Archives for January 2011

Review: The Dark Highlander

Reviewed by Jen

The MacKeltars are back.  The sexy 16th century Highlander twins are now living in present day.  Drustan, our hero from Kiss of the Highlander, is happily married to Gwen in Scotland, awaiting the birth of their twins.  But Dageus is having a rough time.

Just three years after the gypsies put his brother in an enchanted sleep, a fire in the castle killed him. Dageus couldn’t live with that, so he used his Druid powers to go back in time and save Drustan.  Using time-travel for personal gain broke the vows of the family’s covenant with the Fae and as a result, Dageus is cursed.  Inside of him, he carries the souls of 13 evil and powerful Druids who want to take over his body. His father is so upset with what has happened, Dageus leaves his home and travels ahead to the time his brother would awaken.

The only thing that keeps the demon spirits at bay inside Dageus is… you guessed it… sex.  So he has alot of it.  But he never gives his heart. Until he meets Chloe. When the young lover of antiquities finds out he’s been stealing ancient texts, he takes her prisoner in his home.  But she isn’t a prisoner for long. They quickly fall for each other, despite their differences.  Dageus is working to find a cure for his curse –which leads them to Scotland and eventually back in time.  All the while, their passion is growing and so is their love.

I didn’t love this one quite as much as Kiss of the Highlander. To be honest, I think I was a little put off by Dageus rejecting women like Katherine in the beginning: 30-something year-old women with world experience… good enough for a tumble, but the 20-something year old virgin is the kind for marrying.  Not that I have a problem with Chloe as our heroine.  It just rubbed me wrong.  Maybe because I am a 30-something year old woman with world experience.

I also like my Highlander books set in the past better than the ones in present day.  But the love scenes were solid and Dageus was verra sexy. It was also great to spend time with all of our familiar characters from the last book.  4 1/2 stars.

Review: Kiss of the Highlander

Reviewed by Jen

After finishing up Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, I decided to give a re-read to MacKeltar Highlander books –and I had almost forgotten how much I love them.  And Drustan’s story has got to be one of my favorites.

Back in the 16th century Scotland, an old woman gets a vision that links her son’s death to the laird of the MacKeltar clan. So she pays off some gypsies to enchant him in a deep sleep.  In the present day, American Gwen Cassidy stumbles upon his body during her Scottish vacation and inadvertently wakens him from his long sleep. When he realizes that he is centuries ahead of his time, he convinces the virginal Gwen to help him get back to the site of his family’s castle.  During their journey, sparks fly. And when Drustan realizes his family line has died off, he decides that he will use his Druid powers to take him and Gwen back in time to avert the attack on him.  Unfortunately, he sends them too far back, to a time before he was enchanted. He can’t share space with the former version of himself, so the Drustan that Gwen knows, disappears, leaving her to convince a Drustan she has never met, that are supposed to be together.

Moning is a fantastic urban fantasy writer, but before that, she was a master at romance.  The love scenes between Drustan and Gwen are sooo hot.  Goodness gracious… hot enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if they inspired mass bookings of “vacations” in Scotland, on the off-chance another MacKeltar is somewhere in the Highlands, waiting to be found. Och!

And for a little bit of lagniappe, know that the MacKeltar story continues with Dageus’ book The Dark Highlander. And the MacKeltar clan is back, making cameos throughout the Fever series, with their biggest impact in Shadowfever.

Yum. 5 stars.

Review: The Highlander’s Touch

Reviewed by Jen

The mischievous Fae, Adam Black, is wreaking havoc in Scotland again.  He has made Circenn Brodie immortal against his will… and tasked the Highlander with protecting the holy items of the Fae.  While under his care, a flask holding an immortality elixir goes missing. So Circenn curses the flask to be returned to him when it’s found.  It takes hundreds of years… but when the item shows up in the museum where Lisa is working, she becomes the first person to touch it.  And she and the flask go back to the 1300′s.

Circenn never dreamed that his curse would involve time travel or a woman. In fact, Adam had forced him to vow to kill the man who returned with the flask. But when faced with Lisa, he just can’t do it.  The normally stalwart and honest warrior, resorts to lie upon lie to hide who Lisa is and hide the fact that he has broken his oath.  Meanwhile, Lisa is desperate to return home, to care for her dying mother.  But a string of unlikely events leave the couple engaged and they begin to fall for each other. They both fight it, though… Lisa because of her guilt over leaving her mom and Circenn, because he fears the heartbreak of Lisa’s eventual death as he lives on in immortality.

Each one of the Highlander books in this series is better than the one before.  Both Circenn and Lisa have every reason be hesitant but their obstacles make it even sweeter when they finally come together.  (And as with all of Moning’s books, the love scenes are very, very hot.) It’s also a fun and unexpected reveal when we find out WHY Adam has taken such an interest in Circenn’s life.  4 stars.

Review: To Tame a Highland Warrior

Reviewed by Jen

Grimm Roderick isn’t your average Highlander. He is a warrior of legend — a Berserker.  He first called the beast within him when he was just 14 years old. He had seen his mother killed and his village raided.  He embraced the Berserkergang and slaughtered the enemy. But then he ran away from home, convinced everyone saw him as a monster and that his father was responsible for his mother’s death. After wandering in the forest for two years, he was adopted by another family and quickly became enamoured of their young daughter Jillian.  He believed, though, that she’d be better off without him and left when he realized they had feelings for each other.

Now, seven years later, Jillian’s dad has summoned him back to their land.  Grimm and two other men will vie for Jillian’s hand in marriage. Of course, Jillian has eyes only for Grimm… as she has since she was a child.  Grimm is determined to see her wed to a better man than himself, but she is determined to have him for her own.

It was a good story.  Grimm is a solid tortured hero.  He believes he is damaged goods and he has Jillian so high on a pedestal, he can never measure up.  Jillian, meanwhile, is so true to Grimm in her heart that she refuses to even consider a life with anyone else.  It takes a little while for the two of them to seal the deal, but it’s a not a boring wait.  There is great angst and romance.

Almost 4 stars.

Review: Beyond the Highland Mist

Reviewed by Jen

I am a big fan of Karen Marie Moning. I love her Highlander books and her Fever series.  But Beyond the Highland Mist was written before she hit that sweet spot in her writing that made me a fan for life.  It’s not that it’s a bad book –it’s not. It’s just a little better than a standard OK-romance novel.

Hawk Douglas is the sexiest and hottest lover to ever grace the Highlands.  And when the Fairy Queen wishes to make her consorts jealous, she sings his praises.  It works. They decide to punish him by pairing him with a woman who will deny him.  The Court Fool, Adam Black, plucks Adrienne out of the present day and drops her into the lap of Hawk’s fiance’s father.  Janet, the woman Hawk is supposed to marry –though he has never met, is actually dead. So her father forces Adrienne to impersonate his daughter and marry Hawk.

Adrienne has been badly betrayed by her former fiance and she has sworn off “beautiful men.” When you couple that with Hawk’s reputation as a womanizer, she vows never to give in to his advances. Of course that makes him want her all the more.  To complicate matters further, Adam Black has insinuated himself into the picture, posing as an uber-sexy blacksmith, also vying for Adrienne’s attentions.

What I think I liked least about this book is that when seduction seemed to fail, Hawk turns to other methods to force Adrienne’s affections.  The story compares it to “seeling” a falcon and, yes, by that point, Adrienne was secretly in love with him.  But it still did not sit well with me.

Of course, Adrienne has her flaws too. She is downright cruel to Hawk, even when we get to a point where he clearly is in love with her. We all have our hang-ups and fears but there were times I found myself yelling at her to just get over it already.

Otherwise, the story was alright. It doesn’t measure up to Kiss of the Highlander, but it is in this book we meet the illustrious Adam, who plays a role in almost every Highlander story and even makes a cameo in the last Fever book. He’s a very different “man” than he becomes over time, but it’s interesting to see his evolution through the books. 3 1/2 stars.

Review: Shadowfever

Reviewed by Jen

Before I started this book, there was a big part of me that believed there was no way I could be satisfied when I was done. There were simply too many questions to be answered, too many loose ends to ever tie up in a way that both made sense and appeased my need for a happily ever after. I was wrong.

There is so much packed into these pages that when I think back to the question, “Who is the beast?” it seems like a lifetime ago. It’s no wonder you don’t get much information from the summary regarding what this book is about (it mostly recaps the series as a whole.) I find that even trying to talk about it in generalities reveals fantastic developments in the plot. So if you haven’t read Shadowfever yet, I urge you to avoid the spoilers below, with my reassurance that it’s a fantastic book that left me wholly satisfied and warm inside.

The first chapter of this book shredded me. (*spoilers*) When Mac thought she had killed Barrons, I cried for her. I ached. Then I watched her put herself together; to take the hard lessons Barrons taught her and live, so that his death was not in vain. This is not the Mac of Darkfever. She is powerful, but hollow. She finally gets her showdown with the Lord Master, but his death is decidedly anticlimactic. I felt cheated. But I guess that was the point.

Mac seemed to learn so much about herself and her feelings with Barrons’ death. It was disappointing to see so much of it go out of the window when they were finally reunited. She was ready to end the world for him, yet suddenly, overhearing a phone call makes her regress utterly? It was one of the few parts of the book that left me frustrated. It was hard to see the roles reverse between Barrons and Mac… to see him so vulnerable… And when she finally looked inside his mind and learned what he was feeling while she was Pri-ya… Sigh.

Without spoiling the details, I can tell you some of the questions that are finally answered: What is Mac? Who killed Alina and why? Who is the Unseelie King? Who is the King’s consort? Who is the Dreamy-Eyed Guy? Who is Cruce? Who was the dying boy in Barrons’ memory? What is under the garage? And perhaps the best question of all… who is the real villain in the story? The answer to that last one blew me away.

Karen Marie Moning has created a tale of twists and turns that kept me guessing until the very end. NO ONE should read this book without reading the other books in the series first. And after reading this fifth installment, I’m sure many fans will go back to the previous books and read the stories from a new perspective, knowing truths we never dreamed of when it all began. There are enough threads that I can easily see more books in this Fever world, but I promise there is no cliffhanger here. Just a fantastic ending to a creative and enthralling story.

I’d give it more than 5 stars if I could.

Review: Dreamfever

Reviewed by Jen

Back in Bloodfever, Karen Marie Moning wrote, “Your joy can only fill you as deeply as your sorrow has carved you.” And as this latest chapter in the Fever series shows, the author is not shy about just how deeply our heroine can know loss.  If you haven’t read Faefever, read the spoilers ahead at your own risk.

At the end of the last book, Mac was raped by three Unseelie Princes. She has become the Priya (Fae sex addict) we have heard about throughout the series.  Her conscious mind is gone. All that is left is the desire for sex.  Seeing Mac at her lowest is very difficult. But the first section of this book teaches us a lot about the people who come to her rescue.  We learn that Dani, fellow sidhe-seer is a real and true friend. And we learn that Mac’s mentor, Jericho Barrons, has real, vested feelings toward her.  The consummation of their relationship lacked everything I’d hoped for. But I think that was the point.  Mac says in this book that she wishes she could so much as kiss a man because it was her choice to do so.  Her rape has ripped away her ability to choose. And not only does she lose out –so do we. We miss the big moment where their relationship changes, because Mac isn’t even really there.

It’s tough stuff

As the story continues and Mac recovers, we see how she has truly transformed from the flighty girl we met in Darkfever. We see more and more, through his gruff words, how much of an impact she has made on Barrons.  And despite the fact that they’ve crossed a physical threshold, they are still struggling as much as ever to come together in a real way.

There is a lot of story development surrounding what’s happening with the Fae’s infiltration into our world; what’s happening with the Light Fae Prince V’Lane; and Mac’s lineage.  But I’d be loath to end this review without a mention of the HUGE cliffhanger at the end of the book.  As big of a cliffhanger as our last book had, I think this one was even bigger.  I finished this book 6 months before Shadowfever came out and it was pure torture waiting to find out what really happened.  Who is the beast? Is he really dead? Is it Christian? Is it Barrons? Is Ryodan a good guy or a bad guy?  A person could tie themselves in knots waiting for answers.  So don’t read this book without Shadowfever standing by.  I can’t wait to see if the conclusion of this series can hold on to the high standards set by its predecessors.  5 stars.

Review: Faefever

Reviewed by Jen

The Fever series plunges to new levels of darkness in its third installment, Faefever.  It’s not until second (and third) readings of these books that I came to appreciate the masterful way Karen Marie Moning sets up each one with a present-day Mac looking back on events that have already occurred.  This book begins with the line, “I’d die for him.” And as innocuous as it may seem before the events unfold, by the time you get to the end, the meaning is both wrenching and shocking.

In this book we really see the emergence of the other sidhe-seers as players in the game between humans and the Fae.  Like Mac, they can see the Fae, but unlike her, they cannot sense their holy objects. They need Mac to help them find the powerful dark book that it seems everyone is looking for.  Their leader distrusts Mac and influences most of the other women to feel the same. But Mac finds a friend in the young Dani. The teen becomes an important force in this story and the next –and a surrogate sister for the one Mac lost.

V’Lane, the Light Fae Prince, is back. And we see now, more than ever, that the animosity between him and Mac’s mentor, Barrons, runs deep.  V’Lane is fascinating, but the real sex appeal continues to lie with the mysterious Barrons.  After he and Mac nearly did the deed in the last book, you can cut the tension between them with a knife.  He barely bothers to mask his attraction for her, his jealousy of V’Lane.  It’s all coming to a head and I found myself holding my breath, turning the pages, to see what would happen between them next.

This book is a crossroads for the series –and a major event takes place that changes everything from here on out.   And what happens at the end, makes Mac’s time with Malluce in Bloodfever feel like a blip on the radar in comparison.  It’s a shocking cliffhanger –the biggest yet– and I urge you to have Dreamfever waiting nearby when you’re done. 5 stars.

P.S. Loved, loved, loved the mentions of more MacKeltars from the Highlander books. And the reveal of the Lord Master’s identity was an exciting twist for anyone who has read The Immortal Highlander. –If you haven’t read it.. you can check it out for his backstory. It’s not necessary for the Fever books, but it adds another rich  layer for Moning fans.

Review: Bloodfever

Reviewed by Jen

The Fever series continues with this second installment of Karen Marie Moning’s masterful urban fantasy.  And it picks up in the aftermath of where Darkfever left off.  MacKayla Lane is still searching for her sister Alina’s killer.  But now she believes she knows who it is: the man who dubs himself “The Lord Master;” the man who is helping to usher the Dark Fae into our world; the man who was Alina’s lover. After her last conflict with him, she barely escaped with her life.  Now he seems to be lying low.

That doesn’t mean Mac doesn’t have a full plate.  She is still searching for the Dark book of the Fae, as was her sister’s dying wish. And her partner in the search, the enigmatic and sexy Jericho Barrons is pushing her limits as a sidhe-seer (someone who can see the Fae beyond their glamour and sense their objects of power.)  Something is brewing between Mac and Barrons. And his former lover Fiona sees it, creating new unforseen dangers for Mac.

And walking the line between danger and pleasure, is the Fae prince V’laine.  He is almost as much of a mystery as Barrons; and with even more sex appeal. He wants the book too and isn’t above using his obvious talents to get them. V’laine and Barrons clearly have a history and neither wants Mac to trust the other. But how can she trust either of them when no one will be truly honest with her?

This is a dark book.  We see cruelty, evil, betrayal and torture.  We see Mac begin to evolve (or de-evolve) into something stronger, more primal.  The heat between her and Barrons is scorching. But make no mistake, this is no romance. It’s hot and sexual and it had me re-reading one particular scene in a cave about 10 times before moving on.

Each one of the Fever books builds on the one before it. Each one is stronger; the world building more intricate.  Granted, that means we have a lot of characters to keep up with.  Some are holdovers from Darkfever.  And one (Christian MacKelter) is a surprising cross-over character from Kiss of the Highlander.  (You don’t have to read Moning’s Highlander books to enjoy the Fever series. The ties in this book and the others are very slight and are really more like Easter Eggs for those of us who did read them.)

Every book ends with a cliffhanger and this one is no different.  So I hope you have Faefever ready. You’ll want it when you are done with this one.  4 1/2 stars.

Review: Darkfever

Reviewed by Jen

I’ve heard more than one person say they can tell whether they will like a book if it hooks them from the beginning. I can tell you that if I subscribed to that notion, I would have missed out on one of the best series I’ve ever read. Darkfever didn’t hook me from the start. In fact, I thought about putting it down a couple of times at the beginning. The story is about a 22 year-old blonde Georgia peach, who lives with her mom and dad. She likes pink and happy music. She grates on me. But having read the entire book and the three after it, I see that we had to meet Mac when she is this way. We had to see who she was before we can truly appreciate the metamorphosis she undergoes.

Mac’s sister, Alina, was an exchange student in Ireland, when she was brutally killed. The police give up on her case quickly, prompting Mac to fly across the ocean. She only intends to push the cops to keep investigating. But she is drawn into the intrigue that was responsible for her sister’s death. Mac’s only clue about what happened to Alina is a voicemail she left hours before she died. She tells Mac that she has to find the Sinsar Dubh… and that sets Mac on a quest to find out what that is and how to find it.

On the streets of Ireland, Mac begins to see things she can’t believe are real… hideous monsters in the guise of human beings.  And one night she finds herself in an abandoned neighborhood, surrounded by a sense of dread. She barely makes it out, to a well-lit bookstore, called Barrons Books & Baubles. The man inside, Jericho Barrons, is a sexy, enigmatic man who is larger than life and somewhat foreboding. When she asks him about the Sinsar Dubh, which turns out to be a powerful book, it sets off a series of interactions that lead them into a partnership.  Barrons explains to Mac that she is a Sidhe-Seer… someone who can see the Fae and sense their sacred objects, the book being one of them.  Barrons has been looking for the book too, for reasons he doesn’t explain. They team up to find it.

Barrons is very hard to read. Mac’s descriptions of him show they are clearly attracted to each other. But there is something about him that is not entirely human.  He’s somehow more.  He’s also very tight-lipped about who/what he is and what his ultimate plans are.   There is way too much going on to plot it all out, but I can say Mac learns things about herself that change her entire view of her life; she learns what her sister was doing in Ireland and who she was doing it with; she learns that all Fae do not wear the face of a monster.

This is not a romance, despite Karen Marie Moning’s great work with her Highlander books. There is no sex to be found. But you could definitely make a case that there is something brewing between Barrons and Mac. Their interactions are complex and confusing (to Mac and to the readers.)  And they become even more so as the books progress.

It took me awhile to get into this book. But as the series continues… you fall deeper and deeper into this dark world.  The most important thing I can tell you is this: if you plan to read this series, do not begin without having all 5 books in front of you.  Start with Darkfever and read them one after another. Each book ends with a cliffhanger, and you’ll kick yourself if you don’t have the next book ready and waiting.  The wait between Dreamfever and Shadowfever nearly killed me.