Archives for July 2011

Review: Dark Magic

Reviewed by Jen

Barbarians are attacking Princess Devon’s people…. and there is nothing she can do to help.  As she sits in her room, she is visited by a strange and handsome man. He kisses and touches her in ways she’s never felt before.  And he talks of dragons and magic forbidden by her father.  Galladar comes and goes like magic and awakens feelings Devon didn’t know existed.

When Devon learns that her father plans to give her to the barbarian leader in exchange for peace, she goes on the run.  Legends tell of a dragon who may be able to help her people in exchange for a virgin sacrifice.  Devon decides she will be that sacrifice.

It’s no great surprise when we do meet the dragon.  The story is predictable, though fairly pleasant to read.  Essentially, the dragon awakens Devon to being a woman, while her innocence and goodness open up possibilities for him that he has never imagined.  Short, sweet, with a small pinch of sexy.

3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

 

Dark Magic
by Rebecca York
Release Date: August 1, 2011
Publisher: Carina Press

Review: Dark Legend

Reviewed by Jen

Just when you think you’ve met the oldest and most powerful of Christine Feehan’s Carpathian males, she produces one who’s even older and more powerful. We’ve heard the stories about the legendary Daratrazanoff twins, Gabriel and Lucian. Gregori’s older brothers were great fighters and protectors of the Carpathian people. Everyone has believed them dead for centuries, but they’ve really been locked beneath the earth all this time.

The brothers made a pact early on that should either one become a vampire, the remaining sibling would take his life. When Lucian began to show all the tell-tale signs that he had succumbed, Gabriel tried to keep his promise. The two clashed over and over again, with neither emerging the victor… until Gabriel tricked his brother and bound them together underground.

A disturbance awakens the twins in modern-day Paris. Shortly after rising to the surface, Gabriel meets Francesca, his lifemate. It turns out that she’s lived hundreds of years without him… convinced he sacrificed their chance at happiness to be a guardian for his people. Now he must break through the walls she has built around herself and convince her that they are meant to live together as one.

Francesca isn’t your average Carpathian heroine. For one, she’s already Carpathian. Two, she herself is an ancient. She is powerful in her own ways, as well as resourceful and determined. She has suffered in Gabriel’s absence all these years… but at the same time, so has Gabriel. He is, of course, a bossy, alpha, Carpathian male. But at least he values her mind and her gifts; he cares about her feelings; and feels real guilt for the way his actions have impacted her life.

I really enjoyed the twin dynamic between Gabriel and Lucien. Unlike Aidan and Julian, these two have a tangible connection. And the addition of young Skylar to the family, touches a real chord. Already, Feehan is laying the foundation for that one day love story between her and Dimitri… you know, the one I’ll get to read before I collect Social Security… or maybe not.

As with all the books in this series, there’s a bit of repetition. We get reminded of the same facts over and over. And Ms Feehan reminds us again that her favorite words are velvet, lightning and sheath. Still, one of better books in the series. A little over 4 stars.

Word count: Velvet – 18; Sheath 9; Lightning 24 (though to be fair, a few of those actually did refer to the weather phenomenon.)

Dark Legend

by Christine Feehan
Release Date: January 2002
Publisher: Leisure Books

Review: Lord of the Vampires

Reviewed by Jen

I feel like a traitor. I LOVE Gena Showalter. She is one of my top go-to authors for paranormal romance. So when I found out about this book and the Royal House of Shadows series, I was sooo excited. But (I can’t believe I’m saying this) I was disappointed. This book had all the hot sex you’d expect from a Showalter story, but for me, it was missing something substantial. I couldn’t connect with it; I couldn’t feel what the characters were feeling.

The premise of the series is this: An evil sorcerer has killed the king and queen of the magical world of Elden. But before they died, the sovereigns used their last bits of power to reach out to their four children. The king instilled in them a burning need for vengeance; while the queen wished them away to safety. Each of the four gets his or her own book, penned by a different author. Showalter’s book features the eldest prince, Nicolai.

When his mother’s magic whisked him away from the castle, he was in the middle of a sexual conquest… And with the strange way the magic worked, he reappeared as a sex slave. Some evil witch princesses bought him and had his memory erased. He doesn’t remember who he is, but his need for revenge still burns in him and on some level, he knows he is more than a slave.

Using magic, Nicolai summons a human named Jane to free him. (The how and why of this are revealed over the course of the book.) Jane appears in the visage of one of the princesses and together, they flee from the royal court. The two are instantly attracted to each other. It’s one of those “mine-at-first-sight” things. I’m not usually bothered by the whole alpha-male “mine” mentality, but here, it went on and on.  And while I am a big fan of some steamy love scenes, I tend to enjoy them most when they resolve an underlying sexual tension. I just didn’t feel the tension here… the two of them were ready to get busy with each other from the first moment they saw each other. No build-up at all. Nothing to grab me and say, “If I can’t see these two get together soon, I’ll die.”

Beyond that, I never felt a fear that something would come between them. Jane’s concerns about Nicolai’s reaction to her job felt out of left-field and contrived. Worries that he might have a woman floating around out there… suffice it to say, I wasn’t worried. Then to top it all off, I didn’t understand how Jane resolved the final obstacle to their happily ever after. Nicolai sends her a note telling her to “use her head” and then all of a sudden her science experiment works in a way it’s never worked before? I’m just… kind of at a loss.

I’m sorry, Gena, because I really do think you’re awesome. 3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Lord of the Vampires
by Gena Showalter
Release Date: August 23, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne

Series Reading Order: Royal House of Shadows

This is the reading order for the Royal House of Shadows series:

I’m Geeking Out: A Big PNR Day

I feel like a kid on Christmas morning! This has just been a fantastic day for my inner PNR geek. As my day began, I picked up and finished Storm’s Heart by Thea Harrison. It was phenomenal!! (I’ll post the review on Monday.)

Then, one of my favorite authors, Karen Marie Moning posted her much anticipated sex scene from Barrons’ point of view. If you didn’t already know, Shadowfever is my absolute favorite book of all time! This scene is a gift from Moning to her fans. And I kind of expected it to take place post-Shadowfever. But it didn’t. It’s actually set just after Barrons and Mac meet in Darkfever. If you’re scratching your head about that, just indulge your curiosity and go read it!!

I have mixed feelings about the scene. Moning left it open ended as to whether the events really took place. And I’m going to choose to believe they did not. It also kind of weirds me out that Barrons actually talks to Moning, but…. Holy hell, it was hot. Karen Marie Moning has a gift. Barrons is such a sexy, visceral character. And the sex is just… wow.

Moving on to my third thrill of the day. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series is being made into a tv show!! Oh. My. God. I die.
I’m not sure if there are enough hot men in Hollywood to adequately cast this series. And who could possibly measure up as Acheron? In related news, Kenyon’s Chronicles of Nick series is being made into a motion picture. Again, my number one concern is Ash casting.
I beg two things of the entertainment Gods:
1. Please put this series on HBO.
2. Don’t let Alan Ball anywhere near it.
I must go sit in the corner and rock myself a little while.

Review: The Taming of the Rake

Reviewed by Jen

There’s a reason we tell people not to judge a book by its cover. Nothing from the outside gives you a real feel for what you’ll find on the page here. First, I take issue with the title. Beau is not a rake and the book is in no way about changing his habits with women. Second, the cover is terrible: the models, his outfit… blech. And finally, the blurb. It makes this sound like it’s about Beau’s quest, with Chelsea as a distraction… when in fact, our heroine is truly the driving force in the story. Indulge me for a moment, and let me tell you about what you’ll really find if you open up this book.

Chelsea’s boor of an older brother Thomas wants to force her into marriage with a disgusting clergyman. So she makes a run for it, heading straight to the door of Beau Blackthorn. It’s been seven years since she last saw him…. on the day he tried to propose to her older sister Madelyn. Not only did Madelyn spurn his affections, but Thomas horsewhipped him in the street for reaching above his station. Beau may be a man of means and education, but he and his brothers are bastards and will never truly be accepted by the Ton.

Over the years, Beau has been working secretly to ruin Thomas financially. And Chelsea knows all about it. So she presents him with an offer of marriage. It will allow her escape from her brother and give Beau a chance for true revenge against the man who humiliated him all those years ago. He accepts and the two of them go on the run to Gretna Green with Thomas, Madelyn and the Reverend in hot pursuit.

On their travels, we see a real relationship begin to develop for our couple of convenience. Chelsea is determined to press forward, to create a real marriage that Thomas cannot impeach. But she can’t know how real the passion will be or that her emotions would become so invested. By the same token, Beau thinks he only accepted Chelsea’s offer for its face value. He thinks after the debacle with Madelyn, he’ll never love again –nor does he want to. But Chelsea is like no woman he’s ever known. She is bold, honest and seems not to care at all about their social differences.

I really liked Beau. He’s been kicked in the teeth, but still manages to be a good man. He’s even more appealing because he doesn’t see his own worth. Watching his tentative steps towards love is really quite nice. (And I’ll admit, I enjoyed the love scenes too.)

There are also some really engaging secondary characters. Thomas is a fairly good foil. But the big draw is Beau’s dysfunctional family. His mercurial brother Puck… his dark, mysterious brother Jack… his horrible, selfish mother. All were fascinating –and will make for some great future books.

There were only two things that really didn’t work well for me. The writing style was, at times, a bit difficult to follow. By that, I don’t mean the story was hard to follow, but rather, the sentences often felt like they had way too many words or phrases stuffed in them to read smoothly. Sometimes, there were so many dependent clauses crammed into one sentence, I’d have to go back and re-read it a couple of times to understand what it meant. The whole book wasn’t written this way, but it happened enough times that it bothered me.  Let me give you an example from the very first page:

“And so it was that, with the clouded vision of a man besotted, that the same Oliver Le Beau Blackthorn, raised to think quite highly of himself, the equal to all men, did, with hat figuratively in hand, hope in his heart and a bunch of posies clutched to his breast, bound up the marble steps to the mansion in Portland Place one fine spring morning and smartly rap the massive door with the lion’s head brass knocker.”

That is all one sentence.
My second problem was more of a plot issue. In the last quarter of the book Thomas ends up changing his outlook on life several times in just a few short chapters. I didn’t really understand what drove the developments for his character once they neared Gretna Green and it kind of left me scratching my head.
But overall, I did enjoy the book. And I look forward to seeing what happens with the other Blackthorn brothers… especially Jack. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

The Taming of the Rake
by Kasey Michaels
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Publisher: HQN Books

Review: Notorious

Reviewed by Jen

On its surface, Notorious is a sexy Regency Romance… a battle of wills between two former lovers with conflicting agendas. But underneath, it’s a story of loss, regret, and self-realization. It is, in turns, sad, steamy, frustrating, and rewarding.

Devlin and his sister Chessie have always had to scrape to make ends meet. But they finally seem to have a comfortable future in their grasp. Devlin is engaged to a wealthy woman of the Ton. He doesn’t love her, but he is pragmatic about the marriage. Chessie is in love with a wealthy peer named Fritz. And while they are not betrothed, he has been seriously courting her for some time.

All their grand plans go out the window, however, when Devlin’s former wife shows up with an eye for Fritz. (No one knows that she has really been hired by Fritz’s parents to lure him away from Chessie.) Devlin is floored by her presence. She abandoned him nine years ago, the morning after they wed… and he has thought her dead for years. It turns out that Susanna left him in an act of innocent self-sacrifice, but she lets him believe the worst of her, to keep him away. Of course, that doesn’t work.

For two people who consider themselves puppetmasters of other people’s emotions, there are very real feelings between these two. It’s kind of ironic that their initial parting is what hardened them both in so many ways. But when they are together, they are unable to maintain the walls they have worked so hard to build around their hearts.

As more and more of Susanna’s backstory is revealed, the story grows heavier and heavier. She has been through so much… and to a lesser extent, so has Devlin. Their past heartbreak is set against their flirting and fighting in the present day. And it doesn’t just make me ache for them to give in to their mutual attraction, but makes me beg for them to find a little bit of peace and real happiness. Unfortunately, their financial positions make any hopes of a happily ever after seem unlikely, if not impossible.
It was a good love story with a surprising depth. But on a side note, I have to say I had a hard time relating to Chessie and the choices she makes. The resolution of her arc left me scratching my head a little.
This is book four in the Scandalous Women of the Ton series. I haven’t read the previous books, and though Devlin’s uncle Grant and his wife were featured in an earlier book, I never felt lost.
4 stars.
*ARC Provided by NetGalley
Notorious
by Nicola Cornick
Release Date: July 19, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin

Review: Blood of the Demon

Reviewed by Jen

Ever since she was a child, Brynn has had special abilities. She can touch an object and sense the history surrounding it, and she can drain the energy of others if she tries. But she never dreamed that she was anything other than completely human. Until Keegan comes to her life. The handsome stranger kidnaps her and brings her to a New York penthouse, where he and his three brothers are staying. Keegan and his brothers are all half-demons, who work as enforcers for a kind of interspecies-council. They’ve been tasked to track Brynn down because of her special heritage.

Brynn is the last remaining descendant of an ancient Egyptian who created a book that can raise zombies. Only her blood can unlock the book’s spells. The evil and powerful demon Mammon is after the book and plans to use it (and Brynn) to take over the Earth. To stop him, the brothers must either beat him to the book or keep Brynn out of his reach… even if that means killing her.

Of course, it doesn’t take long before the spark between Brynn and Keegan to grow into a fire neither can ignore. Keegan has never sought anything for himself in his life. His only concerns have been his brothers and his duty. But Brynn touches him on a gut-level. I really enjoyed watching the two of them give in to their attraction. The sexual tension was hot and the love scenes, steamy. It was also powerful to watch Keegan struggle with making the right choices.

I enjoyed the story. The concept is simple and the world building is easy to understand. I really liked that the brothers are each made unique by their individual heritage. Their bond will clearly hold up over the course of multiple books, but their distinct quirks should keep things fresh. (I loved the reveal on Keegan’s genetic background, BTW. What a great combination!)

There were a couple of plot points where I felt like I figured things out too quickly. Then I wondered if maybe I was supposed to. It just took a little while for some reveals to catch up with things that were made obvious. But it didn’t really cut down on my enjoyment. I liked Brynn well enough, but the brothers are really the selling point of the book. Add to that a thoroughly nasty villain, a fast moving plot and some good sex –and you’ve got a winner. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Blood of the Demon
by Rosalie Lario
Release Date: August 2, 2011
Publisher: Entangled Publishing

Review: Seduced by Her Highland Warrior

Reviewed by Jen

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about a romance featuring a married couple. But for the most part, I enjoyed it. Of course, this isn’t a story about the first blush of love or the first stirrings of passion. Laren and Alex have been married for about five years. They were wonderfully in love when they exchanged their vows, but the crushing loss of a baby three years ago drove a wedge between them that they have not been able to overcome.

The book opens with the MacKinloch clan under attack. Their homes are burned to the ground and Laren is injured. Despite her wounds, she doesn’t turn to her husband. And it’s his fear of her death coupled with the realization of her distance that wakes Alex up to the serious chasm between them. He vows to fix things, but watching the two of them try to reconcile is frustrating and sad. Alex is the chief of the tribe and he expects Laren to be the lady of his people. But she is terribly shy and her childhood as a poor outcast makes her feel unable and unworthy to be what her husband wants her to be. Instead, she finds her solace in glassmaking. It’s a skill she learned from an old priest after her son’s death. She finds beauty and purpose in her art and she has done it for years in secret.

Laren’s glass can generate the money the clan needs to rebuild. But Alex feels betrayed that she has kept this secret all these years. The two of them clearly love each other. However, it’s difficult to watch them blunder through their relationship. Alex lords over Laren the same way he rules the clan. He tries to bend her to his will. Though admittedly, his intentions are good, he does real damage to her spirit and makes her feel that he doesn’t value her for who she is. At the same time, Laren is guilty of being a martyr. She hides her feelings and keeps her secrets by telling herself Alex doesn’t need to be burdened by them. I wanted to just shake them both, especially during the first half of the book.

Things do get better, though, as our couple begins to understand and accept each other. And watching them finally come together is quite lovely. There is deep loss and sadness in their relationship, but there is real love there, which makes their journey worth watching… especially once they begin to communicate.
An external threat does hover over Laren and Alex, in the form of the clan’s enemy… who is trying to crush the MacKinlochs once and for all. Also, we’ve got some strong secondary characters (like Alex’s brothers) which give the book more depth. I’m really interested to read poor Callum’s story –and I hope it comes next.
Overall, I found that I did enjoy this, especially once our couple started actually talking to each other. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Seduced by Her Highland Warrior
by Michelle Willingham
Release Date: July 19, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin

Snark: Romance Thesaurus

You all know I love romance.  Especially the ones where our hero and heroine get down to business.  But I have to take a pause to address some of the euphemisms and far-fetched notions that have become so commonplace, they borderline on ridiculous.

I understand there are only so many ways you can describe inserting Tab-A into Slot-B.  And it would get boring if every sex scene sounded exactly the same.  But despite that fact that I am decidedly NOT prone to giggling… some of these expressions have yanked me out of a hot and heavy moment and dropped me straight into giggle-town.

1. Velvet. This is by far the most overused word in all romance novels.   A penis does not feel like velvet.  Not velvet over steel. Not velvet over iron. Not even a little bit.  I had a prom dress made out of velvet once, so I know what I’m talking about.  Being female, I can also assure you that a velvet sheath is also a serious misnomer.

2. Honey.  Ha! We’d all like to think so, wouldn’t we?  If we could all convince men that there is just a big honeycomb down there, ladies would be having more fun in the bedroom worldwide.  In romance novels, it’s “honeyed heat” — in men’s locker rooms across America, “It smells like fish, tastes like chicken.”

3. Shatters into a thousand pieces.  I can imagine that it’s difficult to describe the female orgasm to someone who has never had one.  But for anyone who has, we know it doesn’t feel like that. There is also no white lightning nor shooting to the stars.

4. Dark spices.  What the hell does that mean?  At least one third of my heroes smell like this, and yet I am no closer to an olfactory experience than I was before the author described them.  At least with some commonly used males scents, like cedar or sandalwood, I can stop in the candle section at Kroger and sniff out what the author is talking about. But I am still looking for that elusive “Dark Spice” candle.

5. Biting a lower lip = turn on.  I have seen a few people chewing on their lips.  It’s not sexy.  I want to offer them Chap-Stick.

6. Women who smell/taste like strawberries & cream.  Really? First of all, women don’t smell like strawberries. OK, maybe I did for awhile in the third grade, when I played with those horrible scented Strawberry Shortcake dolls, but even those didn’t really smell like strawberries.  And for those men wondering if the lady tastes as good as she smells… see item 2.

7. Women who feel a man’s orgasm, triggering an orgasm of their own.  If women could really be brought to orgasm this way, everyone would be a lot happier, don’t you think?  Ditto on all the orgasms brought on by just pulling on nipples or inserting one finger after a big build up.  Maybe there are some really lucky ladies out there that this actually works for.  But I haven’t met any of them yet.

No doubt there are more. These are just off the top of my head. And I think I might come back and add to the list as the mood strikes me.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please share.