Archives for April 2011

Review: Forever Vampire

Reviewed by Jen

Vail is a vampire who hates his own kind. He was raised in Faery and has sustained himself on the essence of the Fae. But he was kicked out and is now having to make his way in the mortal realm.  His step-father has reached out to him, inviting him into the family business.  Vail is wary, but he accepts the job when he is tasked to find a missing vampiress named Lyric and the stolen Fae gown she was last seen wearing. Of course, he’s not doing it out of the goodness of his heart, but because his stepfather has agreed to help him find his birth-father, Constantine, as payment.  Vail has always wanted to get his hands on Constantine, so he could kill the vampire who raped his mother all those years ago.

There is more to the Lyric’s disappearance than meets the eye. Was she kidnapped or did she run away?  Is her disappearance about the stolen Fae gown or something more?  Finding her is easy for Vail.  Not so easy, is fighting his attraction for her.  It takes no time at all for the two of them to get physical (and can I just say “Yay!” for that.)  Of course, finding Lyric is only half the mission. Vail also needs to get his hands on the dress, but Lyric is resistant to put it back in his hands.  And the two end up working together, to figure out what is really behind her mother’s deal to hand over the dress to a member of the Unseelie court.

There was a lot I liked about this book.  I am always a sucker for a good tortured hero. And with a name like “Vail the Unwanted,” you know our vampire qualifies. It’s easy to see how Vail’s hate for vampires reflects the disdain with which he has been treated his whole life. I loved watching Lyric worm her way into his heart and help teach him his worth.  She is a likeable heroine and it was very easy to root for them as a couple.  The sex was great and so was the emotion behind it.

My only beef was the combination of information overload and black holes in the history at the beginning.  It felt like there was a lot of backstory we were getting on Vail in a very condensed form…. especially when it came to Vail’s murky family ties.   This probably would not have been the case if I had read Seducing the Vampire, the story leading up to his birth.

It was absolutely worth braving a little confusion, though. The story was action packed and the love story was really good.   4 solid stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Need a Recommendation

I need some help finding a book. I am a huge romance fan. Mostly PNR & Historicals.  I like ’em a little dirty… sometimes more than a little dirty.  And I’d like to give m/m a try but I don’t really know where to start.

I love, love, love Qhuinn and Blay in the BDB books.  Never in my life did I think I would be so desperate for two guys to get down to business. Yet here I am. Unfulfilled.  I know there is a vast array of m/m books out there, so I need some direction.  I do not enjoy BDSM.  It doesn’t really bother me to have more than two people in the bed, though I don’t like more than two for a HEA.

I’m not looking for anything socially conscious or sappy or something that’s trying to change the world.  I want the m/m version of what I like in a m/f smut-book… which is engaging characters that have great sexual tension and eventually, great sex, with some kind of feelings involved. Paranormal is a plus but certainly not required.

Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

Review: The Restorer

Reviewed by Jen

It’s always a treat when you end up liking a book more than you expect to. And this was definitely the case here for me…

Amelia can see ghosts. But she has known from a young age that she should never acknowledge them. She must live on holy ground and avoid people who are haunted. Her father’s rules have served her well. But now, she finds herself in circumstances where the rules have gone out the window.

Amelia restores old cemeteries for a living. She is working on one in Charleston, when the body of a murder victim is found there. She gets drawn into the investigation, at first because of the detailed pictures she had of the site, but later, her knowledge of cemeteries and their symbolism becomes relevant as well.

The cop in charge of the investigation, John Devlin, strikes a major chord with Amelia. He’s charismatic, dark and sexy. She fights her attraction to him because he is haunted by the ghosts of his wife and child. But her feelings for him grow faster than she can push them down. Devlin is a man broken by the loss of his family, but that is changing with Amelia in his life. I loved watching their relationship develop. There is great sexual tension between these two! Devlin’s past and present are all tied in with the murder mystery… which grows more complicated as more bodies are found.

I became completely immersed in the murder case. I am a romance fan at heart, so usually I find myself wading through most stories just to get to the big relationship developments. But not here. I was just as wrapped up in the murders and the ghosts plaguing Amelia as I was in her pseudo-relationship with Devlin. There was intrigue, mystery, horror, and strong characters.

We do get a resolution to the murder arc, but many threads are left hanging as the book draws to a close… plenty of material to kick off the sequel. I can’t wait to learn more about her family history and her future with Devlin. I just wish I didn’t have to wait to find out what happens next!

5 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Review: The Guardian

Reviewed by Jen

I really enjoyed this Highlander love story! Ian and his three best friends are returning home to the Highlands after spending the past five years in France. His clan has barely survived through a terrible battle that killed their chieftain and badly wounded Ian’s father. Ian’s good friend Connor is next in line to take over the clan, but his uncle Hugh has taken advantage of his absence to take over leadership, himself. Now, Ian and his band of brothers must work to install Connor in his rightful place at the head of the clan.

Of course, there is much more to the story than that. Just before he journeyed to France, Ian was forced to marry his very young friend Sileas. Even though she was only 13, she was trying to escape an arranged marriage set up by her stepfather. Ian cared for her as a little sister, but nothing more. So when his father forced him to marry the girl, he was furious. Once he returned home, he planned to end the marriage right away. But once he sees Sileas again, he realizes that she has grown into a beautiful woman; one who has helped see his family through his absence and the many trials they faced over the years.

Sileas is a great heroine. She is utterly loyal and in love with Ian. Yet she manages to hold on to her self-respect. And that is no small feat, the way Ian has dismissed her over the years. Their love story is sweet and steamy (once the story gets that far.) Ian is a good guy, but I wanted to shake him more than once for his general stupidity when it comes to his wife.

The story has some fun twists and turns –and we’re set up nicely for future stories with Ian’s friends Connor, Alex and (my personal favorite) Duncan. I’m looking forward to seeing where their futures will go. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by Net Galley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Guardian
by Margaret Mallory
Release Date: May 1, 2011
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

Tangled Threads: Giveaway & Chat with Jennifer Estep

This giveaway is closed. The winners are mbreakfield, Allison, Kristen, Lexie & Heather.

 If you’ve never read the Elemental Assassin series, you are definitely missing out. This is a fun, fast moving Urban Fantasy series, featuring a female assassin, who can command both ice and stone magic.  The latest installment of Gin Blanco’s adventures, Tangled Threads, is just days away from release.  (If you want to want to read my review, click here.)  To celebrate, the mastermind behind Gin’s story, Jennifer Estep, is here to answer some of my burning questions about the series:

Jen: One of the things I really love about these books is that they are Urban Fantasy but not the same old vampire and werewolf fare. Explain the world of the elementals and where you got the idea for it.

Jennifer: Basically, in the Elemental Assassin series, there are humans, vampires, giants, dwarves, and elementals – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone. Some folks can also use related areas to the four main elements, like electricity is an offshoot of Air and metal is an offshoot of Stone. Anyone can be an elemental – humans, vampires, giants, and dwarves. My heroine, Gin Blanco, aka the assassin the Spider, has a very rare talent in that she can use not one but two elements – Ice and Stone in her case.

I just thought it would be cool to use elemental magic. I thought that using that sort of magic system would let me come with some interesting powers for Gin and the bad guys that she faces. For example, Gin can use her Ice magic to make knives, lockpicks, and more, while her Stone power lets her make her own skin as hard as marble. And the bad guys have everything from Fire magic to electrical powers.

Jen: Donovan Caine was Gin’s initial love interest in the early books. Did you ever intend for him to get over his issues with Gin or was their relationship doomed from the start?

Jennifer: At first, I intended for Donovan to be Gin’s love interest throughout the series. But after writing Spider’s Bite, the first book in the series, I realized that they were going to have the same argument in every book about her being an assassin. Donovan is such a straight arrow that I really couldn’t let him come around to Gin’s way of thinking without really weakening his character. So I decided to have Donovan leave Gin at the end of Web of Lies, the second book in the series.

I’m glad I made the change. Having Donovan walk out on Gin made for some great drama – and so did bringing in Owen Grayson, the sexy businessman who is Gin’s new love interest. So far, most folks seem to be on Team Owen, which is really satisfying to me. 😉

Jen: Will we ever see Donovan again? Does he feel the pins I stick into his voo-doo doll?

Jennifer: Heh. That’s funny. A lot of folks seem to not like Donovan after what he did to Gin. I’m thinking about bringing Donovan back at some point, if only so Gin can get some closure about their relationship. Donovan walked away from Gin, and she didn’t like that very much. Plus, I think I could write some interesting scenes with Gin, Donovan, and Owen. We’ll see what happens.

Jen: Do you intend to ever tell Sophia’s backstory?

Jennifer:  Readers will learn more about Sophia in Spider’s Revenge, the fifth book in the series, including why her voice is so broken and raspy. If the series goes long enough, I’d like to do a book that really delves into Sophia’s background – including the bad guys who hurt her.

Also, there’s a free short story on the Excerpts page of my website called “Tangled Dreams” that has some scenes from Sophia’s point of view. Here’s the link to read it and the other stories I’ve written for the series:

Jen: Will Spider’s Revenge be Gin’s last book?

Jennifer: Actually, I’m working on book six right now, which I’m jokingly referring to as “Gin on vacation.” Gin decides to get out of Ashland for a while, but trouble manages to find her no matter where she goes … Such is the life of an assassin. LOL.

A big thanks to Jennifer Estep for stopping by and for joining me (and some of my other blogging friends) for chat earlier this week.  You can hear her join us about 10 minutes into the chat. If you’re interested, check it out:

So, are you sold on the series yet?  If not, I’ve got something to sweeten the deal! I’m giving away 5 copies of Tangled Threads!  The contest is open to all followers of Red Hot Books in the US and Canada.  To enter, just make sure you’re following with Google Friend Connect, then leave me a comment, telling me what your favorite Urban Fantasy series is!  The contest will run through the weekend and I’ll announce the winners Sunday night.

Review: Ascension

Reviewed by Jen

Kyana is a half-breed: part Lycan, part Vampyre… the only one of her kind. And since the gates to Tartarus have been unlocked, she has been tracking the dark beings that have escaped and are wreaking havoc on the human world. She is part of the Order, a group of supernaturals devoted to fighting and policing those of their own kind who do wrong. Ky is a great tracker, and frankly that’s a good thing, since her job is really the only thing in her life, aside from her best friend Haven.

As our book begins, the Fates and the goddess Artemis tap Haven for a special job: to find the key that can lock the doors to Tartarus and re-imprison the members of the Dark Breed who have escaped. Ky is willing, but things get more complicated when they tell her she’ll have to work with Ryker, a demi-god who rejected her advances long ago. She is still attracted to him and feels the sting of his denial. What she doesn’t realize is, Ryker wanted her then and he still wants her now. He only rejected her proposition for a meaningless affair because he knew he needed more from her. He knew he would be the mate she wasn’t ready to accept.

There is a fair amount of world-building necessary here. We’ve got a book filled with Greek gods, Titans, vampires, lycans, zombies, mystics, and witches. They interact on earth, “below,” and in the realm of the gods. Personally, I didn’t have trouble keeping it straight. I thought it was all integrated quite easily into the story. The plot was pretty straight-forward and the characters clearly defined.

I liked Kyana. She’s tough and independent, though that comes from living a difficult life. She’s been through a lot, and it has made her strong, but also hard. Her feelings for Ryker seem genuine, but it’s clear he feels more for her. She just doesn’t know how to love someone… or more to the point, she doesn’t know how to be loved. This is definitely more Urban Fantasy than Paranormal Romance, but I found the relationship between Ky and Ryker to be book’s center for me. The action was great, but I wanted to see Ryker break down Ky’s walls. The sex was pretty good, though not blush-worthy. And I feel like they’re on the right track. But this book does NOT have a neat ending. There is a lot left hanging for the impending sequel. So don’t expect a HEA. Kyana isn’t there yet. But I’m left with the hope that she’ll get there… in time. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
by Sable Grace
Release Date: April 26, 2011
Publisher: Avon

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop

This contest is closed. Judy is the winner.

Everyone loves the chance to win a good book, right?  The Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop features more than 250 blogs which are giving away books or gift cards in a six day contest that runs from Wednesday, April 20 – Monday, April 25.
Red Hot Books Giveaway:  I am giving away two books to one lucky reader. They are Death’s Sweet Embrace by Tracey O’Hara and Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles by Merrie Destefano. Check them out below:

After centuries of secret conflict, humans and parahumans have reached an uneasy truce. But unspeakable evil now threatens the tenuous peace.

Teenaged shapeshifters are being slaughtered by a sadistic serial killer who rips their still-beating hearts from their paralyzed bodies. A task force forms to halt the madness, including the vampiric Aeternus Antoinette Petrescu, as well as Kitt Jordan and Raven Matokwe, members of enemy Animalian tribes . . . and forbidden lovers.

A centuries-old blood feud has divided their shapeshifting peoples, and if their passion is discovered it will doom them both. But past hostilities must be put aside, for the killer they seek is but the first sign of the all-consuming nightmare of The Dark Brethren.

Chaz Dominguez is a professional Babysitter in New Orleans, helping to integrate the recently deceased into their new and improved lives. Though Fresh Start has always been the only game in town, resurrection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Nine lives are all a person can get—and a powerful group of desperate, high-level Nine-Timers will stop at nothing to possess the keys to true immortality.

Now the only hope for Chaz and his family—and the human race—lies in the secrets locked away in the mind of Angelique, the beautiful, mysterious Newbie he must protect.

To win the books, all you have to do is tell me your favorite book so far in 2011 in a comment below.  The contest is open to Red Hot Books followers in the US & Canada. So make sure you’re following before you enter! The contest will close Monday, April 25th at 9:00pm CST.

Review: Defiant

Reviewed by Jen

Jamie and Eva are both on the hunt for Father Peter.  The priest has been kidnapped by a man commissioned by rebels to relieve King Henry of the throne. Jamie is one of the king’s men and is trying to get to the priest to bring him to Henry. Eva wants to rescue Father Peter, because he helped raise her and she believes she owes him her life.

Even though they want him for their own reasons, Jamie and Eva end up working together to find the priest.  Jamie has a dark reputation as a powerful soldier, but there are secrets behind his recklessness and violence.  Eva is wily and street-wise. She had to be, since she practically raised herself and her young ward Roger over the past 10 years.  While the two start off as oil and water, an attraction is constantly growing between them.  And the more they fall for each other, the faster the secrets between them unravel.
I had some serious issues with the language in this book. I’m not even sure how to describe it.  Let me give you an example:

“Yet not withstanding all these sensible notions, Eva was engulfed like a wick by the bright, burning knowledge that the more Jamie knew of her, the more her life would become… irrevocable.  Eva lived for revocability. Decisions were nothing but footprints in the sand: everything could be washed away. At need, Eva revoked opinions, plans, pennies, entire personal histories.”

It’s verbose.  And it feels a bit pretentious.  I suppose, for a historical, I can understand why the characters might need to talk in an affected manner, but in the narrative, it was too much.  On several occasions, it took me out of the story, because I was spending more time thinking about the words than their meaning.

The story itself was middle-of-the-road.  There was adequate action and intrigue. But hands-down, the best thing the book had going for it was the love-scenes.  Here, the author leaves any cumbersome language behind and wraps you up in a thick layer of hotness.  (Two thumbs up on the sex!)   The ending is both solid and satisfying.  3 stars.

*ARC Provided by Simon & Schuster

Review: Wait for Dusk

Reviewed by Jen

The fifth installment of the Dark Days series is Wait for Dusk, or as I like to call it The One Where Mira & Danaus Finally Have Sex. And I have got to say, this is the best one yet.

As our book begins, Mira is being tortured by the entity who kidnapped her at the end of Pray for Dawn. But it’s not an old witch woman kicking her ass… It turns out to be her “real” father, who claims to be Satan himself. Daddy’s got a mission for Mira. He wants her to learn to take control of Danaus and Jebari’s powers. And he gives her a power-upgrade so she has the ability to do it. This is a bit of a mixed bag for our vampire heroine. She finally has the juice to turn the tables on the two men who have been pulling her strings over the course of the last few books. But she’s not completely on board with the idea because 1) she is sort-of in love with Danaus and 2) she is scared Jebari will wipe the floor with her. Dad’s not giving her much of a choice in the matter.

Mira is summoned back to Venice to be officially indoctrinated into the Coven. And she brings Danaus as back-up. She knows she’s facing the threat of death from fellow coven-member Macaire. And sure enough, he orchestrates a trip for her to Budapest, where he has set the wheels in motion for her death to occur. Of course, Mira’s smarter and tougher than anyone gives her credit for. And not only does she have Danaus at her back, she’s got Valerio and Stefan with her too. There’s a fairly good plot arc about the intrigue in Budapest. But to me, the most interesting is the subplot surrounding Mira and Danaus’ evolving relationship. And now that her allegiance to him is clear in the vampire world, he is becoming her Achilles heel. Mira’s emotions are so fragile where he is concerned. And there was more than one time in the story where, I too, thought he abandoned her.

But holy cow, when these two finally get their act together…. I think I read their sex scene at least 5 times. In a row. Then when the book was over, I went back and read it again. It was that hot. Plus, I needed the distraction from the heart-wrenching ending. For as high as I got on the romance action, Jocelynn Drake shredded me utterly with Tristan’s death. Even when Mira finally wins one, she still loses.

5 stars

Review: Pray for Dawn

Reviewed by Jen

Jocelynn Drake really shakes things up with the fourth installment in the Dark Days series, by changing the first person narrative from vampire Mira to vampire-hunter Danaus. I have to say, I loved it. Having Danaus tell the story, allowed us to finally find out what’s going on inside the stoic warrior and it helped heighten the tension and mystery of the storyline.

Our story begins with Danaus fighting vamps and the naturi solo in Europe. But for the first time, he comes face-to-face with the entity that controls part of his soul. That bori now wants to cash in on his investment in Danaus by inhabiting his body fully. Of course, Danaus is not on board with the plan.

Themis summons him back to Savannah to help solve the mystery of a murdered senator’s daughter. She was killed by some other-worldly creature. So he teams up with Mira to figure out who and what killed her –and why. In the course of the story, we see Mira start to fall apart. (And by that, I mean she goes bat-shit crazy.) Yet, in her moments of clarity, she is pulling Danaus more and more into her life. We finally get some movement on the chemistry between them. But due to Danaus’ lingering reticence, they still don’t seal the deal. (Grrr.) So Danaus must figure out what is wrong with Mira, while he slowly faces the truth about who killed the senator’s daughter. Oh, and did I mention he sort of adopts a street kid in the middle of all this?

So, like I said, I loved finally hearing Danaus’ voice in this story. I loved that he and Mira finally started moving towards each other. There were some hard knocks for Mira before the book came to a close. Namely, the street kid Lily is killed by poor Tristan… and Tristan is nearly killed by Danaus. Oh yeah, Mira’s friend Emma is killed too. It really sucks to be Mira. I didn’t see any of it coming and I’m sad and kind of pissed off to see Mira kicked in the teeth yet again. The book ends on a pretty substantial cliffhanger, so be prepared. Have Wait for Dusk on hand to start as soon as this one is finished. 4 stars.

P.S. I freaking-love this cover!