Archives for June 2012

Review: Hearts of Fire

Reviewed by Jen

Boy, do I love me some dragon shifters.

It’s 1889. Brand has left his home in Sweden with others of his kind to start his life over again in the growing town of Seatttle. He knows that some of his companions have nefarious intentions, but he needs to get away from the woman who broke his heart… the woman who rejected him when she learned he could turn into a dragon.

The moment Alice lays eyes on Brand, she knows their destinies are entertwined. She is an Owl shifter, daughter to Seattle’s leader. And she makes it her mission to bring the handsome new stranger into her life.
Sure enough, the sparks fly between these two. But can Alice accept that the man of her dreams is from the most reviled breed of shifters? Beyond that, what will it mean for her family’s home when they discover what the dragons have in store for them?

I liked the story, though it was really short and the I Love You’s were flowing at the speed of light. It’s the age-old forbidden love story, with a twist. There’s not a lot of emotional resonance, but it’s superficially enjoyable. And it sets up the state of a present day world explored in the Deadglass trilogy. The first book, Hearts of Darkness, is out in August.

Rating: C+

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Hearts of Fire
by Kira Brady
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Zebra

Review: Thief of Shadows

Reviewed by Jen

I loved this book. It’s easily one of my favorite historical romances of 2012!

The best thing about the story: the hero, Winter Makepeace.  He is, by all outward appearances, this drab, stuffy, severe man who runs a home for foundling children. But there is so much more to him than meets the eye.  While he toils away for the orphans by day… by night, he is a masked protector of the downtrodden… the Ghost of St. Giles.

Lady Isabel happens across Winter’s alter-ego after he has been injured. She finds him unconscious in the road and rescues him from an angry mob.  Isabel brings him home and tends his injuries, having no idea that it’s really Winter she is attending.  Once he regains consciousness, however, Winter recognizes her as one of the patronesses of his orphanage.  He sees her in a whole new light, but he doesn’t stick around to get to know her better.

In fact, with his attraction towards her, Winter thinks distance is the best option. After all, he has stayed celibate on purpose, devoting all of his energies into his mission to help the helpless.  A relationship would only weaken his devotion to his cause. His plans to avoid Isabel fail spectacularly, however. When one of the other patronesses suggests he needs some social tutoring, Isabel is nominated for the job. Either he cooperates or he could lose the orphanage that he holds so dear.

It’s almost like Winter has two distinct personalities: his headmaster side and his Ghost side.  Both are so fascinating and well developed.  He was so well-crafted, he felt like a real person.  An honorable, driven, loyal, sexy, virgin-person. (*fans self*)  I loved watching him struggle with his growing feelings for Isabel. His concerns about being beneath her in station; his worries about failing the children who need him; his sexual awakening.  It was all. So. Good.

I didn’t love Isabel quite so much, but I didn’t dislike her.  She has had to harden herself in the wake of tough blows.  She, too, struggles with her feelings in the relationship.  It takes her a little longer than Winter to come around, but she gets there.  The sexual tension is fantastic –and the sex is really, really hot.

I would definitely recommend this one.

Rating: A

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Thief of Shadows
by Elizabeth Hoyt
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing


5 for Friday – June 29

Happy Friday, everybody! Or perhaps, a more appropriate salutation Happy Magic Mike Day!!  But I’ll get back to that in a minute.  First, I have to say it’s been a real hit and miss week for me in bookland. I read the first novella and full-length book in Jocelynn Drake’s upcoming Asylum Tales series.  I liked those, but everything else I read just kind of fell flat. I guess it was because I was coming off the high from all of those fabulous June 26th releases.  Who knows?  Now I’m feeling a bit uninspired to pick up anything new.  Ever have one of those weeks?  Anyway… I know something that will cheer me up…

5. At long last, the wait for Magic Mike is over.

Believe it or not, I will not be going to see this tonight. One of my buds is working, so we can’t go until tomorrow.  (*tears*) But Saturday night, we are hitting the theater, and I for one, am going with a blood alcohol content of at least .05.

And to show you my level of commitment to Joe, Matt and the boys, you should know that I am braving the displeasure of family members by missing an out-of-town birthday party on Saturday. Mr. Red Hot Books knows how much I’ve been looking forward to the movie and he has offered to take the kids for me! (That’s love, people.)

4. Hot on the heels of her Once Burned release, Jeaniene Frost is already talking about the next Vlad book.  The second installment in the Night Prince series will be titled Twice Tempted.  It’s scheduled for release March 19, 2013.  How am I going to wait that long?

3. Sherrilyn Kenyon has revealed the cover for her next League book. Check out the deets on Born of Fury:

Counted among the fiercest Andarion warriors ever born, Hauk is one of the five founding members of the Sentella- an organization that has declared war on the League that rules the Ichidian universe with an iron fist and terrifies it with an army of well-trained assassins. Hauk’s enemies are legion, but he fears nothing and no one. He will do whatever it takes to survive and protect his Sentella brethren.

Sumi Antaxas is one of the best assassins the League has ever trained. In her world, failure is not an option and she has never met a target she couldn’t execute. So when she’s assigned Hauk, she believes it’ll be a quick and easy mission.

But nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and Hauk is far better trained…

Born of Fury is out April 1. But if you don’t want to wait until 2013 for your next dose of the Ichidan universe, remember Maris’ story, Cloak & Silence, will be out December 15.

2. Everybody is talking about Sylvia Day’s Bared to You these days. I’ve heard many people call it the better alternative to FSoG.  I haven’t read it. Honestly, the 50 Shades comparison turned me off, but now I am wondering if that was a mistake.  (*sigh*)  Anyway, the cover for book two is out:

Reflected in You is out October 2.  The final book in the trilogy will be out in December.

1. Finally, with The Avengers and Magic Mike premieres moving into the rear-view, I’m wondering what I can look forward to next at the theater.  I’m leaning heavily toward the Total Recall redux.  I’m as sick of remakes as everyone else, but I have to admit, this looks pretty bad-ass.

After this, I will begin to fixate on Ryan Reynolds as Connor MacLeod in the Highlander reboot, FO’ SHO!I am picturing him in the kilt already!!

Have a great week… remember AAD in NOLA is less than six weeks away!!! If any featured authors want a last-minute spotlight, just let me know and I’ll be happy to host you here.


Review: Summer Nights

Reviewed by Allison

Yet another fabulous story from Fool’s Gold, California! In the eighth chapter of Susan Mallery’s series of the women-centric small town of Fool’s Gold, we finally get to read about the sweet tempered librarian, Annabelle & the new cowboy in town, Shane – brother to the sexy Rafe Stryker, the last book’s hero. Shane comes into town looking to reconnect with his family, raise his prize winning horses on his own ranch, & definitely NOT succumb to any sort of temptation. However, ever since he walked into the only bar in town & saw Annabelle dancing on the table (a sure sign of a wild child who will never settle down), he can’t get her out of his mind – but he’s been hurt before by a wife who he loved feverishly & continually cheated on him. Little does he know little Ms. Annabelle was simply showing her friends an indian ritualistic dance that she wanted to use in her fundraising parade to raise money for the library’s bookmobile so she can bring books to shut ins & underprivileged families.

When Annabelle convinces Shane to teach her how to ride a horse for the above mentioned parade, the twosome start getting closer & learning that first impressions are just that. Annabelle tries to keep her distance, choosing independence over attachment, she even goes so far as to try to hook him up with her best friend, Charlie, but their sizzling connection leaps off the page & they find they can’t contain themselves for long.

I loved the real connection between Annabelle & Shane even as they tried to find every excuse to avoid it. I loved that they truly understood what drove the other & that at the base of each of their passions (books & horses), helping others was the bottom line for each. She loved bringing books & technology to those who might not otherwise get the chance for either, while he taught little girls how to ride even though it wasn’t his favorite part & took good care of his mothe’rs crazy animals. I think a big part of why I liked them so much together was how much I actually liked them both as characters.

I disliked the part where her ex re-entered the scene just to stir things up because I didn’t really see the point. The effort to simply have more conflict in order to bring the pair closer was a little too obvious and, in my honest opinion, unnecessary.

I love that we revisit old friends from other books in each new installment so that even though their book has come, we still get to see what’s going on in their lives – like the Hendrix Triplets’ baby fever! The next heroine to look forward to is Annabelle’s other best friend, Charlie, who we met and got to know better in this book – looking forward to seeing her happy ending as well!

If you haven’t started this series, DO! It’s such a fun little town & their stories will only make you smile!

Rating: A

Click to purchase: Amazon
Summer Nights
by Susan Mallery
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: HQN Books

Review: Tarnished

Reviewed by Jen

I don’t usually read steampunk. It’s not that I dislike the genre, but I’m still kind of new to it. Reading the blurb on this book, I found myself intrigued.  Cherry St. Croix leads something of a double life. By day, she moves among London society, while by night, she enters the the soot-filled underbelly of the city to work as a bounty hunter.

What the blurb doesn’t tell you is that Cherry is an opium addict.  That her employers run a sick Menagerie… a den of iniquity, powered by slave-like pets.  Cherry takes gigs to pay for her drug habit, but operates on the fringe of the Menagerie –until she is hired to find a sadistic killer who has been targeting the prostitutes who work for her employers.  Soon the hunter becomes the hunted and Cherry gets wrapped up an ordeal of even more powerful drugs, threats to her life, and sexual situations beyond her control.

All this, as her life in society is shaken up as well. She is barely tolerated by the upper-crust because of her late father’s reputation as a mad scientist.  While putting on a brave face to the sharks of the ton, she ends up in an unlikely sort-of relationship with the handsome Lord Compton.  I really thought these two might make a go of it. Then I thought maybe she’d end up with Hawke, her mysterious boss at the Menagerie.  Then everything went crazy and all the relationship stuff got shoved aside in place of outlandish experiments and near death experiences.

I was intrigued by the world building. The upper and lower London set-up was really cool. But I felt like there was too much going on. Especially in the second half, when it seemed to drop off the deep end a little. It all started out pretty straightforward, but when the story started dipping into magic dust and Frankenstein themes, it started to lose me.

I actually liked one of the two love interests more than the other, but I think she’s going to end up with the other guy.  Either way, it was left very unresolved, which is a blow to my romance-oriented heart. In fact, when all was said and done, just about everything was left open ended. It’s one of those stories that doesn’t get finished in one book –and you should know that going in.

I have mixed feelings about this one. The set-up was good, but the more I read, the less I felt like it was the right fit for me.

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
by Karina Cooper
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Review: Tempest’s Fury

Reviewed by Jen

I’ll admit it. I am having serious trouble with this review.  All I want to talk about is the ending.  I know that’s not fair.  I can’t spoil people.  I can’t rob them of that feeling I got when Nicole Peeler totally ripped the rug out from under me in the last chapter.  Unfortunately, my brain just won’t let me move past it.  So I must tell you off the bat that the ending to this book is a shocking/ amazing/ horrible punch-in-the-gut cliffhanger.  But I won’t tell you what it is.

That being said, let’s go back to the beginning.  The story starts with Jane on a mission to Great Britain to help Blondie deal with a new supernatural threat.  Ancient elemental entities similar to the underground creature in the last book, are threatening to make a comeback.  And unlike the being that imbued Jane with her new fancy ax, these beings are murderous and fierce.  Blondie actually hacked up the Air and Fire beings, also known as the Red Queen and the White King, back in the day –when she was the champion of the magic ax.  Their pieces were scattered around the world, but now someone is gathering the pieces to put the monsters back together again.  Jane, Anyan, and Blondie have to stop it.

It’s a cool story arc.  It’s fast moving and full of action. It takes unexpected twists and turns and it incorporates some familiar faces from past books. All this while continuing to expand the established world building.

The book is really good. I only had one complaint. That was the ridiculous number of near-sex encounters between Anyan and Jane. I was already stretched to my limit before I started the book.  While I appreciate the need and desire to keep sexual tension alive, I was just flat out annoyed with all the stops and starts. The interruptions to their attempts at physical intimacy continue well into this book.  And though they do eventually (finally) seal the deal –and it’s fantastic, by the way– I had lost my patience way before that point.

Back to the plus side… I love Anyan. Love. Anyan.  We get to know him better as Jane does, both through his actions and through a peek into his history.  –Jane continues to be a funny, earnest, and all-around great heroine.  She is really growing here, yet she still manages to hold on to the core of who she is. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have no idea when the next book comes out, which makes me even more of a wreck about the ending. But knowing Nicole Peeler it will be one heck of a series finale.  I can’t wait to see how she fixes this. Because she must fix it.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Orbit

Click to purchase: Amazon
Tempest’s Fury
by Nicole Peeler
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Orbit

Interview & Giveaway: Amanda Bonilla

Urban Fantasy author Amanda Bonilla is chatting with me today about her fantastic Shaede Assassin books. I loved Shaedes of Gray –and I promise you Blood Before Sunrise is just as good. Please help me welcome Amanda to the blog!

Jen: Thanks so much for chatting with me, Amanda. I am such a fan of the Shaede Assassin series.

Amanda: Thanks for having me, Jen! I have to say, I’ve been pimping your blog and Tumblr account to everyone I know. You know just what I like to see! 😉
Jen: Tell new readers a little about the books and the main character, Darian.

Amanda: The Shaede Assassin Series takes place in Seattle. The city has become the new royal seat for the Shaede Nation (creatures who can become shadows once the sun sets) and because of that, the supernatural population has boomed. My supes don’t live out in the open, meaning, most humans don’t know they exist. The main character, Darian, is a Shaede and an assassin. She’s bitter, jaded, and carrying an atomic bomb’s worth of attitude. She’s been living the past century completely shut off from the world. She’s only known about the supernatural world for a short time. Her former lover, Azriel, had her convinced that she was an anomaly and no others like her existed. She’s slowly learning how to form relationships, and since she’s well-practiced at keeping others at arm’s length, she’s having a hard time opening up.

Jen: I am completely, totally 100% in love with Tyler, so I’ll admit I am biased. How would you compare and contrast him with Xander, the other man who is a potential love interest for Darian?

Amanda: Tyler is great. I really like giving males care-giver roles in my stories. I tend to make them more emotionally stable than my leading ladies. Ty is really great in that his reason for existing is to protect. Xander, on the other hand, is an aristocrat, and used to getting what he wants. I wouldn’t say he’s an uncaring character, because truly, he’s concerned with his people and his kingdom. But Xander can be pretty selfish and he’ll admit it freely. He doesn’t care who he steamrolls to get what he wants, and he’s not above being manipulative. While Ty can appear to be laid-back, he’s okay with getting down and dirty to protect those he loves. Tyler isn’t flashy. He’s crazy powerful, but he doesn’t feel like he has to prove himself to anyone. Piss him off, though, and you better watch out!

Jen: Darian is very emotionally stunted by her past experiences. Do you think she will ever really capable of trusting someone or letting them in completely?

Amanda: When I started this series, I wanted to take this closed-off character and explore what it would be like to see her scrape bottom and then fight her way to the top. Darian has no idea how to live her life. For decades she’s just been going through the motions. She’s going to have to make a lot of mistakes before she can learn her lessons. She’ll definitely grow and mature over the course of the series. The one thing I love about writing a first-person series is that rather than having her character arc span the course of one book, I get to stretch it out over the course of many books.

Jen: You do such a great job of fleshing out the characters, even the secondary ones like Raif (who I also Love with a capital L.) Which character do you most enjoy writing for and why?

Amanda: Thanks, Jen! I love Raif with a capital “L” too! He’s definitely one of my favorite characters to write. He’s so dry and pragmatic. I always picture him with this, “Really? You think that’s a good idea?” expression on his face. There’s something about writing Darian, though, that’s really cathartic. Her personality is nothing like mine and she doesn’t take shit off of anyone. I’m such a non-confrontational person; I’ll pretty much do anything to avoid it. Darian gets right in the face of confrontation and she doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. I love that about her.
Jen: In Blood Before Sunrise, you expand the world building quite a bit. How much of the world and series development did you have in your head when you started writing the first book and how much developed as you were writing?

Amanda: I wrote SoG completely from the hip. I had no idea what was going to happen until I typed the words on my keyboard. Whenever I needed to flesh out the world-building, I’d take a break and sketch it out on paper. I’ve got a family tree that shows the Shaede and Lyhtan lineage and how/where they branch off from the same tree. For Blood Before Sunrise I had to really flex my world-building muscles and create a Fae-related history. I like to create my own mythology, though. It can also be tough. Writing the “rules” of the Jinn and the way they bind themselves to their Charges (which will show up in Crave the Darkness, Shaede Assassin 3) has been my biggest challenge so far. I had to make sure that it was precise and to the letter. I hope I haven’t painted myself into a corner anywhere!

Jen: SoG focused on the Shaedes. BBS on the Fae. Will you continue to delve into more supernatural races in future books?

Amanda: I like to explore the world building involved with different supernatural characters. I plan to put the spotlight on a different species with each book. I have a very overactive imagination, so I’ll keep throwing out new supes until my brain sputters out. Which I’m hoping won’t be for a while. 😉

Jen: How many are you planning to write in the series at this point?

Amanda: I’m currently contracted for three books, but I could easily write at least seven in the Shaede Assassin series as well as a few spin-offs. I really want to write a book for Raif and I’m hoping that someday I’ll get the chance to do it!

Jen: OK, tell the truth, if you could change the name of the first book would you do it?

Amanda: Honestly, no. There is the occasional confusion over the spelling, and of course there’s the connection to another certain book with a similar title. Someone emailed me a month or so ago to ask if I’d titled my book the way I had to capitalize on the other book’s popularity. That really cracked me up. I wrote SoG in 2009 and the title seemed really fitting for the tone of the story. Darian starts out as this slightly unlikeable, gray area character. Frequently, book titles will be changed several times between the first draft and production. I’m glad the title stuck.

Jen: Earlier this month, you released a prequel novella about Darian’s transition to life with Azriel. I am making my pitch for your next novella. Another prequel, this one a Ty POV of when he bound himself to Darian. Any chance? I would totally buy that.

Amanda: Jen, your wish will totally be granted! 😉 I’m working on a novella right now that takes place between books 2 and 3 and is told from Tyler’s POV. I’m writing a flashback so readers will get to see that first meeting between Darian and Tyler and they’ll also get a firsthand account of why he feels compelled to bind himself to her from the first moment he lays eyes on her. I’m SOOOOO excited for this novella!

Jen: OMG, OMG, OMG. When?

Amanda: Not until February.  :’( I’m really excited about it, though. Hope I can pull off the male POV. And I’ve never written a sex scene from guy’s perspective, either. I’m going to have to visit your tumblr often for inspiration. 😉 It’ll be a tough job, but I’ll soldier through! Hehe.

Jen: I am so excited about this. Thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions and for the giveaway! I hope BBS is a great success!

Amanda: Thanks again so much for having me as a guest, Jen! And keep those Tumblr posts coming! LOL!

Amanda is giving away a print copy of Blood Before Sunrise, which is out July 3rd.  To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. This one is US/CAN only.  To learn more about Amanda Bonilla, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Chasing Magic

Reviewed by Jen

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of this series. I love the world-building. I love the originality. I LOVE the hero. And this was a good book. It wasn’t my favorite in the series, though, and I’ll get to why in just a minute.

The story begins as Sacrificial Magic did: with Chess and Terrible happy and in love. As someone who has seen what they’ve gone through to get to this point, it’s so satisfying. Chess knows the treasure that she has in him; she acknowledges that he’s her everything. And while she struggles with her lack of self-worth, it seems she has learned some lessons about trying to trust in his love for her.

There are two main problems she has to deal with here. One is fact that Lex is the new head of his family’s drug turf, putting him more at odds with Terrible than ever before. The other, is that some really dark magic has started infecting the people of Downside, turning them into zombie-like entities, nearly impossible to kill. Of course, with her magic abilities, Chess is really the only one who can stop them.

The first half of the book is pretty low key. It moves along quickly and comfortably. Then Chess shows her true colors again, leaving me feeling punched in the gut. I won’t get into the specifics, but at this point, I feel like the books have developed a pattern: 1) There is a problem only Chess can solve. 2) Terrible is her rock and she doesn’t know what he sees in her. 3) She screws up royally in her personal life. 4) She saves the day.

Don’t get me wrong, there are really, really good things in this book and no way would I tell a Downside fan to skip it. What I am saying though, is that I need to see more growth from Chessie soon. Every time she betrays Terrible, she hurts me. She creates this horrible knot in my stomach that makes me want to shut the book. I don’t WANT to want to shut the book, Stacia Kane. I want to glory in lines like “Love you right, Chessiebomb.” That doesn’t mean I can’t handle some angst. The side arc with Elder Griffin was heartbreaking, but still masterfully done. I just don’t want to see Chess sabotage herself the same way yet again.

Terrible continues to be one of my favorite book-heroes of all time –taking his awesomeness to even greater heights with his latest promises and assertions of love.  Even in his darkest and most intense moments (and boy does he have one here,) it’s like he has this gravity that pulls me deeper and deeper into his orbit.  But as we learn more about the repercussions of Chessie’s actions, I’m scared for where the future will take him.

I suppose that all my really strong feelings are a true testament to how insanely talented Stacia Kane really is. I am anxious and excited and nervous and jumble of all kinds of other emotions as I think about what may be coming next.   Chess, please don’t let me down.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Chasing Magic
by Stacia Kane
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Del Rey

Review: Wicked Nights

Reviewed by Jen

I have no doubt that Lords of the Underworld fans are going to love this one.  It’s got all the things that make a great Gena Showalter book: hot sexual tension, humor, great world-building, a strong heroine, and an alpha hero undone by his first feelings of love.  –Oh, and did I mention the hero is a virgin?  Mmm.

We first met Zacharel in The Darkest Secret, an angel sent to deal with Amun when he came back from Hell, dripping with demons.  He’s gorgeous and powerful, but seemingly void of emotions.  The only person he has ever cared about was his twin brother, Hadreniel. The brother who begged for death after being tortured by demons.  The brother he killed to end his suffering.

Zacharel’s lack of feelings and general disinterest in humanity have him in trouble with his Deity. Too many times, Zacharel has considered a human to be collateral damage in his fight against demons.  As punishment, he must lead a band of problematic angels on the cusp of losing their wings.  He is responsible for their actions and together, they will either all be redeemed or they will all fall.

A demon killing mission leads Zacharel to the institute for the criminally insane where Annabelle is being held. She was accused of killing her parents years ago. But it was really a demon attack –and she has been plagued by monsters ever since.  No one else can see or hear them, though, and that only makes her look crazier.

When Zacharel and Annabelle meet, he is instantly drawn to her. She is a fascinating contradiction. Strong yet vulnerable. Naive and jaded.  In many ways, her spirit reminds him of the brother he lost so long ago. He ends up rescuing her from captivity and decides to help her figure out why she is a demon target and, later, to track down the monster that ruined her life.

There were so many things I liked about this book.  I loved watching Zacharel’s transformation.  The way he discovers emotion and desire.  I liked that it wasn’t an easy path and that he makes mistakes.  I loved, loved, loved the secondary characters in his band of angel warriors.  Koldo’s story is next, but I already have a favorite and I will be waiting with baited breath for Xerxes’ book.

The events of Amun’s book and The Darkest Seduction are referenced here and we do get appearances from a handful of the Lords and their mates. That was great for me, but I’m not sure how it would play for a new reader.

The sex is hot, but I felt like we had to wait a long time for it.  I think I would have liked a little more payoff on Zacharel losing his virginity.  My only other complaint was that I figured out the villain reveal very, very early on in the story. Maybe I’ve read too many Showalter books because I saw it coming a mile away.  But I liked how it all worked out in the end. It was very sexy and satisfying. Definitely worth reading!

Rating: B+

*ARC provided by Little Bird Publicity

Click to purchase: Amazon
Wicked Nights
by Gena Showalter
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: HQN Books

Review: Once Burned

Reviewed by Jen

Jeaniene Frost is back.  Not that she went anywhere, really.  But the last couple of Cat & Bones books didn’t quite knock it out of the park for me.  This book most assuredly did.

Once Burned is the long awaited Night Huntress spinoff, featuring Vlad.  Right off the bat, I have to tell you that he makes this book sing.  Not every cocky hero is a winner. In fact, most of them are downright off-putting for me.  But Vlad finds just the right balance of swagger and depth.  He is arrogant, but his walk matches his talk.  And perhaps most importantly, he is never a jerk to his heroine.  It isn’t love at first sight. He doesn’t write her sonnets or pick her flowers, but I could see respect there.  I could believe it when I watched her fall in love with him.

Leila is human, but she isn’t normal. An accident with electricity in her childhood left her with serious side effects. Now, she can not touch others without discharging power.  She also carries the gift of psychometry.  She can touch a person or a thing and see past, present, and future events tied to it.  And whenever she touches someone for the first time, she always sees their darkest moment.

As the story begins, Leila accidentally gets a vision of a murder about to take place.  She manages to prevent it, but in the process, she ends up calling some unwanted attention to herself.  A group of vampires kidnaps her, planning to use her gifts to track down Vlad for his enemy.  What they never expect is for her to reach out to him psychically instead. She makes a deal with Vlad to turn over her kidnappers in exchange for a rescue.  And it works!  But Vlad isn’t quite willing to let her go after that.  He hopes to use to her find the mystery man who ordered her kidnapping, in exchange for keeping her safe from future attacks.  It’s as they work together and grow to know one another that the two move beyond a business arrangement.

I like Leila. She is genuine and loyal, smart and pragmatic.  I enjoyed watching her fight her feelings for Vlad. It made it even sweeter when she eventually succumbed.  The sex is really hot.  Nothing kinky, just really sensual and satisfying.  The plot is interesting, the writing is conversational, and the pacing was so good that I didn’t want to put down the book, even hours past my bedtime.

Night Huntress fans will be happy to know we get cameos from some familiar faces. Make no mistake, though. Vlad is the star of this book.  He is sexy and complex. He is possessive and protective. But he doesn’t give his heart easily and that bears mentioning.  (*mild spoilers*) The ending isn’t your typical Happily Ever After.  But I thought it was a solid Happy for Now.  One with great potential to grow in the next installment. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Very, very good.

Rating: A

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon or Enter to Win
Once Burned
by Jeaniene Frost
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Avon