Archives for December 2011

Review: Magic Gifts

Reviewed by Jen

Big love to Ilona Andrews for creating and sharing this Kate Daniels novella as a Christmas gift to fans.

The story runs concurrently with Gunmetal Magic, the Andrea-centered novel coming out next year… and contains some teaser/ mini-plot spoilers as a result. It follows Kate and Curran as they attempt a dinner date in the city. But everything goes to hell when a woman is killed in the restaurant. And they’re pulled in further when the metal necklace that killed her, is placed around a child’s neck. From there, it’s a race against time for Kate to find out how to get rid of the necklace before it kills the child too.

The story has all of the Kate trademark wit. There’s great interaction between her and Jim as they try to work out problems with the Guild. And her relationship with Curran is as strong as ever –as they work side by side to save the child. The story leans much heavier on action than heart, but that’s ok every once in a while.

It didn’t do much to advance the ongoing Kate Daniels arc, but it definitely whet my appetite for the Andrea book. I can’t wait to see how it all hashes out between her and Raphael. 4 stars.

*This short story was provided free by Ilona Andrews

Magic Gifts
by Ilona Andrews
Release Date: December 24, 2011

Review: Fearless

Reviewed by Jen

This was a book with potential, but it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. I liked the premise: An Irish chieftain falls in love with a woman who is part-Fae, when she saves his life on the battlefield. Brynna nurses Kieran back to health, then sends him back to his people, minus his memory of their time together. But even her magic cannot erase her completely from his mind or his heart. He makes his way back to her and the two of them must face one obstacle after another as they try to find happiness.

It sounds pretty good. But I had several problems in the execution. My first issue came early on, as Brynna and Kieran fall in love. I didn’t see it happen. The author tells us instead of shows us. The initial relationship lasts only about 30 pages, yet it is the foundation that the whole book is based on.  I didn’t feel it at all. Much of the book proceeds in similar fashion, time flies by… major events are glossed over. In particular, when one character is raped, it’s not given the emotional resonance it deserves. The victim gets right over it; there is no repercussion for the party responsible. This sat very wrong with me. Later on, one of the main villains of the piece makes a complete turnaround, with very little leading up to it.  It was just wrong, wrong, wrong.

It wasn’t all bad. Kieran and Brynna are both likable as characters. They both had loyalty and strength. And like I said, I thought the premise was good. But there were just too many things that didn’t work here. 2 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provide by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
by Ella Jameson
Release Date: December 12, 2011
Publisher: TKA Distribution

Series Reading Order: Guild Hunter

This is the reading order for the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh:

*Denotes short story/ novella 

All of the short stories (except Angel’s Wolf) take place before the events of the first novel and can be read at any time. Angel’s Wolf can be read any time after Archangel’s Kiss.

Review: What I Did for a Duke

Reviewed by Jen

Those Eversea men really can’t keep it in their pants. This installment of Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series doesn’t actually focus on one of the male Everseas but the actions of one sets the stage for the plot. You see, Ian Eversea is getting a little too cozy with the fiance of Alexander Moncrieffe, the Duke of Falconbridge. So cozy, in fact, that the Duke catches him naked in the woman’s bed. Moncrieffe plans to get even by defiling Ian’s sister, Genevieve.

Unfortunately for Moncrieffe, Genevieve is already in love with someone else. Her heart belongs to her longtime friend, who inconveniently is planning to propose to someone else. Yet Moncrieffe does manage to ingratiate himself into her life, and eventually, into her bed. Somewhere along the way, though, it stops being about Ian and Montcrieffe finds himself enchanted with the young woman he planned to abandon.

I liked it, though I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t nearly as funny as the other installments in the series. I liked how candid Moncrieffe and Genevieve are with each other and I found it interesting that she held on to her “love” for her friend, even after she started sleeping with the Duke. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s not like Moncrieffe was writing sonnets to her either at that point, but talking about one guy while you’re naked with another seems kind of tacky.

Anyway, it wasn’t a hearts and flowers kind of romance, but the sex was good and I did enjoy watching Genevieve see behind the walls Moncrieffe has built around himself. There was a little twist at the end too. Not as great for me as How the Marquess Was Won, but pretty good. Almost 4 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon
What I Did for a Duke
by Julie Anne Long
Release Date: February 22, 2011
Publisher: Avon

Review: Within the Flames

Reviewed by Jen

Lyssa is a dragon shifter who has been targeted for death by a super-evil and powerful witch, who can absorb the life energy of others. Eddie has been dispatched by Dirk & Steele (an agency designed to help supernaturals in need) –to find her and protect her.

Eddie is human, but he generates fire. He has trouble controlling himself –and when you pair that with his difficult past, he hasn’t allowed anyone to get close. Lyssa is in the same boat. She’s been hiding from that witch her entire life and she’s mourned the traumatic deaths of her parents on her own. When Eddie and Lyssa meet, they connect instantly. It’s difficult for them to let each other in, but it’s also inevitable. As the story progresses, we see them come together –while facing off with the witch and her evil minions.

There’s a lot of action and several revelations unveiled over the course of the book. Lyssa has some pretty grim secrets and she has good reasons to withhold her trust. The romance that develops between her and Eddie is sweet and gentle. There’s sex eventually, but theirs isn’t a blinding and passionate joining. They are each the salve to the other’s soul.

This is book 11 in the Dirk & Steele series, but as someone new to these books, I can tell you it was easy to jump right in. The world building was easy to understand and I felt like we knew everything we needed to about the secondary characters.

It was good. I think I would have enjoyed a bit more passion in the relationship between Eddie and Lyssa, but it just wasn’t that kind of romance. I found myself very interested in the fierce gargoyle Lannes, and tempted to go dig up his book. I didn’t love it, but I liked it enough that I’ll check out other installments in the series. Almost 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Within the Flames
by Marjorie Liu
Release Date: November 29, 2011
Publisher: Avon

Review: I Kissed an Earl

Reviewed by Jen

Julie Anne Long continues to captivate me with her ability to make her romance novels both sexy and so very funny. Not in the same moments, of course, but I think it’s her fantastic sense of humor that helps set the Pennyroyal Green series apart from so many of its Historical Romance contemporaries.

This fourth installment focuses on Violet Redmond, the shocking young darling of the ton. She is beautiful and every bit a lady, until she gives into her boredom and impetuousness by doing something completely over the top. At one of her many balls, she meets Flint, who is both the captain of a ship and a newly minted earl. He’s been dispatched by the crown to track down a mysterious pirate and bring him to justice. A series of clues lead Violet to believe the pirate may be her missing brother Lyon… and she decides to go on a quest to save him.

Violet stows away on Flints ship, hoping to thwart his capture of Lyon. (Though this didn’t entirely make sense, since he didn’t even know her brother’s identity until she told him.) Their interaction aboard the ship is much as you would expect: hardened sea captain versus a lady unaccustomed to hard living. Each really wants to find Lyon for their own reason, forcing them to work together in close quarters, and… well, you know how these things go.

Violet is brave and book smart, but she makes some really stupid decisions. Her intentions are good, but at times she borders on TSTL. Flint is stalwart and strong, while a little rough around the edges and requisitely wounded by a hard life. It all felt kind of familiar and the story behind Lyon’s hand in the piracy was easy to figure out. But the sex is hot. And there were times I laughed heartily out loud (especially in a great narrative about a flying marble penis.)

It’s not perfect. It’s predictable at times and it references prior events more than most of the installments do. But it was a fun read. Almost 4 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon
I Kissed an Earl
by Julie Anne Long
Release Date: July 1, 2010
Publisher: Avon

Review: Midnight Reckoning

Reviewed by Jen

I’ll just come out and say it: I love this series and I loved this book. You all know how I feel about sexy tortured heroes. Kendra Leigh Castle has created an entire race of them in her maligned and enslaved Cait Sith. They are lowblood vampires, who are also cat-shifters. The highblood Ptolemy vamps kept them as slaves and tortured them for centuries. But in Dark Awakening, they were finally freed. And now they have a chance to pursue the happiness they’ve been denied all these years.

Jaden isn’t sure what he wants to do with his life now that he is no longer a slave. He’s been offered a job as the Captain of the Guard for Lily, the head of a new highblood clan. With Lily and her husband Ty, Jaden has finally found people he cares about and who care for him. But he’s restless. And he can’t stop thinking about Lyra, the sexy werewolf who heats his blood like no one ever has. After he stops an attack on her and finds a family heirloom she left behind, he journeys to her home to return it. From there, he is drafted to help her train to become Alpha of her pack.

No one believes Lyra can win the Alpha competition. But she is smart and determined. She wants to make her pack stronger… to help them evolve into the modern world. They’ve got some very old ideas, not the least of which is a rule against interspecies coupling. That makes the passion and attraction she has for Jaden completely off limits… which makes it all the more delectable when they finally give in.

There was nothing I didn’t like about this book. It had amazing sexual tension, thanks to the forbidden nature of Jaden and Lyra’s relationship. And the payoff was outstanding. Jaden is a great hero. He had a miserable past, but it didn’t break him. He’s strong and honorable and so very sexy. Lyra is just right for him. She’s young and maintains her idealism without ever coming off as childish or annoying. She’s also feisty and bold and brave. Together, they make a couple so easy to root for. While much of the book focused on the development of their relationship, there was also a real sense of danger from the Ptolemy vampires who are targeting Jaden and the werewolves who could turn on Jaden or Lyra at any time.

The book builds well on the events of Dark Awakening, but I think it would still work easily as a standalone. It’s got a fantastic love story, great sex and plenty of action. I can’t wait to see where Castle takes the series next. Almost 5 stars.

*ARC Provided by Grand Central Publishing

Click to purchase: Amazon
Midnight Reckoning
by Kendra Leigh Castle
Release Date: January 1, 2012
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

Review: Since the Surrender

Reviewed by Jen

Chase Eversea is a military man to the core, but now that the war is over, he is adrift. He deals with constant pain and is trying to figure out what to do with his life when he gets an anonymous letter from a lady, asking him for help. That letter turns out to be from Rosalind, the woman who was once married to his commanding officer. The woman he once loved, but couldn’t have.

It turns out her sister is missing and she needs Chase’s help to find her. As they work together to figure out what happened to her, they end up embroiled in a much larger plot, where attractive women are disappearing from police custody, left and right.

This was definitely not the strongest book in the Pennyroyal Green series. First of all, Chase was so awful to Rosalind when they first reunited, I was sure she had done something positively unforgivable to him in the past. Only after much reading did I discover that all she had done was kiss him. Or he kissed her and she kissed him back. Yet he acted like she was the devil incarnate. It was ONE kiss that they were both complicit in. I didn’t think the way he treated her was fair.

Later, when the two of them finally do start to soften toward each other, they hook up in the most ridiculous and dangerous places imaginable. Like the museum at the center of the missing-girl mystery. Twice. WTH? Once was bad enough, but the second time… just… no. I also struggled to feel a love connection between them. Lust? Yes. Love? Not really. Maybe it’s because their feelings developed off-page in the past –but for whatever reason, the sexual tension was much more believable than any romance.

What did work? The wonderful sense of humor. I laughed frequently and out loud. There’s a great ongoing gag about puppets that tickled me at every turn. And cows too. (It’s too difficult to explain, but trust me when I tell you it’s funny.) The sexual tension was good too. Unfortunately, those high points alone don’t quite sell the book. I can promise you, however, that later installments in the series are much, much better. 3 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon
Since the Surrender
by Julie Anne Long
Release Date: July 28, 2009
Publisher: Avon

Review: Raven Cursed

Reviewed by Jen

I know there is more to the Jane Yellowrock series than just her love life. I really do. But going into this book, all I could think about was whether Jane was going to end up with Rick now that he’s “big-cat” or if she’ll kick his big honking cheating ass to the curb. Will Bruiser be there to stake his claim? Will those two finally cross the finish line? So in deference to these burning questions, I’ll say right off the bat that after reading this book, I am wholly dissatisfied with this entire element of the plot. Rick’s actions in the last book are explained away far too easily. Even more frustrating, is the fact that Jane is unwilling or unable to assess her feelings for the two men in question. There. Is. No. Resolution. Not even a clear destination. But before I start gritting my teeth too loudly, let me talk about the rest of the book.

As the story begins, Jane is back in her hometown of Ashville, SC, where she is tasked to handle security for some important vampire-talks. But just as things get started, bodies start popping up. The culprits are the last two surviving werewolves from Mercy Blade. They’ve followed Jane, it seems, to get revenge for her killing the rest of their pack. Rick is in the area, learning how to be a big cat from Ken-whatshisname… the African panther, whose wife was responsible for infecting Rick in the first place.

The first third of the book just didn’t jump out and grab me. Maybe because we were removed from the New Orleans gang and it took me a while to care about what was happening in South Carolina. Maybe it was because I was distracted, waiting for something to happen in Jane’s love life. Regardless, things began to improve once we get into the meat of Evie’s storyline. Yes, the wicked witch is back. We finally find out what her deal is –and it’s a whopper. Evie also spices things up because she brings Molly and her family into the mix. And who doesn’t love Angie Baby?

There is also some good stuff happening between Jane and her Beast. A lot less attention is paid to the mechanics of the shifts, which is cool. Jane and Beast come to really appreciate the strength they have as one unit… but without getting into details, I was a bit confused by a problem between them at the end of the book.

The plot and the action were really good in the second half… and it reminded my why I like this series. Jane is tough as nails; she’s fierce and loyal; and it’s so sad to see how truly fragile her connections are to others. I’m really curious to see what will happen for her next. (And hopefully, we’ll gain a little ground in the relationship department. Please.) Almost 4 stars.

*ARC provided by Ace

Click to purchase: Amazon
Raven Cursed
by Faith Hunter
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Ace

Review: How the Marquess Was Won

Reviewed by Jen

Julie Anne Long, where have you been all my life? Obviously, you have been writing some excellent Historical Romance… but why is this the first time we’ve been together?

I adored this book and upon finishing this review, I’m going to check out the backlist in the Pennyroyal Green series. This is the sixth installment, but if you’ve new to these books as well –I promise– this works great as a standalone.

Julian Spenser, Marquess Dryden, is at the height of fashion among the ton. His every move is studied and imitated. Even Phoebe, unremarkable school-mistress that she is, knows of him through the scandal sheets. But she never expected to meet him. They cross paths, first, at a shop, where she overhears his friend make a rude comment about her. So when she sees him again, touring her school, she is irritated and flippant. She speaks to him as no one ever has, making her a puzzle and drawing him like a magnet.

Julian isn’t really free to pursue her, though, since he is planning to propose to Lisbeth. (He wants the lands he’ll inherit through her dowry.) But when he goes to London to begin his courting, he finds Phoebe again. She was once a tutor to Lisbeth, and now she is serving as her paid companion. On the surface, Lisbeth is everything Julian should want, but it’s Phoebe who inflames him… with her wit, her temerity and her honesty.

This was such a great romance. The events in Phoebe’s life take us on such a roller coaster. But even in the face of adversity, she maintains her inner strength. I loved watching her melt away the walls built around “Lord Ice.” Julian is so very closed off at the beginning, but thanks to Phoebe, we get to see the real man underneath his controlled exterior. The sexual tension is great –and though there are not many sex scenes, I was satisfied with what we got.

The book has a heroine who is both smart and a survivor; a sexy, commanding hero finding love for the first time; and a romance that thumbs its nose as society’s conventions. It also made me laugh out loud more than once.  Very, very good. 5 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
How the Marquess Was Won
by Julie Anne Long
Release Date: December 27, 2011
Publisher: Avon