Archives for August 2011

Review: One Grave at a Time

Reviewed by Jen

I’ll be honest.  I went into this book fearing the worst.  The last installment in this series left me wanting and I was afraid the best days of Cat & Bones were behind us.  This book didn’t quite measure up to the glory of the early books, but it was better than the last one.

It picks up shortly after where the events of This Side of the Grave left off.  Cat is still carrying the residual effects of Marie Laveau’s blood magic.  And her uncle Don has appeared to her as a ghost.  He can’t move on to the hereafter, but no one knows why.

It doesn’t take long for the book’s big conflict to be revealed.  Elizabeth, a ghostly friend of Fabian’s, comes to Cat asking for help to destroy an evil spirit. His name is Kramer and he tortured and killed Elizabeth –as well as other women who he once branded as witches.  It seems Kramer has developed a lot of power in the hundreds of years since his death.  He uses that strength to adopt a mortal body every Halloween to continue his attacks on innocent women.  Of course, Cat can’t turn down Elizabeth’s plea.  And the rest of the story follows Cat and Bones as they work to bring Kramer down.One of the ways the last book fell short was the lack of action, but that’s not the case here.  The story moves at a fast pace and there is some tension generated by the threat from the Kramer.  The unbridled passion, discovery, and angst once featured in the Cat and Bones relationship are gone.  In their place is now a deep and abiding love between them…  Love, trust and an unbreakable faith.   Their relationship is different now. And by necessity, I guess, it takes a backseat to the main story arc.  It’s hard to make married love sexy.

Many of the series’ great supporting cast of characters are here: Charles and Denise are featured heavily… We also have Ian, Justina, Tate and Don.  And speaking of Don: there is a side story featuring him and a dastardly new character, Madigan, who is taking over Cat’s old unit.  It seemed like Frost was going somewhere with this, but it never really came together.  Maybe it will be resolved in the next book.  A little more than 4 stars.

P.S.  I’m dying for that Vlad book.

One Grave at a Time
by Jeaniene Frost
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Publisher: Avon

Review: Motor City Wolf

Reviewed by Jen

Fianna spent the first century of her life as a Fae, but thanks to a punishment from her queen, she is now forced to live as a human.  Her world has been turned upside down, but things aren’t all bad.  She is now working for Greg, an alpha werewolf who makes her feel things she has never felt before.

Greg is crazy about Fee, but he is afraid to make a move.  He doesn’t want to take advantage of her — as an employee or as someone new to the emotions of humanity.  But circumstances conspire to have the two of them locked in together in the basement of Greg’s club… on the night of the full moon.  They finally act on the attraction that has been building between them. And once the dam breaks, there is no going back.

In the meantime, someone is stalking and killing werewolves in the city.  Greg’s bar has been targeted twice, and others have fared even worse than he has.  Add to that, the Alpha Prime, Greg’s grandfather, is forcing him to mate… and there is a whole lot resting on his shoulders.  In a moment of desperation, Greg claims Fee as his mate, leaving her to wonder if their engagement is real or just a ruse to pacify the Prime.

This is the third story in the Urban Arcana series.  There is obviously a lot of backstory and a lot of characters, explained in occasional spurts of information dumps.  I don’t think I absorbed it all, but it was one of those cases where it mostly just made me want to read the earlier installments.  The main story was understandable and enjoyable without the benefit of the previous books. But I’ll bet it was awesome for those already up to speed on the history.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Greg and Fee.  It was very sexy! Add to that, plenty of great secondary characters and action mixed with pack intrigue and danger… and I was firmly engrossed in the story.  My only complaint was the reveal on who was try to kill Fee.  It felt abrupt and out of left field, with a character I barely knew in the context of this book.  The larger conspiracy ended up making more sense but I could tell that the identity of her would-be assassin was supposed to have more emotional resonance for me than it did.   Maybe it would have if I had read the earlier books.

There’s a good set-up on a future story featuring Greg’s cousin, Lana.  And I liked this one enough that I feel pretty sure I’ll give that one a try too.  4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Motor City Wolf
by Cindy Spencer Pape
Release Date: August 29, 2011
Publisher: Carina Press

Review: By Grace Possessed

Reviewed by Jen

I liked this book so much more than By His Majesty’s Grace.The story centers on Lady Cate Milton. She’s one of the so-called Three Graces, a trio of sisters said to be cursed. Any man who tries to marry one of them for a reason other than love, is destined for death. Cate’s older sister, Isabel, has managed a happy marriage, but Cate doesn’t believe it’s in the cards for her.

That doesn’t stop her from appreciating an arresting man like Dunbar. The sexy Scotsman saved her from a band of men who would have kidnapped her in the woods. Circumstances forced them to spend the night together, and he was a perfect gentleman. But in the 1400’s, appearances meant a lot. And before they knew it, the couple was betrothed at the insistence of the king.

Cate goes back and forth with her feelings. She wants Dunbar, but she fears for his life because of the curse. He is just as torn because while he wants nothing more than to bed the lady, he knows that if they wed, his father will disown him. On top of that, he wonders if Cate has anything to do with an attempt on his life. But when push comes to shove, the king gives neither of them much choice in the matter.

I enjoyed watching Cate and Dunbar come together. And there was plenty of intrigue going on in the background. It was a little too historically complicated for me at times, but there was enough action and danger to keep me interested. That, and watching the relationship between Cate and Dunbar unfold. (I am such a sucker for a burr and a kilt.) I was also excited to see that David… a favorite of mine from the last book… appears to be the love interest for the last sister and will be featured in the next book. Yay! Almost 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

By Grace Possessed
by Jennifer Blake
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Publisher: Mira

Review: Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue

Reviewed by Jen

This book was not a winner for me.  It had some redeeming qualities, but more often than not, it left me frustrated and annoyed with the main characters.

At 25, Heather Cynster isn’t quite on the shelf, but she is probably facing her last season. So she decides to take her love life into her own hands and to go in search of her own hero.  She ventures out to a scandalous party and comes face to face with Viscount Breckenridge, the bane of her existence.  Breckenridge ushers her away from the party and to her carriage. But she’s kidnapped before she makes it to her destination.  Fortunately, Breckenridge witnesses the whole things and takes off in pursuit.

Heather’s kidnappers are working for a mystery man who have tasked them with snatching any one of the Cynster sisters.  So once Breckenridge catches up to them, Heather opts to stay close to her captors to learn about their boss. She figures that if she simply escapes, the man will hire someone to go after one of her sisters.  That plan is a dud, but takes us about 1/3 of the way through the book.  From there, she does escape with Breckenridge… and they make they way towards some nearby relatives.  Along the way, the couple falls into bed together. And the rest of the book is spent going back and forth as to whether the two of them will admit their feelings to the other as the rules of society dictate they should wed.

These two frankly didn’t deserve to find happiness.  At first, I kind of sympathized with Heather — I mean, who would want to marry a man who doesn’t love you?  But then, I realized, she won’t step up and admit her feelings any more than he will.  They do this dance, where they sleep together, feel warm and fuzzy, refuse to admit it and have one miscommunication after another. And it goes on and on.

The book was too long, especially in the second half.  And the language was cumbersome and too flowery at times.  I actually found myself skimming over parts of the love scenes… which frankly, is blasphemy in most cases.  Let me give you an example of why:

“He led her into a landscape of sensual lushness created by touch, by tactile sensation, by long drawn-out intimate exploration, capped by sexual revelation.  He guided her on through valleys of pleasure colored by rainbows of glitteringly sharp delight, onto plateaus where untempered passion ran so luxuriously and deliciously deep that it swamped her senses and left her reeling.”

Moving on.  There were moments I did want them to work things out. I wasn’t beyond caring.  And I was pleased when the two of them finally admitted their feelings.  But on the whole, it didn’t ring my bells. A little more than 3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue
by Stephanie Laurens
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Publisher: Avon

Review: Sin’s Daughter

Reviewed by Jen

This short story is the prequel to Eve Silver’s Otherkin series.  It features Kai, a soul reaper, and his lost love, Amber.  Kai and Amber were happy and in love 50 years ago, when each was lured away to a separate location and attacked.  Amber survived; Kai didn’t.  Each thought the other betrayed them and set up the ambush.

Kai went to the Underworld and was offered immortality to become a reaper.  Amber kept running.  She’s been hunted her whole life, but she doesn’t know why. She only knows that she is immortal and has been alive for a century.

Amber and Kai’s paths cross again in the present day when he is sent to harvest the soul of a man attacking Amber.  Seeing each other again, it’s like no time has passed.  But can they get over their suspicions of each other long enough to acknowledge their feelings? Can they work together to figure out who is after Amber and the truth behind her life on the run?

I liked this story. It was short, but sexy. And since these two already have a history together, their feelings were believable.  Even though it’s a prequel, I would suggest reading one or two of the full length stories before reading this one.  That way, you’ll already be caught up on the world building and you can focus on the love story and the action. You should read it before Sins of the Flesh, since Kai is incorporated into the story there.  4 stars.

Sin’s Daughter
by Eve Silver
Release Date: June 22, 2010
Publisher: HQN

More Fever Books

I am both elated and a little concerned.  Karen Marie Moning announced this morning her plans for the future of her Fever series.  She says, in part:

I’m currently working on a trilogy that features Dani, Christian MacKeltar, Ryodan, and the mysterious ‘Dancer,’ set primarily in Fever-Dublin… I’ve agreed to write two more books after that. Once the new trilogy is complete, I’m returning to the core story begun in the FEVER series, and will resume writing about Mac, Barrons, V’lane, Cruce, the Unseelie king, the concubine, the Song of Making.

First of all, I am thrilled to hear than Barrons and Mac have more story to tell.
And not just because I want to read about them having more sex.  Though, admittedly, who would turn that down?  No… it’s that I want to see where they go from here.  The very fact that she mentions V’lane means he can’t remain frozen forever, right?  I’m over the moon on this.

The anxious part comes with the Dani stories.  I have never been a big fan of Dani.  The way she talks grates on me.  She is impulsive and immature.  And that’s understandable when you acknowledge the fact that she is a child.  But her youth makes her a poor candidate to be the female lead in story featuring a 20-something Highlander-turned-Unseelie-Prince and a thousands of year-old, well, whatever the hell Ryoden is. I would pin my hopes on the possibility of a big time jump, but Moning says:

The trilogy is not YA.  If I had to categorize it, I would say it straddles the line between YA and adult uneasily. I don’t pull any punches. It may be controversial in some ways.  But whose teen years weren’t?

I think I am uncomfortable already. Which makes me kind of pissed off because I want to feel nothing but squee about this.  Part of me knows I have to just trust that Moning knows what she is doing.  After all, she rocked my socks off with the existing installments of this series.

I think I am going to practice some deep breathing exercises and resume my Google search of David Gandy photos.  You can’t go wrong with Gandy.

Review: Body of Sin

Reviewed by Jen

The first three books in this series were all about the murder of Lokan Krayl.

OK, to be fair, they were about solving the murder of Lokan Krayl while his brothers found love and got laid.  And the big climax came with the Lokan’s resurrection and the revelation of his killer.  That was the end of the last book –but only the beginning of Lokan’s story.

As this book begins, he is still trapped in the Underworld.  And he must pass through a dozen treacherous gates before he can return Topside and reunite with his precious daughter, Dana.  It’s a task that’s beyond his capabilities.  Fortunately, it’s not beyond Byrn’s.

Byrn is Dana’s mother, but she is also a “walker”… one capable of leading souls through the Underworld.  Once she learns who really killed Lokan, she is smart enough to realize that she, alone, cannot protect their child. So she journeys the kingdom of Osiris, to guide Lokan home.

Together, the two must face one challenge after the other.  And for the first time, they must also face their feelings for each other. In flashback, we learn about their history together, and we see the evolution of their relationship. This is a welcome change of pace for a series that usually subscribes to the “thunderbolt” theory of instant connection.  Their love for each other is really a revelation for them both.  Both characters were likable, each willing to sacrifice themselves for the daughter they love so much.  Their love story was more sweet than steamy, though there were a couple of smexy scenes to add some spice.

The conclusion was satisfying, but ample foreshadowing kept it from being much of a surprise.  The ending of every book in this series has been abrupt, but I’ve always written that off to the cliffhangers. Here, even with solid resolution, the book still ended hard and fast.  But with the introduction of Bryn’s brothers, I have a feeling the author will find more story to tell.  4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Body of Sin
by Eve Silver
Release Date: August 23, 2011
Publisher: HQN

Review: Sins of the Flesh

Reviewed by Jen

I am so glad I stuck with this series! These books just keep getting better and better. Mal, Alastor and Dagan still haven’t solved the mystery of their brother Lokan’s death. Alastor and Dagan are each mated to a Daughter of Aset. And now, it’s Mal’s turn.

Calliope has no idea who or what Mal is when she approaches him in a bar. She only knows that she needs to feed from the energy of a man and she’d rather use sex than blood to get her fill. Since Mal is essentially sex on a stick, he seems a perfect candidate. The two are already starting to get down to business when she finally gets a sense that he is more than human. She can’t get away fast enough.

Their paths cross again when they both go after the same witness to Lokan’s murder.  (Mal doesn’t recognize her at first, since she is no longer wearing the disguise she had on at the bar.) The two of them face off, each trying to get custody of the man. And in the heat of battle, Calliope bites Mal, which not only amps up her strength but ends up creating a tasty bond between them.

Neither one of these two wants to fall in love. Mal is a man-whore.  Who wants to give that up? And Calliope is a control freak, who is unerringly loyal to the Daughters of Aset. But it was hard enough for them to ignore their attraction before the blood-tie. After the bite, they are fighting a lost cause. I enjoyed the progression of their relationship and I really, really enjoyed the sex. Rraw.

A good thing about this series is that each books builds on the one before. And FINALLY we find out who is behind Lokan’s death and why. I can’t say I was really surprised.  (I has my suspicions beginning in the last book.) But nevertheless, it was a pretty great moment when we reached the climax at the end. “He was alive. His name was Lokan Krayal, and he was alive.”  Hot damn!

A little more than 4 stars.

Sins of the Flesh
by Eve Silver
Release Date: October 1, 2010
Publisher: HQN

THAT Looks Different!

Obviously, there’s a new design here at Red Hot Books. And I can’t tell you how excited I am.  All the credit goes to Rachel, otherwise known as Parajunkee.  I lucked out and won a free web design from her on Twitter. If you like what you see, she does stuff like this for a living… so go check her out!

I’d love to hear what you think! Is there anything you like or don’t like in particular?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Review: Sins of the Soul

Reviewed by Jen

The hunt for Lokan’s killer and the search for his body continues in this second installment of Eve Silver’s Otherkin series.  This book picks up just days after the last one left off.  Dagan, Alastor and Mal are no closer to figuring out who killed their brother. But they haven’t given up.

Alastor is following a lead when his path first crosses with Naphré.  She is a Topworld Assassin who has turned her back on her heritage as a Daughter of Aset… the sworn enemies of Alastor’s father, Sutekh, the Lord of Chaos.  Things aren’t going well for Naphré.  Her mentor, Butcher, has betrayed her and taken a job to kill her. Naphré manages to turn the tables, but just as she buries his body, Alastor shows up.  He knows Butcher could have information about who killed Lokan, so he harvests the man’s soul to bring to his father for answers.  But Butcher’s soul belongs to another deity and she wants the soul that is due to her.

There is an immediate awareness and attraction between Alastor and Naphré.  Both characters are strong, but stoic.  They have both known deep loss, but keep a tight reign on their emotions.  Neither is looking for love, but they can’t ignore what is growing between them.  I liked these two much better than Dagan and Roxy.  It’s probably one of the reasons that I liked the book better, as a whole.  Neither was reckless or full of bluster.  Neither was obnoxious.  But when push comes to shove, both can and do kick ass.  The burn is a slower build between them, which is good. It feels like it takes forever to get to the consummation, but the payoff is good.

Another plus for this installment is the fact that the world building is already in place. It makes the storytelling less cumbersome and the book moved much faster.  There was a lot of action and intrigue surrounding all the different gods and factions.  The ending was pretty abrupt, though.  And while the state of our couple’s relationship is resolved, there is virtually no movement in the mystery of Lokan’s murder.  Yep, it’s another cliffhanger.  That would really annoy me if I didn’t already have the next book lined up to read.  4 stars.

Sins of the Soul
by Eve Silver
Release Date: September 1, 2010
Publisher: HQN