrify the pages whenever they’re together, making me love this pairing. There’s also lots of intrigue going on in the background, as we learn more about the overarching Psy agenda that I hope will eventually be dismantled, as well as who killed one of the SnowDancers and why. This part was nicely tied in to events both in this book and a past story. This was a book that really kept me on my toes, trying to keep up with everything that was going on, but at the same time, it didn’t really skimp on the romance which was a major plus. Everything put together makes this book a highly recommended read from my perspective, and really makes me look forward to both the next book and the rest of the series....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Mister O is the second book in Lauren Blakely’s Big Rock series. Ever since reading and loving Big Rock last year, I’ve been eReviewed for THC Reviews Mister O is the second book in Lauren Blakely’s Big Rock series. Ever since reading and loving Big Rock last year, I’ve been eager to continue the series. Mister O definitely did not disappoint. In fact, it was equally as good if not slightly better for me than Big Rock. It’s a sultry, sexy, romantic comedy about a guy who has the hots for his best friend’s sister. Therefore, she’s totally off limits. But when she comes to him, asking for dating advice and then a little coaching in the bedroom as well, he can’t resist indulging his fantasies with her. But when his feelings start getting more serious than he intended, how can he be certain she feels the same way? And how can he explain to his best friend about all the deliciously naughty nights he’s spent with his sister without the guy making good on a long-ago threat? I think I mentioned in my review of Big Rock that I’m very fussy about romantic comedies. I don’t read a lot of them, because they often aren’t all that funny to me and/or they simply don’t engage me on the deeper emotional level that I crave. But this series has is all, and I loved every minute I’ve spent reading it so far.
The unique thing about this series is that it’s written entirely from the first-person male POV, which is pretty rare in romance. I initially wasn’t sure if I would like this, but so far, it’s worked well for me. In Mister O, our hero and narrator is Nick Hammer, a cartoonist whose popular strip, The Adventures of Mister Orgasm, was turned into a hit, late-night, animated television series. Nick used to be a kind of shy, nerdy guy in high school, but after eventually finding his confidence, he’s now a top-notch lover, who craves learning what a woman wants in the bedroom and giving it to her in spades. He’s not a total man-whore though. Instead, he is, in his own words, a “serial monogamist.” He’s had plenty of fun with women. However, none of them have tempted him to make their relationship more permanent. Instead, Harper, his best friend’s sister, has been the object of his lusty thoughts ever since she “felt him up” as a joke to freak out her brother, but because of who she is, he considers her off-limits, until they start hanging out together as friends and she asks him to be her dating coach. Soon dating advice turns into flirting, then sexting, and finally Nick just can’t resist Harper’s charms any longer. Nick is simply perfect in every way. For starters, the way the author describes him (dark hair, short trim beard, glasses, and a hot body) is pretty much my dream guy from a physical perspective. Add to that, his bedroom prowess and his single-minded focus on giving a woman the best orgasms of her life, and he simply makes me swoon. Not to mention, he loves dogs and volunteers at an animal rescue. But underneath that perfection, he can be a little jealous when it appears he’s “training” Harper to hand her over to another man. He’s also a touch vulnerable and uncertain when he finally realizes he’s fallen in love with her and isn’t sure if she feels the same way. I wouldn’t change a thing about Nick. I absolutely loved him to pieces.
We only see Harper through Nick’s eyes, but I loved what I saw. She’s a professional magician (a very unique career for a romance heroine), who primarily entertains at children’s parties and occasionally at bigger affairs. She’s adorkably awkward around a certain hot guy she likes, who’s the father of one of the kids she’s doing a party for. She’s fun, easy-going, and has a great sense of humor, but she doesn’t have a lot of experience with either dating or sex. That’s why she asks Nick for his help, and she’s a very apt pupil.;-) As it turns out, she has no trouble conversing with Nick, or flirty texting him, or talking very naughty in the bedroom with him. Even though Nick has his doubts about her feelings for him and thinks she’s just with him to learn how to be sexy and seductive, I could tell that what they were doing meant a lot more to her. And of course, I was rewarded with that knowledge by the end. Harper is also a very giving, unselfish person who not only wants to make all of Nick’s sexy dreams come true but who also understands how much his career means to him and wouldn’t dream of standing in the way of his success. So I ended up loving Harper almost as much as Nick.
In addition to Nick and Harper, there are some supporting characters who have their own books. First Spencer (Harper’s brother and Nick’s best friend) and the love of his life, Charlotte (Big Rock) have their nuptials. Nick’s brother, Wyatt, and Charlotte’s sister, Natalie, who meet at the wedding, become the hero and heroine of the next story, Well Hung. Then Nick’s sister, Josie, becomes the heroine of book #4, Full Package. Nick’s attorney, Tyler, crosses over to Lauren Blakely’s One Love series to become the hero of the third book, The Hot One. Finally, in a note at the back of the book, Ms. Blakely mentions having a book in the works for sexy single dad, Simon, that’s supposed to be titled Sweet Irresistible You, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. I’m not sure if the title changed or if it simply hasn’t been published yet, but I’ll definitely be on the look-out for that one as well.
Overall, I had an absolute blast reading Mister O. It’s light and funny without being weird or dorky. It has all the emotion I look for in a romance, and the love scenes are so deliciously hot and sexy, they just might burn your fingers or send your eReader up in flames.;-) Both Nick and Harper were very relatable to me and everything that I look for in a romance hero and heroine. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them and hope to see them in future books of the series. With two big winners in a row, Lauren Blakely has secured a spot on my favorite authors list and I can’t wait to continue the series and check out her other books....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews The Best of Us is the latest release in Robyn Carr’s Sullivan’s Crossing series that’s jam-packed wall-to-wall with romance foReviewed for THC Reviews The Best of Us is the latest release in Robyn Carr’s Sullivan’s Crossing series that’s jam-packed wall-to-wall with romance for everyone from the young to the young at heart. In it, we have family-practice/urgent care doctor Leigh, who is relatively new to Timberlake, paired with widower and local pub owner, Rob, who has two teenage sons. In addition, long-time resident Sully, owner of Sullivan’s Crossing campground and general store finds love in his golden years with Leigh’s aunt, while Rob’s oldest son shares a sweet teen romance with his girlfriend as well. It was all very enjoyable and heartwarming, but I have to admit that I went into reading it with a bit of trepidation. Robyn Carr is an author whose books I generally enjoy. I’ve given nearly all of her books I’ve read to date four stars or above, but over time, certain quirks of her writing style have started to grate a little, so those that I consider keepers have become fewer and farther between. However, despite my occasional misgivings, her books always tend to rate highly with her fans. There’s barely a one that doesn’t have above a four-star rating. That’s why, when I noticed this one had below four stars on GoodReads, I started to worry a little. If others found something significant enough to criticize, surely I would, too. But I kept reading and reading, and nothing was jumping out at me. It just seemed to be typical Robyn Carr fare that, in my estimation, was a little above the cut. Since I haven’t read any other reviews yet, the only thing I can speculate is that readers didn’t care for the way the heroine handled certain events later in the story, which I’ll address momentarily. But in all honesty, I wasn’t overly bothered by it, so The Best of Us has become one of those somewhat rare keepers I mentioned and my favorite book in the series so far.
Rob is a widower whose wife died suddenly and tragically from a heart infection many years ago when his boys were still quite young. He had dreams of being a restaurateur, but after becoming a single father in the blink of an eye, he needed to find something more flexible so that he could raise his boys. So he moved to the little town of Timberlake and bought a run-down pub, which he revitalized and turned into one of the most popular eating establishments in town. He loves his work but his business and being a hands-on father to his sons keep him very busy – too busy for relationships. That’s why in all these ensuing years, he’s only had a couple of casual dalliances with women. But when Rob meets Leigh, the new town doctor, after his son cuts his hand, that all changes. He’s incredibly attracted to her, and after only a couple of dates, they can’t seem to keep their hands off each other. Although he loved his wife deeply, Rob can’t recall ever feeling this way about anyone before, but because of their respective careers and responsibilities, he’s reluctant to progress their relationship beyond the friends with benefits level. However, an unexpected pregnancy changes everything. Rob is one of those rare forty-ish romance heroes, who thought he was nearly done raising a family and didn’t want to start a new one, but he’s surprised to find that he really wants this baby and refuses to let Leigh go through parenthood alone. He’s determined to be an involved father and to find a way to make it all work. Rob is an absolute sweetheart and my dream man. He’s even-tempered, an incredible father, and someone who takes all of his responsibilities seriously. Basically he’s a superhero in my estimation and exactly the kind of man any woman would want to have around.
Leigh’s mother died when she was very young, so she was raised by an aunt who never married. It was always the two of them against the world, and they’ve always lived together, rarely spending any time apart, until Leigh moved from Chicago to Timberlake to run the family clinic and urgent care center in town. Now her aunt is planning on selling their house in Chicago, then stopping over in Colorado while deciding where she wants to hang her hat more permanently, which has Leigh excited. Then she discovers Rob, who excites her in more ways than one. Their relationship is like a whirlwind, but their chemistry is undeniable. However, in part because of how she grew up, she’s a very independent woman who’s as content with the status quo as Rob is until she realizes she’s carrying a little bundle of joy. She never really thought she’d have kids. After all, her aunt never had any of her own and has lived a happy life. But from the moment she realizes she’s pregnant, she can’t conceive of not having the baby. Despite that, though, she’s reluctant to marry Rob, partly because of her independent streak and party because of a past bad experience with an ex-fiancé who basically left her heart-broken at the altar. She thinks that she and Aunt Helen can raise the baby just fine on their own, and Rob can be involved or not, depending on what he wants, never really taking anyone else’s feelings into account. This is where I’ll bet some readers had issues with Leigh, and I’ll admit that she came close to tweaking my buttons, too, especially since she had such an incredible guy on the hook. But I felt that the author explained her motivations well enough that I was able to forgive her lapse in judgment. Leigh also realizes just how selfish she’s been and makes appropriate apologies to both Rob and Helen, leaving me feeling that she’d learned from the experience and wouldn’t repeat it. So although Leigh wasn’t perfect, I did come away feeling that I understood her.
The second romance in the book revolves around Sully and Helen. From the beginning, Sully and the Sullivan’s Crossing campground has been the focal point around which the series revolves. Everyone – both locals and those passing through – love Sully, but he’s a little set in his ways. He’s been single since divorcing Maggie’s mother decades ago, and generally seems to like it that way. He has tons of people coming and going from Sullivan’s Crossing, so he’s never lonely. Then Helen shows up, and he lights up like a firefly. I’ve never seen Sully so excited about someone, and it’s really cute to read about this older man finding new love late in life. Helen is a successful mystery author, who takes up residence on Sully’s porch to write her next novel, surrounded by the beauty of the Colorado Rockies. Although they seemingly have little in common, they find plenty to talk about, developing a comfortable companionship that soon blossoms into love. The only downside is that Helen hates winters, which is why she decided to leave Chicago, so they have to see if it’s all enough to keep her there more permanently.
The last romance involves Rob’s oldest son, Finn, a high-school senior. It took him a while to work up the courage to ask out Maia, one of his classmates, because she’s a pretty popular girl. But now that they’ve been together for a few months, they’re making plans for their futures and feeling sad that they might not see each other much once they go off to college. Then their relationship takes an unexpected turn when Maia experiences a major health crisis. However, through it all, Finn is right there by her side, keeping vigil. Maia is a very brave girl, while Finn is a sweet, sensitive boy who’s very much like his father. He’s a strong rock for Maia to lean on, but also very kind and considerate in every way. If the way Finn treats Maia is any indication, Rob did a fabulous job raising this kid.
Overall, The Best of Us was a very enjoyable read. There are lots of sighting of past Sullivan's Crossing characters as well, Maggie (What We Find) is involved in Maia’s care, while Cal helps Sully come into the 21st century to keep in better touch with Helen while she traveling. Connie and Sierra (Any Day Now) welcome a new addition, and Sid and Dakota (The Family Gathering) make life moves while helping to look out for Rob’s boys and his business when he can’t be around. Having multiple romances this time around made for three times the fun. I was so wrapped up in everything that was going on, that I barely even noticed those writing quirks I mentioned earlier that usually irritate me. I adored Rob, who’s a prince among men, I understood Leigh’s issues, I loved the other two romances for the young ‘uns and the older ones, and what Rob’s boys did toward the end to make Leigh feel more at home was so utterly endearing, I got a little misty-eyed. There just wasn’t anything that I disliked this time around, so I can say without a doubt that this is my favorite in the series so far even if it wasn’t for other readers. I have no idea who the next book might be about – although that’s nothing new for this series – but I look forward to finding out around this time next year.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Touched by Angels is the third book in Debbie Macomber’s Christmas themed series, Angels Everywhere. Once again, wReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Touched by Angels is the third book in Debbie Macomber’s Christmas themed series, Angels Everywhere. Once again, we’re treated to the three well-meaning, but somewhat ditsy angels, Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy, as they come to earth during the holiday season to answer the prayers of their human charges. These three angels always bring a smile to my face and warm my heart with their antics, as well as their kindness and compassion. I actually think that they’ve grown a bit since the first two books. While they still enjoy experiencing human inventions and creating a little trouble now and then, they seem to be more on track and even more serious about their jobs this time around. Even their archangel boss, Gabriel, got in on the action a bit more in this story. Each of the angels are sent to New York City this time to help three different women at crossroads in their lives, but as always, the angels end up helping each other when things go sideways. I liked that each of the three separate stories contained strong romantic elements, which wasn’t necessarily the case with the previous two books. I think this, along with me finding each of the women’s lives to be relatable, made this my favorite book of the series so far.
Gabriel doubts that Shirley is ready for a complex assignment, so she has to pester a little to earn the right to help Brynn, a young, idealistic teacher who has transplanted from an exclusive, all-girls boarding school in Rhode Island to an inner-city school in New York. It’s definitely a culture shock for her, but she’s excited about the new program that she’s running and is determined to make it work. The kids can be trying at times, but Brynn is a truly talented teacher who slowly wins them over and gets them more involved in the learning process. Then she meets Roberto, the older brother and guardian of one of her students, who challenges her in unexpected ways. Roberto doesn’t hold much stock in education and couldn’t care less whether his brother goes to school or not. He’s spent too much time on the mean streets of his neighborhood to believe that anything will save them from that life. But at the same time Roberto and Brynn clash over her work, there’s an undeniable attraction brewing. I really enjoyed their story. Brynn is nothing if not dedicated to her work. She genuinely cares about her students and has a wide-eyed optimism that’s catching. I like how she tries to build her students up rather than tearing them down. Roberto can be a bit stubborn at times, but I liked him anyway. I think he’s just seen too much of the hard side of life and it’s made him cynical. But Brynn helps him to see a different path. This part of the story had an unexpected twist that made me shed a fews tears, but the ending was very uplifting.
Goodness is sent to help Hannah, a young Jewish woman whose mother has been praying for her to make a good marriage. Hannah has been dating Carl, the son of a rabbi. Her parents love him and think he’s the perfect husband for their daughter. The only problem is Hannah isn’t so sure, and after randomly meeting Joshua at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, she’s even less certain. When Carl proposes, she feels pressured by their families to accept, but the more she sees of Joshua, the more she feels that Carl isn’t the right man for her. But things keep happening to prevent her from calling it off. Hannah and Joshua's story was a very sweet romance. A lot of times, love at first sight stories don’t work well for me, but this one did. What Hannah shares with Joshua is clearly much more loving and passionate than what she has with Carl, so there was no question in my mind that they were right for one another.
Mercy is assigned to help Jenny who desperately wants to be a Broadway star. She’s been going to audition after audition for over two years, but so far, she’s done nothing of note and merely works as a singing waitress while still waiting for that big break. With the holidays coming, she misses her family terribly and would like to go home to visit them, but she told a little white lie about starring in an off-Broadway production and doesn’t want to disappoint them by fessing up. Then Trey, an old family friend and the guy she had a crush on growing up, comes calling. He makes her long even more for her former life, and soon she finds herself torn between wanting to be with Trey, who as a born and bred cowboy would never be happy in New York, and her ambition to be a star. Jenny and Trey’s story probably has the least involved plot of the three couples. Trey doesn’t show up until a little ways into the story. After that, they spend some nice time together, but their romance is largely dependent upon their past connection and Jenny’s longing to return home. We also don’t really get to see Jenny’s thought-processes as she makes her final decision, so I wasn’t entirely convinced that she was going to be happy in the long-run. But otherwise, this was a sweet, straight-forward romance that I enjoyed.
Overall, I found Touched by Angels to be a truly lovely, heartwarming read that helped put me in the holiday spirit. It’s a gentle story that would be appropriate for most readers. It does have a little bit of language and some mild sexual tension, but otherwise there aren’t any objectionable elements. I always enjoy Gabriel's update at the end as he tells Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy what the future holds for each of their charges and those around them. The angels bring a touch of humor and lightness to the story, while also caring deeply about those they’ve been sent to help. They’re usually very intuitive about what each of them needs. Having each of the stories involve a romance this time added to my enjoyment, making this the first book of the series to earn keeper status from me. I very much look forward to seeing who the angels will be helping next time around....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I read Silent Knight, the first book of the Cavendish Chronicles, about two years ago. I very much enjoyed it, but didn’t getReviewed for THC Reviews I read Silent Knight, the first book of the Cavendish Chronicles, about two years ago. I very much enjoyed it, but didn’t get around to picking up the next book until now. I’m so glad I did, because I liked Midsummer’s Knight even slightly better. It’s an utterly charming story that I feel falls under the romantic comedy genre, because the author has taken the concept of midsummer madness and turned it into a delightful farce. Neither the hero nor the heroine are particularly pleased when King Henry VIII declares that they will be married. Of course, they can’t go against their king, but neither do they want to marry someone they don’t even know. So, in order to feel each other out and see just who they’ve been betrothed to, they both put on a charade of pretending to be someone they’re not. At first, there’s underlying concern on both their parts as they begin to fall in love, while thinking they’re actually falling for the wrong person. Much hilarity ensues as each one begins to uncover the other’s deception, but there’s also a healthy dose of sweet romance to warm the heart. Add in the frantic search for a half-mad, jealous nephew who wants his aunt’s castle and land all for himself and is willing to kill to get it, a couple of mischievous children, the king’s retinue playing their own game of dress-up, and a very stinky moat, and you have the makings of a wonderful lighthearted story. Midsummer madness indeed!
Although his father has been pressuring him to settle down and give him an heir, Brandon has been happy playing the rogue until his father takes the issue up with the king. As a trusted knight in King Henry’s court, the king views it as his duty to see Brandon settled with a wife, so he chooses the twice-married Lady Katherine Fitzhugh for him. Brandon has never met Katherine before and knows nothing of her, but he does know her nephew, Fenton, a bounder known for his trouble with creditors. Fenton has his own nefarious reasons for telling Brandon that his aunt is an old crone who’s rumored to be a witch, and although Brandon doesn’t entirely believe him, it does plant a seed of doubt in his mind. Enough so that he persuades his best friend, Jack, to temporarily trade identities with him until he can ascertain what manner of woman to whom he’s betrothed. Once at her holding of Bodiam Castle, Brandon quickly begins to fall for the Lady Katherine’s beautiful, intelligent cousin, while dreading the idea of marrying the lady herself. But he soon learns that the lady he’s falling for is indeed his intended fiancée in disguise. I definitely fell for Brandon. He’s an honorable and chivalrous knight, and while he may not be the silver-tongued devil with a talent for making ladies swoon like his friend Jack, he can certainly say some very sweet things and be seductive. He also has two impish illegitimate children, and I have to give him props for taking his responsibilities to them seriously and being a good father. He’s also a consummate protector to Katherine and the rest of his family when he discovers that Fenton is up to no good.
Katherine was first married as a mere teenager to an elderly man who she ended up nursing until he died eighteen months later. Then her second husband was an abusive monster with a weakness for drinking, gambling, and women, so it was a relief to everyone when he finally died. Katherine had hoped to live out the rest of her life in solitude, or at the very least, not marry again unless it was for love. Then the order to marry Brandon Cavendish arrived from the king, dashing all her hopes. She also receives a letter from Fenton describing her betrothed as a gambler and womanizer. Fearing a repeat of her last marriage, Katherine wants to find out what kind of man Brandon really is, so she concocts a plan to switch identities with her beloved cousin, Miranda, in order to find out. Both men who show up at her door are pleasing to the eye, but she seems to be falling for the one she’s not betrothed to, or so it appears until she discovers his true identity. Then she begins to hope again that she might get what she’s looking for after all, until she learns just how badly Brandon’s father wants an heir. She has always wanted children, too, but after two marriages produced none, she fears she may be barren. Katherine is a loving, caring, intelligent woman who always looks out for those for whom she’s responsible. Even though they’re basically sprung on her, she’s very accepting of Brandon’s illegitimate offspring and takes them under her wing as well. She was just an all-around wonderful heroine who was easy to relate to and who I very much liked.
There are a number of prominent supporting characters as well. The real Jack and Miranda are hilarious, because they’re falling for one another every bit as much as the real Brandon and Katherine are, but they’re miserable, thinking that they’ve fallen for someone they can’t have. It’s a great relief to them both when they finally learn the truth. Their pairing offered a second sweet romantic couple that I could root for. Brandon’s brother, Guy, and his lady love, Celeste, (Silent Knight) arrive in time for the wedding along with their growing family, and the noble Guy helps ferret out Fenton. Brandon's parents, Thomas and Alicia visit as well. They become the hero and heroine of the third book of the series, Three Dog Knight, which goes back in time to tell their love story. They still seem to be a loving couple, but I did have to wonder what kind of hero Thomas will be since he nearly wrecked his son’s happiness over the desire for an heir. He wasn’t malicious, though, just single-minded, so hopefully he’ll prove to be as good as both of his sons. Brandon’s children, Francis and Belle, are wonderful. Belle is a mischievous, little imp, while Francis tries to act very grown up. These two become the heroine and hero of book #4, Halloween Knight, and book #5, One Knight in Venice, respectively. Katherine’s nephew, Fenton, is a dastardly villain, while his manservant, Wormsley, is a somewhat pathetic though decent fellow at heart, who doesn’t want to hurt anyone. And of course, there are a plethora of servants, squires, and men-at-arms, along with the king and his courtiers to round things out.
Overall, Midsummer’s Knight was pure, unadulterated fun to read. It’s slightly dramatic in places, while still remaining lighthearted most of the time. I’m not particularly well-versed on Shakespeare, but I have a feeling that the author’s love of the Bard and her experiences with Shakespearean productions definitely played into this story. I’m usually very picky about romantic comedies, but this one really hit the spot. It was humorous while still being genuinely romantic. With two winners in a row, Tori Phillips has certainly won a place on my favorite authors list, and I very much look forward to continuing with the Cavendish Chronicles soon....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Not the Duke’s Darling is the first book in Elizabeth Hoyt’s promising new Greycourt series. It follows the exploits of our heReviewed for THC Reviews Not the Duke’s Darling is the first book in Elizabeth Hoyt’s promising new Greycourt series. It follows the exploits of our heroine, Freya, who is part of a secret order known as the Wise Women. These women live in a commune-like environment in northern Scotland. They’re well-educated in many different traditional areas, as well as learning the ways of their foremothers in the healing arts. They’re also very independent and forward-thinking, always trying to protect their fellow women in need in an era when women’s rights were virtually non-existent. Freya is paired with Christopher, a duke, who unexpectedly inherited his title from a distant relative. The two were acquainted in childhood with Christopher being Freya’s brother, Rand’s best friend. Freya had a huge crush on Christopher as a girl, but ever since a scandalous tragedy involving both their families, they haven’t seen each other for fifteen years until a chance meeting in which Freya all but throws herself and a woman and child she’s trying to save into his coach during a daring escape. Then they have a later second meeting at a house party they’re both attending, which leads to a rekindling of their friendship and a whole lot more.
Freya is the daughter of a duke, but when she was twelve years old, her older brother, Rand, was accused of a heinous crime and severely beaten for it by the men of the father of the woman he’d supposedly wronged. Of course, none of it was true, but her brother was left permanently maimed as a result and now lives in seclusion. Not long after the scandal, her father died as well, leaving her ill brother, who was only eighteen at the time, as new duke. Since Rand was unable to care for Freya and her younger sisters, an older, maiden aunt came to take them to live with her and the Wise Women who taught them all they knew. As a result, Freya is now a fiercely independent spitfire, who has worked as the Macha (or spy) of the group for the past five years, saving many women who might otherwise have perished or been horribly abused. She lives under the assumed identity of a companion and chaperon to a lady and her two daughters, but she’s been tasked by the Wise Women to find dirt on a lord who is about to introduce legislation to make witch-hunting legal again. Since the Wise Women are often accused of witchcraft, this would be a terrible turn events for them. As it happens, the house party Freya is to attend with her charges is being held at an estate next-door to the lord she needs to investigate. Also in attendance at the party is Christopher, who Freya blames for Rand’s condition, so she vows to get vengeance on him at the same time. But she didn’t expect to discover that Christopher is actually a decent guy and then find herself falling in love with him.
Freya is a very liberated woman, possibly too much so for some readers given that this is a historical romance. This might be why the book has lower ratings than most of Elizabeth Hoyt’s works, but since I haven’t read any reviews yet, I’m not sure. Given the context of her upbringing, though, I was able to set aside any skepticism. I’m not really sure if Wise Women like what are portrayed here actually existed at the time, but it at least seemed plausible to me. Freya is, however, tough as nails and doesn’t believe that she needs a man in her life at all, something that becomes a sticking point in her burgeoning relationship with Christoper. I often have difficulty with heroines who are as stubborn and independent as Freya is, but somehow she made sense to me. Perhaps it’s because she vacillates between her fiercely independent streaks and softer, more vulnerable moments. I loved how she comforted Christopher when they were locked in a small space and he was panicking. I also like how she took charge to some extent during the love scenes, but was always so giving of herself at the same time. In addition, she could be reasonable and forgiving when faced with the truth of what Christoper’s life has been like since that scandalous night. I’ll admit that Freya did come close to tweaking my buttons when she kept refusing Christopher’s proposals, but in the end, I think she was just afraid of losing herself and her autonomy in their relationship, which is a valid concern that many strong-willed women like her have.
Christopher is haunted by that scandalous night and regrets not taking action to help his friend before things went too far. Simply because he had been involved, he ended up paying a steep price, not just to his psyche, but in his life. His father forced him into an arranged marriage with a woman he’d only met twice, then basically exiled him to India, where his wife died, something he also holds himself responsible for. It wasn’t until a distant relative died without heirs, leaving him as the next duke that he returned to England. When Christopher meets up with Freya again, he realizes she’s everything he’s longed for in a wife and partner, and the exact opposite of his former wife. He loves Freya’s fiery nature and the way she argues and debates with him. She challenges him at every turn, but he finds it all arousing and intriguing. However, the independent lady keeps refusing his suit, as well as his help, even when investigating a potentially dangerous enemy. I absolutely adored Christopher. He’s a kind, caring man, completely accepting of Freya as she is and never expecting her to change into a meek and submissive wife. What he wants is an equal partner and he respects her intellectual abilities. He’s also very patient, never badgering her to accept his proposal. Even though a part of him wants to, he bides his time, allowing her to come to terms with the decision on her own without stifling her autonomy, even if it means possibly losing her.
Overall, Not the Duke’s Darling was another great read from the pen of Elizabeth Hoyt. It boasts some great secondary characters, including Freya’s former best friend, Messalina, another player from that fateful night, with whom she reconnects. Messalina gets several of her own POV scenes, and we also get a brief introduction to Gideon Hawthorne, the man I’m pretty sure will become her hero in the next book of the series, A Rogue Meets His Match. There were a number of other characters that could also make great future heroes and heroines, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Christopher's loyal dog, Tess, who’s always by his side. In addition to the wonderful characters, there’s plenty of action and intrigue, enough for me to categorize this book as romantic suspense. There are multiple mysteries afoot to figure out, including what happened that night fifteen years ago, why someone is blackmailing Christopher, and what happened to the wife of the lord Freya is investigating. I have to say I wasn’t the least disappointed with any of these reveals. The only thing that wasn’t entirely solved is what happened to Messalina’s sister, which is a mystery that I assume will be explored further in future books of the Greycourt series. But for now, Not the Duke’s Darling was an awesome start to this new series that has me eagerly awaiting the next one, which is expected to be released this summer (2019).
Patience for Christmas by Grace Burrowes - Bonus novella. Review coming soon...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Eternity Embraced is a short novella that falls between Ecstasy Unveiled and Sin Undone in Larissa Ione’s DemonicaReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Eternity Embraced is a short novella that falls between Ecstasy Unveiled and Sin Undone in Larissa Ione’s Demonica series. A large part of the stories up to this point in the series have taken place in New York, which is where Aegis headquarters and Underworld General Hospital are located. Except for a very small part at the end, Eternity Embraced takes place on the opposite coast in Portland. It introduces readers to two new characters who I’m pretty sure haven’t been seen in any of the novels that came before it. Both Andrea and Kaden are Aegis Guardians who have also been lovers for a while when the story opens. Kaden was sent to infiltrate a clan of vampires, but ended up being captured by them instead. A couple of weeks later, Andrea and her team are sent in to see what happened and to kill the vampires. She unsurprisingly finds that Kaden has already been turned by them, but despite her Aegis training which compels her to destroy all vampires, she finds that she simply can’t kill Kaden. But when she’s locked in a cell with him in his newly turned and very hungry state, he may end up killing her instead.
Andrea has lost everyone important in her life, which plays a big part in her inability to kill Kaden even though he’s now a vampire and her training dictates that he should die. I like that she thinks for herself, though, and that her love for him is strong enough to see past what he is to find the man she loves underneath this new exterior. I also liked that despite now being a vampire, Kaden still loves Andrea and wants to protect her. Unfortunately he feels he is one of the biggest threats to her safety, which is why he insists that she kill him. But when forced into an impossible situation, I loved how his love for her keeps him in check. The fact that Andrea and Kaden are already in an established relationship when the story opens makes the rapid progression of certain elements much more believable. I also liked how they managed to skirt Aegis rules to find their HEA ending. The cameos by Tayla and Eidolon were appreciated as well. In fact, one whole scene is written from Tayla’s POV. Overall, in spite of its brevity, I found Eternity Embraced to be a very good addition to the series. Eternity Embraced was originally published in the anthology, The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2: Love Bites, but was later expanded and re-edited for a stand-alone ebook release....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Rachel Held Evans is an author who’s been on my radar for quite some time. I’ve had a couple of her other books onReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Rachel Held Evans is an author who’s been on my radar for quite some time. I’ve had a couple of her other books on my TBR list, but just haven’t gotten around to reading them yet. I’ve also read and enjoyed many of her blog posts. She’s someone whose story and spiritual journey resonates with me on a deep level. Therefore when our church book club chose her latest release, Inspired, as our new monthly read, I was very excited at the prospect of finally diving into one of her books. It certainly didn’t disappoint. Ms. Evans is clearly a highly intelligent and scholarly individual who has extensively studied and researched the Bible, but at the same time, she’s someone who has struggled with the meaning behind many of its stories. Therefore, she has studied it all the more while grappling with these questions, and we, the readers, get to benefit from the answers she’s found in her travels through its pages.
Ms. Evans breaks the Bible down into groups (or genres, if you will) of stories (eg. origin stories, war stories, resistance stories, etc.) and focuses each chapter on one of these groups. In them, she explores the context in which these books of the Bible were written (eg. when they were written, who they were written for, and what was going on at that point in history). She also explores some of her own doubts and struggles with various stories within the larger story of God, and how she came to a place where she was able to reconcile her own feelings on those things with what the Bible says. In between the chapters, she takes a well-known Bible passage or story and creatively reimagines it, sometimes by adding more dialogue, emotion, and details than what the biblical account provides, and other times by exploring it from the viewpoint of a fictional character living in those times. In the case of the story of Job, she’s turned it into a screenplay. All of these were very interesting and drew me into the book, helping me to see these stories in a new and accessible way.
As someone who has shared many of Ms. Evans’ doubts and struggles with the Bible, I very much appreciated this book. In recent years, I’ve more or less abandoned my study of the Bible, although not my Christian faith. However, much like with Rob Bell’s What Is the Bible?, Inspired helped me to see the Bible in a new light and context that makes me more interested in studying it again with the new knowledge that I’ve gained. I was also grateful for the author’s vulnerability and transparency, which made it so easy for me to relate to her and her journey. I think that she and I are in similar spiritual places, and it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who has questions and uncertainties. After reading her blog posts, I had no real doubt that this would be the case, but it was still great to dive deeper into one of her more lengthy works. I think my favorite chapter was “Resistance Stories,” because it speaks volumes to what’s happening in the world today. It even brought tears to my eyes a few times. Overall, I really enjoyed Inspired and highly recommend it to anyone who has questions about the Bible, but who doesn’t want to entirely abandon their faith because of their doubts....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews When my church offered a six week, in-depth discussion and study of Talking Across the Divide, I decided to join in. I thoughtReviewed for THC Reviews When my church offered a six week, in-depth discussion and study of Talking Across the Divide, I decided to join in. I thought the book sounded interesting, especially in light of how polarized our society is right now. I think the only way we’re going to solve this problem is if we’re willing to listen to the other side and try to find common ground. But where does one start with this endeavor? Just thinking about it is daunting to me, and probably would be to most other people as well. I’m guessing that most fall into one of two groups: avoiders like me, who simply try to dodge talking about divisive topics, or arguers, who only add fuel to the fire by attacking and yelling at one another while not getting anywhere or changing anyone’s mind. I figured there had to be a better way, but I had no idea what it might be until picking up this book.
Author Justin Lee teaches readers all the necessary steps for engaging in a successful strategic dialogue. He shows step-by-step exactly how to talk with someone with whom we disagree and perhaps even persuade them to your way of thinking. He also explains in detail the five main barriers to effective communication, along with strategies that can be used to overcome them. There’s admittedly a lot of work that needs to go into having this type of dialogue, and it may not be for everyone. It may take a certain type of personality and most definitely a willingness to set aside one’s own ego before you can even get started. Most of the members of our discussion group seemed a little skeptical, feeling as though they’ve already talked themselves blue in the face and haven’t gotten anywhere, and I started out a little skeptical as well. But as I read more and more of the book, I genuinely came to believe these methods could work when the person using them is serious about the process. That said, though, it may not be a magic cure-all for every situation, and the author admits that. Even if it does work, it may also take time and multiple sessions of strategic dialogue to get the desired results.
Overall, I found Talking Across the Divide to be an excellent book if one is willing to put in the work. Mr. Lee is just such a person, who has made going into charged environments in an effort to get two opposing sides to dialogue his life’s mission. He’s also very talented at breaking down a difficult and confusing topic into easily understandable steps that the reader can take to find common ground with those with whom we might be in conflict. I also like that while he approaches it more from the standpoint of bridging political and social gaps, these techniques might also be useful and applicable to everyday situations as well, such as marital or workplace conflicts. Bottom line, if you find yourself at odds with someone, particularly someone you care about, then give this book a try. For now, I think I’m generally content to continue my avoidance techniques, but I know this may not work forever. So, this book is still definitely a keeper that I’ll certainly refer back to if I find myself in a situation where it’s necessary to dialogue with someone in order to make peace or to get across a point that’s too important to be swept under the rug....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Consumed is the first full-length novel in J. R. Ward’s new Firefighters series, and it’s an excellent beginning. We were intrReviewed for THC Reviews Consumed is the first full-length novel in J. R. Ward’s new Firefighters series, and it’s an excellent beginning. We were introduced to our hero and heroine, Danny and Anne, in the two prequel novellas, The Wedding from Hell, Part 1: The Rehearsal Dinner and The Wedding from Hell, Part 2: The Reception. There we learned of the strong, irresistible attraction they’ve shared for one another since the day they started working together. But Anne has worked hard to get where she is as a woman in a male-dominated world, so she couldn’t bring herself to give Danny anything more than a one-night stand. To do so, she would’ve risked her entire career, because of the fire department’s no-fraternization policy. I fully expected the story to fast-forward from there, so I was pleasantly surprised that only a few weeks had passed between their passionate night together and the beginning of this book. The first few chapters contain some nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat suspense as both Danny and Anne are involved in fighting a fire that leaves Anne trapped, and Danny forced to make an agonizing decision that has permanent repercussions not only to Anne’s life but to his psyche as well. From there, the story does fast-forward ten months to Anne starting her new job as an arson investigator. She’s also gradually drawn back into Danny’s life and an eventual relationship with him, while investigating a suspicious warehouse fire that looks like it may have ties to a string of other fires, including the one which was the last fire she fought as a firefighter. It took a little while for this part of the story to build, but it led to a surprising, action-packed climax that was equally as intense as the opening chapters.
Anne is a strong, independent heroine with some complex family dynamics. Her firefighter father was always her hero, and she wanted nothing more than to be like him. But he looked down on a woman going into that type of profession. He died on the job when she was a young teen. That event revealed a dark, family secret that only she knows about, and that permanently marred her father’s memory. Anne also has a troubled relationship with her mom. She views the older woman as far too meek and dependent, so she refuses to be anything like her, instead relying only on herself. Even her relationship with her brother is a rocky one. She brings a lot of this baggage into her romance with Danny, as well, holding him at arm’s length sometimes and allowing the past to unfairly color her perceptions of him at times, too. I very much admired Anne for her strength and resilience in the face of a life-altering event. She’s one tough cookie and a pragmatist, who doesn’t allow circumstances to get her down. It’s a big change to go from fighting fires to investigating them when she’s used to that adrenalin rush, but again she throws herself into her work with gusto. She may be a kick-butt fighter, but she has a gentler side as well, proving herself to be a great pet parent with a soft spot for dogs, and I absolutely loved Soot. Anne also finds a soft spot for Danny, and once she fully lets him in, she’s a comfort to him in his times of need.
Aside from his chosen firefighter family, Danny is alone in the world. His parents passed away a long time ago and he lost his twin brother, who was also a firefighter, on the job three years before, something that has stayed with him. In addition, he witnessed the loss of another fellow firefighter in the line of duty, so he’s already had a lot of trauma in his life. Then he has to make an unthinkable decision in order to save Anne, the only woman he’s ever loved, from the clutches of a burning building. This in turn leads to his own near-death experience, from which it takes months for him to recover. Once he does and he gets back to work, Danny is in an emotional downward spiral and basically seems to have a death-wish. That’s when a mutual friend draws Anne back into his life, giving him something to live for again. I adored Danny. Underneath the tough firefighter exterior beats a tender heart that’s been deeply wounded by all the tragedy in his life. He’s struggling to keep his head above water and not drown in his own emotions. He may have been a playboy, going from one woman to the next, but I love that he’s only ever truly had eyes for Anne. She’s the other half of him, and I love that he never tries to stifle her independent spirit. Although he initially has some trouble being around her because seeing her drives home the agonizing choice he had to make, he eventually comes to accept her as a whole person and the only one he loves. He also proves more than once that he’ll always have her back and will do anything to keep her safe.
J. R. Ward has set up a number of interesting supporting characters who would make great main characters in future books and could conceivably keep the series going for quite a while. First up is Anne’s brother, Tom, who gets several of his own POV scenes. Tom is the chief firefighter and a bit of a chip off the old block. I have to admit that for quite a ways into the story, I didn’t really like Tom much. He’s a hard, intractable man who doesn’t get along with Anne and even has an argument with her while she’s in the hospital right after being injured in her last fire. He really rubbed me the wrong way until he had a run-in with Mayor Catherine Mahoney who called him on the mat for being difficult. At that point, he seemed to have a bit of a wake-up call and became a better person for the rest of the story. There’s a definite attraction between these two, so I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find them engaged in an enemies to lovers romance in the next book. Danny’s former roommate, Jack, a SWAT officer, helps Anne with her investigation. The author has dropped some intriguing tidbits about a couple of other firefighters, Emilio and Vic. Not to mention, between the 499 and the 617 there are lots more of these guys in the background, as well as police officers, who we haven’t gotten to know yet. Moose and Deandra, the (un)happy couple from The Wedding from Hell prequel novellas continue into the marriage from hell. Called it!;-) Then there’s the villainous real estate developer, Charles Ripkin, who’s a real creep. I’ll be looking forward to seeing him get what’s coming to him.
Overall, Consumed was a great story that I very much enjoyed. J. R. Ward has a real talent for making me care about her characters and the worlds she creates. The firefighters and other first responders in this series are shaping up to be a brotherhood of a different sort, who I very much look forward to getting to know better. Anne and Danny were awesome characters who made me feel for them and each of their individual situations. I loved seeing them gradually come together and find some healing in their relationship, as well as seeing Anne mend her severed family ties. There were no easy answers or magic solutions for Danny’s tragic past, but I was heartened in knowing that he’s now working to put it behind him and look to a brighter future. This is also a book about families, both those by birth and those we choose, that’s wrapped up the mystery of who’s setting the warehouse fires and why, which leads to a reveal that I honestly didn’t see coming but which made perfect sense. Consumed was an all-around wonderful read that really has me looking forward to future books of the series....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews The Reception is the second installment of a serialized novella prequel to J. R. Ward’s new contemporary romance series, FirefReviewed for THC Reviews The Reception is the second installment of a serialized novella prequel to J. R. Ward’s new contemporary romance series, Firefighters. This part was equally as good as the first and way hotter.;-) It takes place on the day of the proverbial wedding from hell. I won’t give away what happens, but I still stand by the assessment I made following the first half that the (un)happy couple is doomed. Luckily, though, they aren’t the focus of the story. That honor goes to Danny and Anne, who will also become the hero and heroine of Consumed, the first full-length novel in the series.
We learn a little bit more about Danny and Anne, all of which intrigues me. Danny, it seems, has lost his entire family, so his firefighter brethren are his only family. He’s been a playboy for most of his adult life, never committing and generally only engaging in one-night stands. But with Anne, he feels completely different, like he’s finally found someone special with whom he could see spending his life. Too bad Anne doesn’t really feel the same way… yet. She appears to have some complicated family dynamics. She’s also worked her butt off to get where she is as a female firefighter in a male-dominated world, so she isn’t about to give that up for a man. Unfortunately, due to a no-fraternization policy, that’s exactly what she’d have to do in order to have a relationship with Danny, so even though he tempts her, she can’t allow herself to go there. The only thing she will allow is one incredible, steamy night with him that was utterly delicious. A part of me was a little frustrated with Anne when she clearly breaks Danny’s heart, but of course, if there wasn’t a major conflict, which I fully expected, this would be the end of their story and there wouldn’t be another novel about them.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Reception and thought it was a great wrap-up to this prequel. There was a third part, but since it was my understanding that it was merely an excerpt of Consumed and I already have that book at the top of my TBR pile, I didn’t feel the need to read it. I am, however, extremely eager to get to Consumed to find out how Danny and Anne finally get their HEA. If this prequel is anything to go by, it should be amazing....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews The Rehearsal Dinner is the first installment in a serialized novella prequel to J. R. Ward’s upcoming new contemporary romancReviewed for THC Reviews The Rehearsal Dinner is the first installment in a serialized novella prequel to J. R. Ward’s upcoming new contemporary romance series, Firefighters. For such a short story, it was an excellent read that had a little bit of everything. First our hero and heroine, who are both firefighters at the same station house, are members of a wedding party for one of their friends and fellow firefighters. This is where the proverbial wedding from hell comes in, because this guy and his fiancée are constantly fighting about one thing or another, and the bride is a total bridezilla, making life a living hell for all involved. This scenario is the backdrop for the rest of the story which also includes a little excitement, a little humor, and a whole lot of sexual tension.
Danny and Anne, our hero and heroine, as I mentioned, are both firefighters. There’s been an intense attraction simmering between them since they started working together, but thus far, they haven’t acted on it. That all starts to change in this story, when circumstances and proximity cause that tension to begin to boil over. While nothing beyond kissing has happened yet, that tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife, so I look forward to seeing what happens next. In this very short space, J. R. Ward has already thrown out some intriguing tidbits of character development and backstory that I think are going to make for a great read when Danny and Anne’s full-length story, Consumed, is released. I love that Danny is trying his best to be a feminist, even it Anne doesn’t appreciate it in context, and being the daughter of a chief, Anne seems to have something to prove. I have a feeling, though, that these prequel novellas are just a small interlude out of time for these two, and a fair bit of time is probably going to elapse between the novellas and the novel. But regardless, I look forward to delving into these characters more.
I’m equally intrigued to read the next installment, not only to see what happens between Danny and Anne, but also to see if the (un)happy couple actually go through with this crazy wedding. Either way, I think they’re doomed, so I look forward to finding out if I’m right. The author has also used this story to introduce us to a number of first responders who seem ripe for their own stories later in the series. Overall, I think The Rehearsal Dinner was a great start and I’m eagerly looking forward to reading more next month....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Colton is the final novella of three connected stories about three half-brothers. In this one, we have the youngest brother, CReviewed for THC Reviews Colton is the final novella of three connected stories about three half-brothers. In this one, we have the youngest brother, Colton, who was only recently found by his two older brothers but has been welcomed into their lives and business dealings. Before heading to Luna Island where he heads up the lithium mining operation for the family electronics business, Colton takes a holiday in Las Vegas, where a drunken night (he doesn’t usually drink and is a total lightweight when it comes to alcohol) ends with him waking up next to a stranger. He later discovers that he married her, when Fayre, his new wife, comes looking for him. When Fayre realizes Colton doesn’t remember anything about her or getting married, she figures she simply made yet another bad choice in men. Colton decides to own up to his responsibilities, but he has his work cut out for him convincing her that he’s sincere.
I absolutely adored Colton. Yeah, he walked out on Fayre the morning after, because he didn’t remember who she was and that he’d married her in a drunken haze and didn’t want to deal with the awkwardness of it all. But he ended up spending the next six weeks dreaming about her almost every night and felt guilty enough about it that he’d planned to go back to Vegas to try to find her again as soon as he got a break from work. Despite first appearances, he also wasn’t a player and had a more serious side when it came to relationships, which I loved. I also have to give him major kudos for stepping up to the plate when Fayre comes looking for him. A lot of men probably would have kicked her to the curb and given her the quickie divorce she was asking for, but instead Colton pulls out all the stops to cherish her in every way he possibly can and treat her like a princess.
I really liked Fayre, too. While she begins the story pretty steamed up, and understandably so, she isn’t annoyingly bitchy like some heroines I’ve read in similar circumstances. Fayre comes from a rough background, but I admired that she’d turned her life around as a chorus girl and had plans to start her own dance studio. Most of all, though, she wanted to be a mother. When Colton starts sweet-talking her again, she wants to believe him, but she’s been hurt a lot in the past. However, it doesn’t take long for her to melt back into his arms and trust that he truly is the real deal.
Colton is an incredibly cute and romantic novella. The reader will definitely have to buy into love-at-first-sight fairy tales to appreciate this story. I have to admit that the insta-love trope often doesn’t work for me, but here I was enchanted. Colton is the ultimate Prince Charming, while Fayre resists a little at first, but then eats it up. Their emotional connection is great, while they also share incredible chemistry with love scenes that are full of steamy goodness. Their story was super-sweet and absolutely perfect for me, so it ended up being a superb wrap-up to the series as well. Colton was originally published under the title “Colton’s Story” along with its two companion novellas in the anthology, 3 Brides for 3 Bad Boys, but it has since been republished as a stand-alone ebook....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Envy, the third installment in J. R. Ward’s Fallen Angels series is a combination of urban fantasy, romantic suspeReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Envy, the third installment in J. R. Ward’s Fallen Angels series is a combination of urban fantasy, romantic suspense, and paranormal romance. The urban fantasy element comes in the form of the continuing story arc of Jim Heron, a fallen angel, and his two comrades, Eddie and Adrian, who’ve come to Earth to battle the demon, Devina, and her horde of minions. Jim is tasked with saving several souls who are at a crossroads in their lives, and the success of his mission will determine the outcome of the war as well as the future of both heaven and Earth. The soul they must save in this book is that of Thomas DelVecchio, Jr., who simply goes by the nickname Veck. He is a cop who brings in the romantic suspense element. The story opens with Veck thinking he’s attacked and possibly killed a serial killer named Kroner. He and his heroine/partner, Reilly, also investigate the disappearance of a young woman who Veck thinks may be one of Kroner’s victims, but the case also has an unexpected link to Veck’s own father, who was a serial killer himself. Then, of course, there’s the romance between Veck and Reilly, which was hot and steamy, but IMHO, the weakest link in the story. Even with that slight misstep, it was still a great book that kept me guessing and wondering what might happen next.
Veck was first introduced in Lover Unleashed, the ninth book of Ms. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I wish I’d read Envy closer to Lover Unleashed as there’s a lot I don’t recall about Veck’s appearance in it and I also think that events surrounding him in that story led directly into this one. I do know that he was the new partner of Detective de la Cruz who was Butch’s former partner, and he still is when this book opens, but that changes pretty quickly when he’s put on probation after the incident with Kroner. All his life Veck has struggled with the knowledge that he’s the son of a serial killer, and he’s felt that there are two sides to him, good and evil. He has a split shadow, sometimes hears a malevolent voice in his head, and keeps his mirrors covered because he fears what he sometimes sees in them. He desperately wanted to kill Kroner, and when he has no memory of what occurred before he found the murderer torn apart in the woods and called 911, he thinks he may have been the culprit.
It becomes clear pretty quickly that if Veck gives in to this dark side of himself, there’ll be no turning back. But then he meets, Reilly, the internal affairs officer who’s assigned to his case. She manages to clear him of any potential charges, and they’re assigned to work cold cases together for the next month with him staying far away from the Kroner murders. But unwilling to let it rest, he reopens an old case of a missing young woman that he thinks might be connected to the serial killer. As he and Reilly work together a combustible attraction forms between them, leading to some explosive passion. Before Reilly, Veck was an admitted man-whore, who didn’t do relationships or commitments, but with Reilly, he feels like he’s found someone truly special, and his love for her helps him to overcome the demons of his past. I liked Veck. He’s worked hard to overcome the stigma of his serial killer father and become a good cop. Although he’s resistant at first to the idea of the supernatural, he does come around and accept Jim’s help. I especially liked Veck with Reilly. Even though their romance wasn’t quite as strong as I would have liked, he’s a generous lover, who manages to find a more tender side when he’s with her and he soaks up the familial bonds between her and her parents, something he was sorely missing in his own life.
Sophia Reilly, who simply goes by her last name, is a tough but tender cop. She had a rough start to her own life until her parents adopted her, but with them to raise her, she’s become a strong and admirable woman. Just based on her preliminary investigation of the crime scene where Kroner was attacked, she doesn’t think Veck did it, and she sticks by her guns for most of the story until there’s a little twist near the end. Even still, at that point, her doubts made sense, but she’s a smart cookie and a dog with a bone who eventually figures things out. Reilly is a brave, loyal, steadfast partner, who is somewhat surprised by her visceral reaction to Veck’s good looks and masculinity, but it’s something that she generally embraces. She’s every bit as much into their passionate interactions as he is and falls for him quickly. In writing this review, I’ve realized that Reilly might not have been quite as well-developed as some other romance heroines I’ve read, but I couldn’t help liking her anyway. She was a good character who really stood by Veck and didn’t read too much into his background.
I really enjoyed the advancement of the story arc for Jim. He’s definitely growing in his angel powers, and I’ll look forward to seeing just how strong he becomes. Also the cold case that Veck and Reilly take on is none other than that of Sissy Barten, the young woman Jim lost in the first book of the series and has never forgiven himself for. He’s vowed to find a way to free her from Devina’s Well of Souls. We also begin getting hints that he may have fallen for the young woman, so I was very pleased to see that their story appears to be told in the last book of the series. There are also some unexpected developments for Jim’s sidekicks, Adrian and Eddie. I can’t say any more about that without giving away spoilers, but I’ll be eagerly waiting to see what happens with them. We also discover something new about Jim’s dog, Dog. Devina, as always, is pure, malevolent evil, and I can’t wait for her to be taken down. Then there are Nigel and Colin, Jim’s archangel overseers up in heaven, who become just a bit more involved in this story, as well as having a little side romance of their own that gets derailed by some conflict.
Overall, Envy was a great book. I very much enjoyed the fantasy elements and can’t wait to see what happens with Jim and Sissy, as well as Adrian and Eddie, in the future. The mystery and suspense elements were probably my favorite parts, keeping me guessing, and looking forward to unraveling all of the plot connections. Like I mentioned earlier the romance between Veck and Reilly was good, just not great. They have an awesome steamy connection, but in just a matter of days, they go from sleeping together to the I love yous, and within a couple more weeks, are getting engaged. While I could feel something passing between them, I wasn’t quite sure about the whole love thing and how they fell so quickly, but due to the strength of the other story elements, I was willing to mostly give this part a pass. It’s the only reason I dropped the half-star. Otherwise, this was an excellent read and I look forward to continuing with the series and hopefully not waiting so long in between books next time.
Note: This book contains a brief MFM menage a trois scene involving secondary characters, which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Carter is the second of three connected novellas about three half-brothers. In this one, we have Carter, who is technically thReviewed for THC Reviews Carter is the second of three connected novellas about three half-brothers. In this one, we have Carter, who is technically the middle brother, but only ever so slightly younger than the oldest, Rand. When Carter’s father passed, there was a stipulation in his will that Carter must marry within a certain time-frame or the family-owned electronics company will be sold off, and his time is running out. He cares about his mother and brothers and doesn’t want to put them in a difficult position by not complying, nor does he want the media attention that’s sure to follow if he tries to have the conditions of the will overturned. Therefore, he’s determined to get hitched fast. Carter had broken off his engagement to Phoebe, Rand’s heroine, four years earlier, because he had such a visceral sexual attraction for another woman he thought he was following in his philandering father’s footsteps. That other woman was Daisy, who has been employed by his company for a number of years, and she’s the one Carter has his eye on as his future wife. However, convincing her might be difficult. I really liked Carter, even better than Rand, because he’s a little more of a soft touch. It’s cute how he keeps reassuring Daisy that the money he’s offered her isn’t for sex, and I thought it was sweet that he wanted to make their first time together special, even if it’s supposedly just a business arrangement.
Daisy has been in love with Carter from afar for years but never thought he would give her a second glance. She harbors insecurities from her first marriage, because her husband said she was too fat and never thought she was good in bed. So when Carter comes to her with his offer of marriage, even if it is one of convenience, it’s like a dream come true, but she doesn’t know why he would want someone like her. I loved how Carter was able to bring out Daisy’s sexy, passionate side in a way she’s never experienced before. Daisy is so shy and adorkably awkward, I couldn’t help but adore her. She was the perfect heroine for me.
Because of the short length of the story, the “I Love Yous” come pretty quickly, especially for Carter who didn’t think he was capable of loving someone, but them knowing one another for a while and admiring each other from a distance helped with the quickness of it all. The love scenes are deliciously steamy and absolutely perfect. So overall, this was a very fun story that I thoroughly enjoyed. In addition to being part of the trilogy of connected shorts about Carter and his brothers, both of whom make appearances, it’s also tied to Lucy Monroe’s Mercenary/Goddard Project series. Daisy mentions her brother being a merc, and her sister, Bella, whose story, Silver Bella, is also part of that series makes an appearance, too. Carter was originally published under the title “Carter's Story” along with its two companion novellas in the 3 Brides for 3 Bad Boys anthology, but it has since been republished as a stand-alone ebook....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Dreaming of You is one of Lisa Kleypas’s most beloved titles and one I’ve been looking forward to reading for a while. I can sReviewed for THC Reviews Dreaming of You is one of Lisa Kleypas’s most beloved titles and one I’ve been looking forward to reading for a while. I can see why so many readers love it, as it certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s the story of two people who couldn’t be more different if they tried, but somehow they fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. The main thing they seem to have in common is that neither comes from aristocratic stock, which is rather unique to the Regency romance sub-genre. Derek is a cynical, ambitious man who has literally clawed his way up from the bottom and would do almost anything to never return to the gutter where he was born. Yet all the money in the world can’t buy him happiness. Sara is anything but the type of woman he typically goes for, but her sweetness and light inspire loyalty and fidelity in a man who generally doesn’t trust women and has never believed he could feel that way about one. I loved how these two came together and fell in love despite the odds and how they adore each other unconditionally. Derek’s jealous former paramour adds a bit of intrigue and suspense, but the story is mostly about how these two very different characters find love with one another and how Derek overcomes a lifetime devoid of love to discover that he really does have a heart underneath the jaded exterior. It was a great read and one that I definitely recommend.
Derek is a man who has known little kindness or gentleness in his life. Born in a drainpipe to a prostitute who abandoned him at birth, he never knew his parents and was partially raised by other prostitutes. But when he was old enough to begin working, which was at a very young age, he did. He’s done all manner of things in his life, many of which were just the other side of the law, but all along he dreamed of getting out of the gutter and becoming a wealthy man. His ambitions took him to all sorts of places respectable men don’t go, but over time, he built an empire and amassed a fortune as the owner of the premier gambling hall in London. He lives to gain more wealth, but no matter how much he owns, it’s never been enough. Something was always missing from his life. When Sara saves his life one night and then asks to be allowed into his world to do research for her next book, Derek dares not get too close to her. She makes him feels things he’s never felt before and although he’d never admit it, that scares him. He wants her more than he’s ever wanted anything in his life, and yet he’s all too aware that he isn’t good enough for her. Derek is a pretty intense alpha male who tends to push Sara away, fearing that he’ll ruin her with his jaded past. Although he can sometimes be a bit harsh, there’s always a vulnerability lurking beneath the outward reserve, while the facade of the confident, cynical club owner covers for the broken little boy inside who’s never experienced unconditional love. Derek is definitely a man tormented by the demons of his past and a lifetime of hard-living who doesn’t feel worthy of someone like Sara. But I love how when he finally allows her to love him, he gives back full measure even when he isn’t able to say the actual words to her.
Sara is as sweet as sweet can be and as different from Derek as night and day. She’s an innocent country lass, who is a bookish writer, and her novels have become popular bestsellers. She’s in London doing research for her next book, when she happens to see Derek being attacked by ruffians and decides to step in to put a stop to it. After helping the injured man back to his club, she asks permission to come back to do research. Derek isn’t inclined to grant it, but his factotum, Worthy, does. Sara is a gentle, open-minded sort who gets along famously with everyone from the temperamental chef to the house wenches. As he watches her from a distance, Derek develops a fascination for Sara, but he refuses to allow himself to be vulnerable to her. When he coldly sends her away, she returns to her little village where her longtime beau lives, but the man she thought she’d been in love with for so long pales in comparison with Derek. Eventually one thing leads to another and Sara and Derek are reunited, but she has an uphill battle convincing him that they should be together. I absolutely adored Sara and related to her incredibly well. She and I are alike in so many ways. I love how easy-going she is and how she can relate to almost anyone and earn their trust and respect in return. But what I enjoyed most about her is her infinite patience with Derek. There’s nothing he can tell her about his past that she doesn’t accept and take in stride, while she sees beneath the jaded surface to recognize the broken man underneath and doesn’t hesitate to give all of herself to him in spite of it. She was a wonderful heroine who was totally perfect for me.
Dreaming of You has connections to several other books that Lisa Kleypas as written. For starters, and most importantly, as the second book in her Gamblers of Craven’s series, we have Alex and Lily, the hero and heroine of the first book, Then Came You, in meaty secondary roles. They’re loyal friends to Derek who offer their support and often try to talk sense into him when he’s sabotaging his own best interests, while Lily also plays matchmaker. In addition, she befriends Sara, while still being the fiery spirited lass I came to love in her own book. The final novella of the series, “Against the Odds” from Where’s My Hero? pairs Derek and Sara’s daughter, Lydia, with Dr. Jacob Linley from Ms. Kleypas’s Bow Street Runners series. Lastly it’s also loosely connected to The Wallflowers series in that Ivo Jenner, father of Evie Jenner (Devil in Winter), puts in a few appearances as Derek’s chief rival in the gambling club business and someone who is wont to cause trouble for him from time to time.
Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better read than Dreaming of You. It had everything I read romance for and then some. Although he can be stubborn and difficult at times, I understood Derek and fell for him anyway, because of the way that he gives all of himself to Sara and adores her to pieces. Sara was the perfect heroine, relatable in every way. Their love for one another is deep and intense with some fairly steamy scenes. Derek’s struggles to overcome his past and his obsessive former lover provided enough conflict to keep me turning the pages to see just how our lovebirds were going to get their HEA. I simply loved everything about the book and recommend it to all romance readers who love seeing a bad boy hero reform for his heroine....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Rand (aka “A Deal Is a Deal”) is the first in a trilogy of connected novellas about three half-brothers. This oneReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Rand (aka “A Deal Is a Deal”) is the first in a trilogy of connected novellas about three half-brothers. This one features Rand, the oldest of the three, as the hero. Although the specifics aren’t mentioned, he lost his wife and child six years ago, and ever since then, he’s had his heart locked up tight. He still goes out with women and even sleeps with them from time to time, when the need for physical release becomes too great, but he has no intention of ever falling in love again. His heroine, Phoebe, was engaged to Rand’s brother, Carter, but it ended four years ago. After that, she became close friends with Rand, and ever since, her feelings for him, both physical and emotional, have gradually been growing until she’d give anything for just a week in his bed. When she accidentally blurts out that fact at a charity event they’re both attending and he overhears her, he offers to fulfill her fantasy in exchange for the deed to an island she owns that has a rich lithium deposit he needs for his business.
I really liked Phoebe, because she’s the perfect mix of sweet and sassy. She tends to speak her mind, but she’s also one of those seemingly rare, modern-day virgins, and there’s no one she wants to introduce her to the pleasures of the flesh but Rand. She’s tired of just being friends and wants so much more from him. Even though she knows he’s kept his heart off limits, she can’t help hoping that maybe he’ll open it up for her. Rand is an intensely sexy alpha male. Most of the time I liked him. He’s an excellent lover and takes good care of Phoebe, but he has a few moments where he says things that border on cruel and made me want to smack him. It was at those times, I found myself wishing he’d dial back on the alpha a little, but overall he showed enough gentleness and vulnerability to stay in my good graces.
With this being a short novella, things move rapidly between our hero and heroine. It all takes place in the span of only one week, but I wasn’t overly bothered by that. Rand and Phoebe's long-standing friendship played into their emotional connection a lot. Phoebe was totally in love with Rand before the story even started, and while Rand fought it for a bit, I could tell from the start that he knew Phoebe was a keeper and not one of the loose women he usually tended to go for. It’s one of the reasons he’d kept their relationship friends-only up to that point. The love scenes are smokin’ hot, and there’s a decent little plot for a novella, with Rand and Carter both vying for the rights to Phoebe's island, as well as Carter trying to mend the troubled relationship with his brother. So overall, Rand was a really fun story. It was originally published under the title “A Deal Is a Deal” along with its two companion novellas in the anthology, 3 Brides for 3 Bad Boys but it has since been republished as a stand-alone ebook, simply titled Rand....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews A River in Darkness was our latest church book club read. It’s the story of a man who was born in Japan to a Japanese mother aReviewed for THC Reviews A River in Darkness was our latest church book club read. It’s the story of a man who was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and a Korean father. When he was just thirteen, his father decided to immigrate to North Korea, lured by promises of a better life. What they found there was anything but what they had been told. For over thirty years, he endured abject poverty and hard labor while watching several loved ones die. Finally with the threat of starvation looming, he decided to make a daring escape and try to get back to Japan, where he hoped to find work and ultimately save the rest of his family.
With all the talk of North Korea in the news of late, this was a very timely read. It is a bleak, heartbreaking, and even depressing story, but at the same time, it’s also a true testament to the resilience of the human spirit. It’s hard to even imagine going through all the hardships this man and his family had to endure and still somehow manage to stay alive. It’s also a very enlightening and eye-opening read for its details of life inside North Korea, one of the most secretive and repressive regimes on the planet. I learned a great deal from reading it. This is most definitely not an easy read given all the suffering contained within its pages, but I still think it’s a very important one that certainly should not be overlooked.
I honestly think that books like this should be required reading for Americans (and residents of other developed nations) for the simple fact that it shows us we should never take things for granted. I believe those of us who were born in these countries tend to view the world through rose-colored glasses. I’m careful to cultivate empathy in myself, but at the same time, by virtue of my birthplace, I simply haven’t experienced the kinds of adversity that those from many other nations have. The phrase “first world problems” cropped up for a reason, and we need to be more mindful of it when complaining about how bad things are. Because in places like North Korea, it’s infinitely worse than anything we might experience here in the US. There’s certainly poverty here at home, but at least we have charities, soup kitchens, food banks, and a government welfare program to help. In North Korea, the author of this book and his family had to resort to hunting through the countryside for anything remotely edible whether it was weeds, tree bark, acorns, or literally whatever they could find, sometimes leading to debilitating stomach cramps and nearly poisoning themselves, all out of abject desperation for food. There were even reports of some resorting to cannibalism. And despite all that, many still starve to death on a daily basis. In North Korea, if you don’t work, you don’t eat, so if you’re elderly, sick, or disabled, you’re completely reliant on the assistance of others, presuming of course they even have anything to share. It’s simply almost unfathomable to our Western minds. I’m absolutely amazed that the author somehow managed to survive under such horrific conditions.
Of course, the hunger and poverty of the ordinary, every-day citizen laborers are only part of the picture. There’s also the propaganda and indoctrination into the party principles that so many people actually buy into despite their dire circumstances. I think perhaps originally coming from Japan, the author had insights into what it was like outside North Korea, so he never fully believed any of the ideology he was being fed. But I can easily imagine how those born inside the country could go down that road when they know little more than what the government tells them. Still, it’s an incredibly scary thought to consider how many people are incarcerated in concentration camps or even executed for small infractions against the party or the country’s leadership. No matter how deeply flawed it might be, at least we have a justice system here in the US, while in North Korea, there’s nothing but the military or police who might kill a person for little or nothing.
A River in Darkness was a very well-written book, and also clearly well-translated. It’s fast-paced narrative flows along, keeping the reader engaged in all that happened in the author’s life. It’s a harrowing and heart-wrenching story that can really make the reader take a closer look at their own life, but this saddening tale is also underpinned by a spirit of dogged determination that is inspiring in its own way. After turning the final page, I realize that this book has done many things for me. It has taught me that we must always be vigilant against allowing this type of totalitarian government to ever take root in countries where democracy has long prevailed. It has taught me to be more mindful of the hardships people in other parts of the world might be facing on a daily basis. It has taught me that I should be more grateful for the things I have, many of which are by virtue of my birthplace. It has taught me that we should be vigilant against prejudice, because of how the author is a man who doesn’t feel he fits either in Japan or in North Korea because of his mixed heritage. But most of all, I think it’s taught me that no matter how bleak things are, hope can prevail, if we let it, and sometimes that’s the only thing we have left....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Big Rock was my first read by Lauren Blakely and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect book to begin my reading relationshiReviewed for THC Reviews Big Rock was my first read by Lauren Blakely and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect book to begin my reading relationship with this author. First of all, it’s utterly unique to the genre in that it’s the first and only hetero romance I’ve read to date that’s written entirely from the first-person male POV. This gave the story a very different feel than any other romance I can recall, but I found it to be a refreshing change of pace. Second this is a pretty light, breezy story that definitely has more of a romantic comedy vibe to it. I have to admit that I don’t often read rom coms (or even watch rom com movies), because they rarely satisfy me. I often lean more toward darker, angstier reads for the intense emotions they tend to evoke, while rom coms often leave me feeling cold due to the lack of depth and/or feeling. Sometimes it also seems like the author is trying too hard to be funny, causing the jokes to fall flat. Big Rock certainly doesn’t delve into any dark places, and yet it still somehow managed to indulge my senses and slake my thirst for a great love story in a way that most books of this nature don’t. Maybe it was because Spencer is a great character, or maybe it was the friends-to-lovers trope that’s almost always a hit with me, or maybe it was the smokin’ hot love scenes, or maybe it was simply that the story was so darn much fun. In fact, it was probably all of those things wrapped up together that made this book a huge winner for me.
Spencer is invited to attend a business meeting involving his father, who wants nothing more than to sell his iconic jewelry story and retire, and the new buyer his dad has lined up to take over the business. Spencer wants to make a good impression on the buyer for his dad’s sake, but it soon becomes clear that the guy is an ultra-conservative boor who seems to have some knowledge of Spencer’s playboy exploits and finds them distasteful. Wanting to smooth things over, Spencer lies about having just gotten engaged to his best friend and business partner, Charlotte. He thinks it will help create a flawless business transaction, and that it won’t be a big deal on a personal level either. After all, he and Charlotte have acted as each other’s boyfriend/girlfriend before to get out of the unwanted attentions of certain members of the opposite sex, so what’s a little pretend engagement between friends when it will only last a week. The only problem is that all the kissing and touchy-feely stuff they have to engage in to make it seem real, suddenly leads to all sorts of emotions that are anything but friendly and actually are real, at least on his part. And when all of his lies start to unravel it could lead to disaster.
The first few lines of the cover blurb could easily leave the impression that Spencer is an egotistical jerk. I have to admit that as I first began reading that blurb, I wasn't so sure about him, but the further the blurb went, the more intrigued I became. I’m so glad I added the book to my TBR list, because I can unequivocally say that Spencer is not an egotistical jerk. He’s certainly filled with tons of confidence, and he’s absolutely certain of his bedroom skills. However, since he can definitely deliver on all counts, I found it to be a metaphorical truth in advertising sort of thing rather than off-putting in any way. In fact, his narration about it all is pretty funny. Yes, he is a playboy with an overactive libido who doesn’t do commitments and sleeps with a different woman practically every other day, but he has a kind, gentlemanly side, too. I loved him for not giving in to the temptation of having sex with Charlotte when she was drunk. He’s also a great son, who wants nothing more than to help out his dad, so when he lies about the engagement, it’s only with the best of intentions. Spencer does get taken down a few pegs by the end, finding himself eating crow and needing to make amends for his mistakes along the way, but he does so with gentlemanly grace. And he’s just too cute when he starts having real feelings for Charlotte. It’s such a foreign concept to him, he ends up protesting way too much, but once he realizes that he truly is in love with her, he fully embraces it even though he isn’t sure she feels the same way. He transitions flawlessly and believably from confident lover to an uncertain man in love because he’s now in uncharted territory. I couldn’t help but adore Spencer for falling head-over-heels for Charlotte and for turning over a new leaf in which she’s the only woman he needs in his life, and also for simply being his intelligent, witty self.
Since there are no scenes from Charlotte’s POV, we don’t get to know her quite as well. There isn’t a lot about her background or family life, but I didn’t necessarily feel like anything was missing because of that. The main details we do know are that she’s being pursued by an ex who cheated on her and she hasn’t been with any other man since that breakup. Otherwise, we see her wholly through Spencer’s eyes, which admittedly might have been rose-colored glasses to some degree, but I loved what I saw. She’s a loyal friend and business partner to Spencer. They’ve been besties since college, and although each went their separate ways immediately after, they kept in touch and eventually started a successful small chain of bars together. It’s very clear early on that Charlotte enjoys a comfortable, trusting relationship with Spencer, so it wasn’t a stretch at all to believe that she would fall in love with him in such short order. She’s also pretty confident in her own right, being the one to propose that they take advantage of their pretend engagement to indulge a few sexual fantasies with a pledge to go back to being friends when it’s over. Even though she said this, I could tell that she was falling in love with him just as quickly, even though Spencer failed to “get the memo.”
Overall, Big Rock was a fun, delightful read. Parts of it were perhaps a tad predictable, but it didn’t ruin the enjoyment for me. I loved the interactions between Spencer and his family and best male friend, Nick. The love and respect between them all is readily apparent in their behavior, and they all have a wonderful way of taunting and teasing but in a good way. Despite being an almost overly confident alpha male, Spencer really managed to capture my heart by being a good guy inside, and I very much liked Charlotte, too. I wasn’t really bothered by the rapid progression of their relationship, because this couple was obviously made for one another. Not to mention, their long-standing friendship played into it a lot. A strong argument could be made that they were already falling for each other long before the pretend engagement and simply never allowed themselves to explore that as an option out of fear of losing their awesome friendship. The love scenes are crazy hot and explicitly detailed without ever resorting to anything tawdry or kinky, and they perfectly expressed the depth of attraction and feeling present between Spencer and Charlotte. Last but certainly not least, the story is just pure, witty enjoyment. It never tries too hard to be funny. It simply is. I know I had a goofy grin on my face for a large part of the time I spent reading it. This book would make a perfect rom com movie that I’d definitely pay to go see, and it was an excellent start to both the Big Rock series and my reading of Lauren Blakely’s books. I can’t wait to dive into Nick’s book, Mister O, which is the next one....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews The Thief was another solid installment of J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. There aren’t nearly as many differentReviewed for THC Reviews The Thief was another solid installment of J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. There aren’t nearly as many different POVs in this one as we usually see in these books. We have our “main” couple, Assail and Sola, then our central Brotherhood couple of Vishous and Jane, with just a sprinkling of scenes from other characters’ perspectives. I felt the focus this time was mainly on the character and relationship development for both couples with some action coming into play every now and then. While I very much enjoyed the back to basics romance aspect, I sometime felt like a little something was missing. Although I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, somehow the story didn’t feel quite as exciting as it normally does. As a result, I waffled mightily on how to rate it. I enjoyed it a lot, like I have all of these books, and other than that one little glitch, there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. I came close to marking it 4.5 stars, but after reading a friend’s review that pointed out all the great secondary characters and reading the transcript of J. R. Ward’s annual Q & A and realizing all the great little tidbits that she’d dropped into the story that will lead into other plot lines down the road, I couldn’t help but give it the full five after all. It might not end up being my absolute favorite book of the series, but it was still a very strong entry, nonetheless.
Assail and Sola first appeared way back in book #11, Lover at Last. Assail was a drug lord and arms dealer who made some unholy alliances throughout the next few books, while Sola was a thief who worked for the Benloise brothers, who were Assail’s suppliers. From the moment they met, despite her being a human, Sola was Assail’s Achilles heel, and she felt pretty strongly about him as well. When the Benloise brothers kidnapped Sola, Assail was there to help free her from their clutches and avenge her. But then to protect herself and her beloved grandmother, Sola had to go on the run and ended up in hiding in Miami, while Assail was still back in Caldwell. By then he’d given in to his cocaine addition and spent a couple of books pining for his female, before going into detox at the end of The Beast. Ever since then, he’s been heard throughout the halls of the Brotherhood's clinic, screaming in agony, as the process took a toll on his vampire anatomy that’s quite a bit different than it would be for a normal human.
This is where The Thief picks up his story. Assail has slipped into a coma that appears to be irreversible, leaving him essentially brain-dead, and no one knows how to help him recover. Faced with the choice of having to euthanize him, which is the vampire way in cases like this, his cousins, Ehric and Evale, go to Miami to try to persuade Sola to return to Caldwell in hopes that Assail might fight to return to them if he knows she’s there by his side. Although she still cares for Assail, Sola isn’t eager to go back for fear of the danger she’d be putting her grandmother in, but when her grandmother gives her an ultimatum, they go anyway. The only problem is that Ehric was not entirely straightforward in telling her about Assail’s condition. Even after he begins to recover, she thinks it’s only a temporary reprieve and that he’s dying of cancer. Not to mention, she has no idea he’s actually a vampire, nor that the Benloises’ sister has come to Caldwell and poses a threat as well. So needless to say, they have a few hurdles to jump on the way to their HEA.
I have to admit that when these two were first introduced, they were my least favorite couple in that book. I don’t know why, but for some reason, they didn’t exactly stand out to me. That all started to change in the next book when Assail rescued Sola and exacted his revenge against the Benloise brothers. Ever since then, he’s been gradually getting better and better until I just knew he had to get an HEA. He may have started his stint in this series as a bad guy, but he’s slowly been working his way toward hero status. I think the thing I love most about him is his care and concern for Sola’s grandmother. Even when he was a coke head, dealing in all sorts of illegal stuff, he always had a soft-spot for Mrs. Carvahlo, and of course for Sola as well. I was so happy to see him recover and turn over a new leaf in this book. For her part, Sola is a very strong heroine, which was obvious from the first couple of books she was seen in. I love how devoted she is to her grandmother. She’s not afraid to do whatever it takes to ensure the ones she loves are safe and that includes Assail. When Assail finally reveals the truth to her, she reacts pretty much how you might expect a human who’s just found out that vampires are real would, but I liked how that all turned out in the end. These two had a very sweet and tender, but sexy, relationship that worked perfectly for me.
The other primary POVs in this book are Vishous and Jane. When we left Vishous in the previous book of the series, he was feeling neglected by his overworked shellan and was looking up some of his old contacts from the BDSM world, while contemplating the unthinkable. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that I was on pins and needles for a while and screaming, “No, don’t do it,” in my head. All I’ll say is that I was very happy about how things worked out for this couple who are one of my favorites of the series. Both Vishous and Jane get much-needed wake up calls to help them see the error of the their ways, and not too surprisingly they begin to reconnect via the intellectual pursuit of answers regarding the new shadow entities. V must also come to terms with the loss of his mahmen, the Scribe Virgin. And I enjoyed the part that Jane played in helping Sola come to terms with the reality of vampires. I also loved how the author used their relationship to illustrate that trust equates to love, something I’ve always believed in.
The other fairly significant POV character is Vitoria Benloise who has traveled from her native home in Colombia to Caldwell to find out what happened to her brothers who’d disappeared a year earlier and also in hopes of taking over their business interests. With her gunning for her brothers’ presumed killer and the only connection to both Assail and Sola’s checkered pasts, she is one of the primary villains and a very formidable one at that. A few other characters got just a few of their own POV scenes. Throe is seen a few times as he tests out his new shadow army, and I must say that his relationship to the spell book has become full-on creepy. I’m sure he’s going to be stirring up lots more trouble for the Brotherhood in the future. Jo Early was finally brought back for a scene to show that she’s about to transition. Vishous has been watching her with an eagle eye, and I’ll predict that we’re probably going to see the resolution to what’s happening with her in the next book. The Warden also says that Jo is going to become the heroine of a future story paired with Syn, one of the members of the Band of Bastards. We also get a few scenes from Ehric’s perspective. I very much enjoyed him and his twin brother, Evale, and their devotion, not only to Assail, but also to his mate and her grandmother. I think they’d make great future heroes and it sounds like Ms. Ward is definitely thinking on that as a strong possibility.
A large part of the reason I gave The Thief five stars was many of the secondary characters, some of whom didn’t have POV scenes. Mrs. Carvahlo is priceless and a classic feisty Latina grandmother. She’s seen a lot in her lifetime, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she already suspects that her granddaughter’s love and those around him are vampires. Lassiter has actually calmed down just a bit in his new role as the deity of the race. I absolutely loved the scenes he was in and can’t wait for his new status to be revealed to everyone. I also can’t wait for him to get a book of his own. We also got to see Boo in a new and interesting role, and I enjoyed seeing Markcus in a couple of scenes again, too, and look forward to finding out where Ms. Ward goes with his character in the future. Also Butch’s old partner, Jose de la Cruz, put in an appearance investigating some things in which Vitoria is involved. And last but not least, we finally got to see Muhrder again briefly, and guess what? The next book, The Savior, is his. His character is such a mystery, so I really can’t wait to find out more about him.
Another thing that pushed The Thief up the incline was all the little things that added intrigue. First and foremost on my mind is who stole the book of spells and gave it to Throe. That’s a mystery I can’t wait to unravel. Then there’s these new shadow creatures that are even more dangerous than the lessers. And zombies? OMG, yaaasss! So cool! Can’t wait to see the Brothers fighting more of these threats with their new secret weapon. I’m also eager to see how the stuff with Jo pans out as well as the humans starting to become aware of the vampires. And one final thing I loved about the book is how The Warden never seems to fail to make me smile at some point. The scenes with the ghost peppers and the My Little Pony pajamas were priceless and had me grinning from ear to ear. In her Q & A, J. R. Ward seemed a little uncertain as to whether she’d be doing more Black Dagger Legacy books out of concern that her fans were having to spend too much money on two hardcovers per year. I’ll be a little sad if she doesn’t and that also means that since I don’t know if we’ll get a new BDL book, I may be back to waiting another year before the next book comes out. Oh well, in any case, I’m still all in and can’t wait for the next story in this world no matter which one it might be....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Brian McLaren has been on my radar since he came to my attention as an occasional contributor to the Sojourners blReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Brian McLaren has been on my radar since he came to my attention as an occasional contributor to the Sojourners blog. I enjoyed what he had to say in those posts, and as a result, I’ve had more than one of his books on my TBR list for a while. Our church book club chose The Great Spiritual Migration, and even though it wasn’t one of his books that I’d had on my list the longest, I was very eager to read it. I found it interesting that both Rev. McLaren and I come from similar faith backgrounds. We were both raised in a more fundamentalist atmosphere, but later in life, have gravitated toward a more progressive view of Christianity. This is why I very much appreciated the chapter of the book titled “God 5.0,” in which he explains how each individual’s view of God changes dramatically from infancy into adulthood and it’s not until we reach the 5.0 version of God that we’ve truly climbed to the pinnacle of understanding. That’s where I’m trying to go right now, although it’s sometimes a steep trek to getting there.
This also ties into Rev. McLaren’s discussion of how many Christians are seeking to define themselves through lives that are more about expressing love toward others, while leaving behind rigid lists of rules and regulations. I very much enjoyed the chapter on “Learning How to Love,” in which he talks about moving away from dehumanizing and scapegoating others and into humanizing them and seeing them as our brothers and sisters in the human race. If we take this tack, we’ll always want what’s best for others and focus more on the common good, rather than just on ourselves or our own little “tribe.” If churches put half as much effort into simply loving each other in a generous and selfless way as they seem to put into trying to get people to believe a certain way (which BTW is pretty pointless IMHO, considering how may different Christian denominations there are out there), then we could really change the world for the better.
The chapter titled “The Genocide Card in Your Back Pocket” was particularly eye-opening. I knew that ever since it allied itself with empire during the reign of Constantine over the Roman Empire, the Christian faith has had a long sordid history of human rights abuses. But Rev. McLaren managed to enlighten me on a few new ones I wasn’t familiar with, and let me say, it’s truly stomach-churning stuff. In light of this, I can’t help but feel that my faith has a lot for which it needs to repent and atone. And I’m not just talking about the past. Many things are still going on today, such as Christian ties to white supremacy, Christian exceptionalism, Christian alliances with politics, and more that we really need to clean house on. In order to do so, we must first give up our view of God as a violent Supreme Being and embrace a new view of God as a sacrificially loving and renewing Spirit.
Lastly I very much enjoyed the chapter on “The Bible in Labor,” which seeks to explain the different ways of reading the Bible. Some subscribe to an absolute literal interpretation, while others view it as a literary work that contains artistry and has deeper meanings to glean from its pages. Rev. McLaren shows that reading of this holy text can be done in more than a simple binary way, and in fact is a two axis system. I loved the little chart he provides in which literal vs. literary are on the horizontal axis, while innocent/critical/integral are on the vertical axis. It really helped me to understand these different way of interpreting Biblical texts and served to convince me that more people need to look much deeper than the surface. In doing so, we can come to an understanding that what we might see as tensions or contradictions between certain passages are really contractions or the equivalent of a woman being in labor. Many worry that rethinking their approach to Bible-reading may call into question whether Jesus still matters, but in reality, looking at it from this perspective can make Jesus even more beautiful by disarming both our understanding of the Bible and of God.
Overall, The Great Spiritual Migration is an excellent book that challenges readers to open themselves to a more generous orthodoxy, which coincidentally is the title of one of Rev. McLaren’s other books. It invites persons of faith to rethink their old – and perhaps, in some cases, outdated – views of God to take a fresh look at theology. And since so many of the faithful are beginning to look for ways to ensure a better, more peaceful future for us all, it also dares us to move away from organized religion and into organizing religion to help others through collaboration. Basically it’s time to migrate and change just as the faith has done several times down throughout history, and I, for one, am ready for that journey....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Thunder and Roses – along with several other Mary Jo Putney books – has been on my TBR pile for quite some time. IReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Thunder and Roses – along with several other Mary Jo Putney books – has been on my TBR pile for quite some time. I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. I had a feeling I would like Ms. Putney’s work, and this book didn’t disappoint. Her writing style reminds me somewhat of Mary Balogh’s and the book itself reminded me of one of Ms. Balogh’s books, Longing. Both it and Thunder and Roses are set primarily in Wales, and both contain plot elements relating to mining and music, pursuits that I gather are wholly representative of that area of Great Britain. Also both books have aristocratic heroes paired with commoner heroines and a strong emphasis on historical details. However, the two books are hardly carbon copies of one another. In Thunder and Roses, the hero is part Gypsy in addition to his aristocratic Welsh heritage. There’s also a touch of intrigue surrounding scandalous events that happened four years earlier which led to both his grandfather’s and his wife’s deaths, as well as the heroine making an equally scandalous bargain with him to gain his cooperation in investing in the local village economy and working to make conditions safer for the miners. All the elements came together to create a very pleasant reading experience that, while perhaps not quite perfect, was still enjoyable.
When he was just a boy, Nicholas’s mother took him to his Gorgio (non-Gypsy) aristocratic grandfather, and he believes she sold him to the man for a mere one hundred guineas. His grandfather was not happy about his only grandson and heir being half-Gypsy, so he treated Nicholas with nothing but disdain. The only person who was genuinely nice to him was the village Methodist preacher, whom his grandfather hired to tutor him until he was ready for Eton. There Nicholas met his three best friends in the world, and the four of them together earned themselves the nickname The Fallen Angels. Once grown, he eventually married, but the union was fraught with difficulties until both his grandfather and his wife died on the same night. Village gossips believe that Nicholas had an affair with his step-grandmother (a very young woman), which broke his grandfather’s heart and sent his wife fleeing the estate, only to die in a carriage accident. After that, Nicholas left the country for four years and has only recently returned to his family’s estate, which he is thinking of trying to sell because of all the bad memories it holds. All that changes when the feisty young local schoolmistress, who also happens to be the preacher’s now-grown daughter, comes calling, demanding that he do something about the mine safety and the flagging economy of the village. Despite her ordinariness and pedestrian background, she stirs his interest in a way that nothing else has in a long time. Nicholas decides he’d like to seduce her into becoming his mistress, so he strikes a devil’s bargain with her: he’ll do all that she asks if she stays at the mansion with him for three months and allows him to kiss her once each day.
It seems that Thunder and Roses reminded me of more than one book, as Nicholas’s character was very reminiscent of the hero of another historical romance I recently read. Both characters begin the story as dissolute, selfish rakes, who have every intention of making the heroine his mistress. However, the hero of that other story went down in flames for me when he forced himself on the heroine. This is where Mary Jo Putney earned my eternal gratitude and major kudos with Nicholas. Yes, he begins the story with no real interest in actually helping people. His bargain with Clare is little more than a game at first, but he grows and changes as he sees first-hand how difficult it is for the miners and the other people of the village. He also treats Clare with the utmost respect, always allowing her to say when their kisses are over and never once forcing her to do anything that she didn’t want to. In so doing, he gradually earns her trust and respect in return, as well as her desire for more intimacies. Being with Clare ultimately makes Nicholas a better man. Except for those few selfish moments, I really liked him. His Romany background makes him unique, as the first hero with Gypsy heritage I can recall reading. He additionally has a talent for music and a live-in-the-moment attitude. He’s a loyal friend to his fellow Fallen Angels and he bears respect for some of the village residents whom he remembers from childhood. While he perhaps didn’t stand out quite enough to rank highly on my favorite heroes list, he nonetheless was a good one.
After the death of her father and mother, Clare lives alone and works as the local schoolmistress. She takes her responsibilities to her fellow villagers as well as her Christian duty to help them very seriously. As the teacher, she knows of all their hardships, so she goes to the Demon Earl in hopes of persuading him to help. Of course, he won’t lift a finger unless she agrees to his proposition, which will likely ruin her in the eyes of the villagers, who would never allow her near their children again. But knowing how desperately they need Nicholas’s help, she impetuously agrees, hoping that maybe she can salvage her reputation by being honest with a few of her closest Methodist friends and painting the situation as her acting as his housekeeper to everyone else. Of course, things don’t exactly go as planned, earning her censure from some of her fellow churchgoers, but she gradually makes progress in getting Nicholas to see the error of his ways and spurs him to get involved in making changes that benefit everyone. Clare is a feisty, take-charge kind of heroine who still has a softer, more compassionate side. She grows to care for Nicholas very quickly as she sees the man underneath the rakish exterior and the scandalous past. She never pressures him for details of what actually happened that night and he doesn’t give them until the very end, but instead she trusts that the man she’s come to know and love would never do something so terrible. As a person of faith, one of the things that I appreciated most about Clare’s character is her crisis of faith, how despite going through the motions every Sunday and having a preacher father, she doesn’t feel particularly close to God until Nicholas teaches her how to open herself up and truly love another human being.
With Thunder and Roses being a seven-book series, we’re introduced to a few secondary characters who play key roles in future books, Nicholas’s three best friends in particular. Lucien (Dancing on the Wind) is a smooth and perceptive spy-master, while Rafe (Petals in the Storm) is a duke who seems almost as bored with life, if not more so, than Nicholas. I’ll be interested to see what type of woman these men need to keep them in line. Then there’s Michael, who’s harboring a huge grudge against Nicholas that seems to be rooted in that scandalous night. I had my suspicions as to why but for the most part I was somewhat surprised by how this part of the story played out. Michael is a former soldier who appears to be suffering from PTSD and can be rather harsh, but he has a good side, too. Again, I’ll be very interested in reading more about him in Shattered Rainbows. Then there are some memorable characters from among the villagers, most notably Clare’s friends, Owen and Marged, and their large brood of children. They’re still in love after several years of marriage and Owen is a truly good man who takes great care of everyone.
Overall Thunder and Roses was a very good introduction to Mary Jo Putney’s work. The only reason I marked off a half-star is because the story is a little slow in places and I found my mind wandering just a bit, but it didn’t usually last long before the next exciting or intriguing this was happening. I also give the author kudos for her attention to historical details. When I read her author’s note at the end of the book, I was impressed with all the little things she included, which of course added to the authenticity of time and place. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that Nicholas’s penguins absolutely enchanted me. They were definitely the first penguins I’ve read in a romance novel, so they completely took me by surprise.:-) I very much enjoyed the book and look forward to continuing the series soon to see all the Fallen Angels get their HEAs....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Ecstasy Unveiled was yet another excellent book in Larissa Ione’s Demonica series. In fact, it has now edged ahead as my favorReviewed for THC Reviews Ecstasy Unveiled was yet another excellent book in Larissa Ione’s Demonica series. In fact, it has now edged ahead as my favorite in the series thus far. It has all the action, adventure, and intrigue I’ve come to expect, along with a healthy dose of romance and lots of steamy, almost erotic level love scenes. It’s also masterfully plotted in such a way as to keep me on the edge of my seat with never a dull moment. While I’ve enjoyed all the books in the series and consider them all keepers, this one resonated with me just a little deeper. I think that’s because I related to both of the main characters a bit better, as each of them showed more of the emotional vulnerability that I prefer in romance heroes and heroines. The supporting characters are excellent as well. All the ingredients put together made for an incredible thrill ride that I loved reading from start to finish.
Idess is a Memitim, an earthbound guardian angel who was raised as a human and has yet to ascend into heaven. She has heavenly powers, though, and is tasked with looking out for her Primori, the charges she must keep alive at all costs, as they’re crucial to some event that has yet to occur. It’s not until she fulfills her mission that she will earn her wings and be allowed to leave Earth. Her newest Primori is Kynan, a human Aegis Guardian who holds a powerful amulet and is like a brother to the three Seminus demon brothers who run Underworld General Hospital. Unfortunately their other newfound blood brother, Lore, is an assassin who is tasked with killing Kynan, so that pits Idess against him. She doesn’t want to kill Lore, but she’ll do anything to stop him from succeeding, including taking him to her home and chaining him to her bed.
Idess is my favorite heroine so far. She’s the perfect mixture between kick-butt warrior and sweet angel. She’s tough and isn’t afraid to fight when necessary, yet she has a much softer side as well. She’s very nurturing and loving toward Lore, which is something he’s never had in his life, as well as understanding and forgiving of his past and all the terrible things he’s done. She’s not afraid of Lore’s “gift” and makes what she believes will be the ultimate sacrifice to help Lore save his sister and nephew. She also has an air of innocence about her. While not a virgin, she took a vow of celibacy centuries ago, believing that once she knew she was an angel, if she ever had sex with anyone, much less a demon, she would never be able to ascend. Yet at the same time, she’s no shrinking violet when it comes to expressing what she wants sexually. In a lesser author’s hands, Idess could have easily become a contradiction, but instead, she made perfect sense to me. I loved everything about her and think she was a great heroine.
Lore is half-human, half-Seminus demon, sharing the same father with the other Sem brothers. Sems aren’t supposed to mate with humans, and as the offspring of such a union, his abilities are corrupted. He didn’t come into a knowledge of what he was until he was twenty when his dermoire markings erupted. Ever since, he can kill with a single touch of his right hand (or bring someone back to life if he chooses). Without sexual release, he can turn into a raging Hulk-like beast who forgets where he is and has a single-minded pursuit of killing. Yet, at the same time, he rarely mates with a female, as he risks killing her because his “gift” is outside his control when he climaxes. Only once has he ever had sexual contact without accidentally killing his partner, something that he feels guilty about. Therefore he tends to lead a pretty lonely life. Before he discovered that he had brothers, whom he doesn’t know very well yet, the only person he ever cared about was his sister, Sin. When he went into rage mode in his youth, he left her alone out of a fear of hurting her, something else that he feels guilty for. But when he found out Sin was indentured to an assassin master, Lore tried to get her freed and ended up enslaved as well. He’s assassinated many marks and Kynan will be his hundredth and last, the one that will free him once the job is completed. However, if he doesn’t succeed in making the kill, Sin will be killed instead. Of course, this leaves him with little choice but to follow through even though he knows Kynan is friends with his brothers and that they wouldn’t hesitate to kill him to save Ky.
I really liked Lore and felt like I understood him a bit better than his brothers. Perhaps that’s because he has a human side and seemed a touch more vulnerable. Although he can go into cold-blooded assassin mode, he also has a caring side and would do anything for his sister, including giving his life. He quickly finds that he’s more attached to his brothers and their families than he thought, too, and is surprised to find that their distrust of him is somewhat hurtful even though justified. When he meets Idess, he becomes the moth to her flame. She’s everything that’s been missing in his life, sweetness, goodness, and light, yet she’s not afraid to fight by his side. He’s deathly fearful of killing her if he gets too close, but he can barely resist the temptation she presents. When he discovers that their powers complement each other, it’s an eye-opening moment that leaves him feeling like he’s met his missing half. I like that he had a reasonable side and was willing to work with Idess to find a way to not have to kill Kynan while hopefully not losing Sin either.
The Demonica novels are a tightly woven series with lots of supporting characters. All the past Sem brothers, Eidolon, Shade, and Wraith, along with their families play a part. It was hard to see Eidolon and Shade at odds, but I was glad that it was caused by something supernatural and not just their own hard heads. As Lore’s intended victim, Kynan is there, as well, along with his new wife, Gem. Sin plays a huge role, and she reminds me a little of Tayla. She’s an alpha female who doesn’t take crap from anyone and who hides any softness she might possess. I think there are some glimmers of vulnerability in her, and I’ll be interested to see if she lightens up. She has a brief, steamy encounter with Conall a dhampire paramedic at UGH. I think these two make an interesting pairing and look forward to their story, which is the next full-length novel of the series, Sin Undone. We also see the angel, Reaver, and Idess’ father, Azagoth, both of whom get self-titled books later in the series. Lastly we have the baddies. Detharu is Lore’s and Sin’s assassin master, but a mystery guy named Rariel is the one who hired Deth’s underlings for the job. I did figure out who he was a little bit before the reveal, but it was still fun getting there. However, the real villain who’s pulling the strings both with the assassinations and with the supernatural occurrences at UGH is definitely a surprise.
Overall, Ecstasy Unveiled was a great read. I must say that Larissa Ione is masterful at keeping the sexual tension flowing while not quite letting her characters go all the way. She did the same thing in the previous book of the series, and I’m extremely impressed with the way she’s written some of the most creative and sexiest, not-quite-sex scenes I’ve ever read in a romance. Lore and Idess may not have intercourse until near the end, but everything that came before was still smokin’ hot, so much so that I almost gave the book the full five hearts on my sensuality scale. The other thing that I loved is Ms. Ione’s ability to tell just enough story to make it completely satisfying while leaving just enough loose ends trailing to tease the reader into the next book. I can tell there’s a lot of story left to tell and I can’t wait to get to Sin’s book, but first is the novella, Eternity Embraced, which I’m very much looking forward to as well....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Erin Wathen happens to be the former pastor of the church I currently attend. She was already gone before I found the church aReviewed for THC Reviews Erin Wathen happens to be the former pastor of the church I currently attend. She was already gone before I found the church and started going there, but I’ve been happy to get to know her a little through her writing. The more of her work I read, the more convinced I am that I would have loved her if I’d gotten to know her in person. Our church book club previously read her first book, More Than Words, and I was very impressed with it. But after reading Resist and Persist, I think I like it even better. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because gender equality is a timely topic with the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements in the spotlight or maybe it’s just because I related so well to everything Reverend Wathen had to say. Whatever the reason, I very much enjoyed this book and feel that it was a strong and much-needed manifesto on feminism and the role faith should play in furthering the cause.
Both Reverend Wathen and I come from a mainline protestant denomination that tends to have more progressive views, so I’m sure that she’ll likely receive pushback on many of her ideas from the church at large. However, I can’t help but agree with her on the fact that the patriarchy found in many churches is partly to blame for the misogyny and sexism that a lot of women face. I’ve seen it firsthand in churches I used to attend, and I see it frequently in news stories of abuse or abuse cover-ups in faith communities. So in that respect, I know that persons of faith must do better. We must clean up our own houses of worship first before we can take it into the wider world and expect to be respected.
I really liked how Reverend Wathen takes a look at not just patriarchy but all the different aspects of the gender equality issue. She discusses internalized misogyny and how women themselves can contribute to the problem, as well as privilege, and how women of color sometimes get left out of the equation. She also takes a look at etymology and how the language of equality can be a useful tool to promote healing. In addition, she covers topics such as The Motherhood Myth, Equal Pay and Representation, Double Standards and Demanding Routines for women, and the silencing of women in public spaces. I especially appreciated her coverage of Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault, issues that are now making headline news, but which we still have a long way to go to eradicate. And finally she wraps it all up with a discussion of one of the hottest hot-button topics: abortion. Yes, she did dare to go there, but in a sensible manner which I think more people need to examine as a possible way forward in this debate.
Whichever aspect of gender equality she was discussing, Reverend Wathen did so in a straightforward way while still embodying compassion, love, and understanding. And whatever the topic, I agreed with her wholeheartedly. I know many will not agree with either one of us, but if we are ever to make progress and stop treating women like second-class citizens, logical and balanced steps like the ones the author presents in this book are desperately needed. I didn’t used to think that I was a feminist, maybe because of the old connotations associated with the word or maybe because I’ve made choices in my own life that I felt many feminists would disdain. But the older I get, the more I realize I actually am one, no matter what the rest of the world may think, and my absolute love of Resist and Persist has only solidified that belief, as well as my understanding of the issues of gender equality. I highly recommend the book to anyone who is seriously looking for a way to put their faith into action in the fight for gender equality....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Oh, the feels! Dearest Ivie took me on an emotional roller coaster ride that had me worried for a little while. J. R. Ward oncReviewed for THC Reviews Oh, the feels! Dearest Ivie took me on an emotional roller coaster ride that had me worried for a little while. J. R. Ward once dared to kill off a main character, so when things started going south in the story, I was very concerned that she might be doing it once more. I had at least some faith that she wouldn’t disappoint her fans like that yet again, but at the same time, she knew how to wring so much emotion out of the situation, I couldn’t help but be tensely awaiting the hoped-for positive outcome. When it came, it left me with a huge sigh of relief and a few happy tears.
Ivie is a nurse at Havers’ clinic, who is very dedicated to her job. She’s a commoner from a back-woodsy biker family with a dad who’s a little scary-looking but has a good heart. When she randomly meets Silas in a cigar bar, it’s been a frustrating day with her having been turned away from a potential job as a private nurse for a wealthy aristocrat. She’s not really in the mood to be flirtatious, especially with a member of the glymera, so when Silas asks her out, she turns him down flat. He, however, leaves the invitation open, and after having a day to think it over, she decides to throw caution to the wind. What she finds is a male who is anything but the stuffy aristocrat she expected and she finds herself falling hard and fast for his charms. But when he informs her that he’ll soon be returning to the Old Country, she’s disappointed beyond belief but determined to make the most of the time they have left. Ivie is a very strong-willed female who isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Sometimes it may come out a little strange or awkward, but most of the time, it’s about her being confident and assertive. She embraces life to the fullest, yet isn’t afraid of death. What I loved most about her, though, is her fighting spirit that makes her unwilling to accept things as they are and her willingness to stand by her male no matter what and give him all the care, kindness, and love she has in her heart and that he so richly deserves.
The entire novella is written from Ivie’s third-person perspective, so we don’t get a lot of insights into Silas’s mind. This is probably for the best, though, because it allowed the author to retain an air of mystery around him. He’s instantly smitten with Ivie, loving her sense of humor and her zest for life. He just wants to give her everything he possibly can in the short time he has before he must leave. However, he’s harboring a very big secret that changes everything once the cat is out of the bag. I couldn’t help but love Silas from the moment he appeared and was rooting for him to overcome the near impossible hurdle that threatens to keep him from spending even more time with Ivie. The way J. R. Ward resolved this was pure genius and I was very excited when she brought in one of the newest members of the BDB family to help out.
Dearest Ivie is set in the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Silas and Ivie are brand new to the series, but in addition to Havers, we get to see three other series characters who shall remain nameless so as to not give too much away. Havers seems to have softened a bit since the early days when he was lording patriarchal BS over Marissa, and this is one of the few times in recent memory that we’ve actually gotten to see him in action as the talented healer of the race. Then there’s Ivie’s colorful family who liven things up. I particularly liked her cousin Rubes and wonder if there might be a future story for her.
I’ve read a couple of other novellas this month that, while enjoyable, didn’t quite fully convince me of the characters’ love for one another. It can be a very difficult proposition for an author to write a story that takes place over a short time frame and still make that all-important connection between the characters. Dearest Ivie has that in spades. I was absolutely enthralled by the prospect of the Silas and Ivie pairing from the minute they exchanged their first dialogue. Their chemistry is completely combustible, and I’m not just talking about the sex, although that’s great, too. They just fit together perfectly in every way, so I wasn’t the least bit bothered by the “I love yous” coming so quickly. Theirs is simply a beautiful, emotionally taut, sexy, intense, tear-jerker of a story that has more than earned keeper status from me. I hope that perhaps we haven’t seen the last of Silas and Ivie, as the author hinted at a loose end or two that I hope might be resolved at some point in the future. In any case, this little nugget from the BDB world has me eager for more, so I’m very happy that I already have the next full-length novel, The Thief, at the top of my TBR pile to read next month....more