Archives for November 2012

Review: Night Thief

Reviewed by Jen

I could easily see the Night Walker series turning into one of my guilty pleasures. For me, it has a little bit of that Christine Feehan Carpathian feel. Old world, powerful heroes who are like vampires, but not quite vampires. Men who cherish their women, treat them like they hung the moon, and have a kind of hot sex with them that feels more sensual than dirty. All that good stuff without any white lightning, molten cores, or velvet over iron.

This particular story is kind of sequel, or maybe even a prequel, to Night Walker. It works either way, set in the past of the same world with no overlapping characters. Our hero, Kane, is a Night Walker –a shapeshifter who happens to enter a death-like state during the day and drinks blood to survive. Very different from a vampire — who enters a death-like state during the day, drinks blood to survive, and terrorizes beautiful young women like our heroine, Marguerite.

The lovely Rita is enslaved to an evil vamp –and she is working as pickpocket to earn enough money to escape him with her cousin. She is engaged in a theft when she first catches Kane’s eye. He is drawn to her, and as he gets to know her better, that attraction only grows. For the first time in centuries, he is enamored of a mortal and he reaches out for a connection to her.

Of course, her vampire master has other ideas. But where would a story be without conflict?

I really liked watching Kane fall for Rita and renewing his ability to love someone. Granted, he fell in love with her in, like, five seconds, but still… It’s one of those larger than life vampire romances, where he just knows she’s the one. The sex is pretty good and I think it was just the right length to tell the story. An enjoyable afternoon read.

Rating: B

*ARC provided by Entangled Publishing 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Night Thief
by Lisa Kessler
Release Date: September 28, 2012
Publisher: Entangled

Review: Escape

Reviewed by Jen

Kenya Wright is quickly becoming my first auto-read indie author.  I am a big fan of her Habitat series –and though this book has a decidedly different feel, it reeled me in all the same.

Brie is a special breed of human, one of the few who can produce vampire offspring.   She and the other women of her kind are kept in the custody of the Quiet King. They are called dominas, but they are really conscripted breeders, forced to remain with the king to bear baby after baby.  Brie is one of the lucky ones. In her two years at the compound, the king has not forced himself on her… yet.  But her time is coming. So she plans an escape.

One of the king’s daughters helps Brie get out and hooks her up with Samuel, a vampire who helps people escape from slavery.  Brie can think only of getting back to her husband and twin daughters she was ripped away from.  OK, maybe, she thinks about Samuel a bit too.  But she tries really hard to fight it.

This part of the story tripped me up a little.  When Brie talked about being married, I was bothered by the idea of something happening between her and Samuel.  I don’t like cheater stories.  I put it aside, though, hoping for the best and letting myself revel in Samuel’s sexy goodness.  I won’t spoil how the husband thing plays out, but I will let you know that I ended up very ok with Brie and Samuel together.

The lion’s share of the story follows Brie and Samuel as he tries to get her back home –and as they try to fight the overwhelming attraction between them.  They fail miserably at one of these endeavors. I’ll let you guess which one.

The sex is hot, y’all. Hot. Hot. Hot.  But that’s not all the story has going for it.  The world building is really cool too.  I liked the characters… And some thing a little unusual: the illustrations.  The book has about 4-5 of them and I really think they added to the story. I’m not sure everyone will be as enthusiastic about the idea as I was, but personally, I thought they were awesome.

This is part one in the Vampire King series and there is clearly more story to tell, but I was satisfied with ending.  I often find myself rolling my eyes at Epilogues, but I really liked this one –which gives us a little first person POV on Samuel. It was cool getting inside his head.

I will definitely read book two.

Rating: B+

Escape
by Kenya Wright
Release Date: November 26, 2012
Publisher: Secret Cravings Publishing

 

Review: Angel in Chains

Reviewed by Jen

If you’ve been on the fence about trying one of the books in The Fallen series, now is the time. I enjoyed this one.  And even though it’s the third installment, you should have no trouble following along. There is plenty of action, hot sex, a fantastic heroine, and a virgin hero who happens to be a fallen angel.  Rrrrraw.

The story begins as Azrael stumbles across Jade while she is being threatened by several shifters.  She is only a human, but something about her draws him in.  He saves her life –and as the former Angel of Death, it is the first time he has ever stepped in to stop someone from dying.

The attack on Jade was no random incident. She is being stalked by her ex-boyfriend, the panther pack alpha.  And she has come to realize that either she must kill him or he is going to kill her.  He’s already killed everyone she has ever loved, so she has nothing left to lose.

Az becomes her champion, though it takes awhile before she realizes what a powerful ally she has. What takes nearly no time at all, however, is the amazing sexual tension between these two.  Tension –and phenomenal payoff too.  The sex is really good… though Azrael’s virginity is downplayed a bit.

Anyway, I really liked Jade. She has been through so much with her sadistic ex. And even though she is only human, she has a deep well of strength.  She does what she must to survive, but she doesn’t lose who she is in the process.  I loved watching her find a hero in Az, especially since he is so sure he is not hero material. He is so very wrong.  –He is a fabulous hero. When he falls, he falls hard.  He would burn the world for her.  And that in itself becomes a real threat as the story goes on.

The way Cynthia Eden took on the climax of this story deserves its own shout-out.  She slammed me in the gut with how she made it play out.  I can’t say more because I wouldn’t want to spoil it, but it really wow’ed me.

I liked this one a lot.

Rating: B+


*ARC Provided by Kensington

Click to purchase: Amazon
Angel in Chains
by Cynthia Eden
Release Date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Brava

Review: King of the Damned

Reviewed by Jen

The more I read from Juliana Stone, the more I enjoy her books.  This story centers around the fallen angel Azaiel and a witch named Rowan.

We’ve met Azaiel before.  He’s part of the League of Guardians, a supernatural consortium that tries to keep the balance between good and evil.  But before that, he was an angel who betrayed his kind for the affections of a beautiful woman who eventually betrayed him –then was held captive for countless years in hell. Now, he’s on a mission for his brother –the leader of the League– who wants him to investigate the death of an old witch, Rowan’s grandmother.

Rowan has spent the past six years of her life away from her hometown of Salem, trying to hide herself from a demon who has marked her as part of a family curse.  But when her grandmother calls, she returns home, only to find the old woman has died.  The demon has marked her whole coven in an effort to find her and now she realizes that it’s time to take a stand and end the curse, once and for all.

Azaiel was at her grandmother’s home when Rowan learned what happened to the old woman and she recognizes the power in him. So when he offers to help with her cause, she accepts.  Azaiel knows the demon who is after her is very powerful, so he calls the League for reinforcement –and Nico and Priest show up to lend aid.  From there, the story follows Rowan and the three men from the League as they work to reunite her coven and vanquish the demon.

The action was really good and the storyline was easy to follow. Even though this is the second book in the League of Guardians (which was a spinoff of the Jaguar books,) I think this would still work as a standalone.  The wordbuilding is solid and the pacing is good.  The real draw, though, is the romance.

Azaiel doesn’t believe he can ever trust a woman again after what happened in his past. He is attracted to Rowan but doesn’t want to act on it.  The more time he spends with her, the more she wears down his resolve.  She is a woman who is not afraid to go after what she wants.  And it’s hard not to want Azaiel. It really takes a long time for these two to really act on their feelings, but the sexual tension between them is very hot. It’s cool to see the woman be the aggressor here and I was very pleased with the payoff.

Azaiel makes a great reformed hero.  I like watching his struggle and his demons from the past.  Rowan is pretty bad ass too. She’s a very tough and take no prisoners kind of chick. There’s a great wealth of secondary characters too… I definitely want to know more about Priest and there seems to be a side romance brewing for Nico (maybe we’ll see it from his perspective in another book?) I’ve got my fingers crossed.  –All this and a very satisfying ending.

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
King of the Damned
by Juliana Stone
Release Date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Review: Steel’s Edge

Reviewed by Jen

I have to say that I am disappointed that there will not be any more Edge books.  Ilona Andrews has made me fall so deeply in love with the characters of Jack and George that I feel positively robbed when I consider the idea that they will not get their own book.  A travesty.  But I’ll get back to my boys in just a minute.

The hero of the story is Richard Mar, Kaldar’s brother, who we first met in Bayou Moon.  He is on a mission to destroy the slave trade thriving in the Weird.  The slavers nearly destroyed his niece, Sophie, and now he won’t rest until he finds the head of the serpent and cuts it off.

Charlotte is the Healer of her generation.  Her gift helped her become magic nobility.  But even her skills could not help her conceive a child –or keep a husband who married her for all the wrong reasons.  His betrayal of their marriage drove Charlotte to use her gifts to harm… and as a result, she fled to the Edge to start a new life.

The two cross paths when slavers chase Richard into the Edge nearly killing him. Charlotte saves his life, but his attackers follow him to her home and kill a dear friend of hers.  That starts Charlotte on her own path of revenge against the slavers, and she is willing to use any means necessary to take them down.  She and Richard join forces –and end up falling in love.

First I’ll tell you what I liked.  The world building in this series is fantastic and unique.  I love the idiosyncrasies of the Edge and the Weird. I love the complex social class system and the magic.  I love how all the books and characters are connected, and while each book features a different love story, the bigger picture remains.  Last but not least, I love the characters.  Richard is a solid hero, with just a touch of that “I’m not good enough for her” vibe going on.  Charlotte is refined, broken, and powerful all at once.  She is almost impossible not to like. And –of course– there are Jack, George, and Lark (Sophie.) Damn you, Ilona, for making me love them without ever giving me a look at their adult lives.

This wasn’t my favorite book in the series, however.  The love story was too fast and the romance too easy.  I think Richard and Charlotte were declaring their love in about two days.  The real angst was in the external conflict.  –My other issue was that it felt like the book was forced into an end-of-series role. It tacked on the Spider and the Hand elements almost as an afterthought… which is a shame considering they were worth their own big story arc.

Overall I did enjoy it.  Definitely worth reading for any Edge fan.

Rating: B

UPDATE: Ilona says she may indeed give us Jack, George, and Lark’s story –but in a different format than the current Edge books. A trilogy, perhaps. Someone… cue the party music!!

*ARC Provided by Ace

Click to purchase: Amazon
Steel’s Edge
by Ilona Andrews
Release Date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Ace

Review: How to Deceive a Duke

Reviewed by Jen

I’ve got mixed feelings on this one. There was potential there. I liked it in the first half, but the story took a hard left turn in the last nine chapters or so, that just didn’t gel with everything that came before it.

Meg and her family have been struggling ever since her father died, leaving them destitute. When the Duchess of Temberlay calls, trying to set up a wedding between her grandson and Meg’s sister, Rose, it seems like a perfect solution to their financial troubles.  But Rose wants nothing to do with Nicholas and his terrible reputation as a rake of the first order.  She runs away on the marriage, prompting Meg to take her place at the ceremony. Having never met Rose, Nicholas has no idea of the switch.

Nick hates the idea of getting married, but his grandmother blackmailed him into it.  He is shocked when he actually begins to fall for his bride.  She is fiery, beautiful and smart. But his reputation and a string of misunderstandings threatens to destroy their hopes at happiness. The story follows their power struggles and emotional entanglements as they try to make their marriage of convenience work.

I liked Meg a lot. She is practical and smart without being overly stubborn.  Nick’s not bad, though sometimes he is a bit too arrogant.  My only problem before the weird twist was the fact that Nick refused to clear up their misunderstandings when he had a chance. He knew Meg was hurting; he knew he could fix it, but he chose to wait –for some reason that completely eludes me.  I still held out hope that it would give me a satisfying ending and then, well, it just went in a totally different direction.  I didn’t like it –and I felt cheated that the dire circumstances brought about the resolution more than character growth on its own.

Like I said, it had potential. The writing was good and the sexual elements were there, but in the end, I was left off-kilter.

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
How to Deceive a Duke
by Lecia Cornwall
Release Date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Review: Eleanor’s Heart

Reviewed by Shelly

Sick, cold, homeless and hungry, Eleanor Franklin has all the odds against her. So when she breaks into a house to steal something of value to pawn for food she has no idea that her actions will lead to a life changing experience with Lord Jefferson Park. Jefferson Park is one of the last known vampires and he’s on a mission to save his race when he discovers what Eleanor’s has in her possession.

This is the first time I’ve heard of –much less read anything by– Misa Buckley, but I promise it will not be the last. Eleanor was a joy to know and even more fun – she’s got a past that is shrouded in mystery. After being rescued by Jefferson, she’s taken back to his house because she’s in so much pain from her disease that she’s literally unable to stay conscious. Her pain came across so vividly that I felt myself aching for this poor girl and her need for relief, either through laudanum or something even more permanent. There are some dark thoughts about her future that Eleanor had, but I could understand her rationale.

I really liked getting to know Jefferson. He definitely wasn’t the typical vampire hero. He doesn’t have flowing hair, bulging muscles/biceps, or blue eyes; instead he’s Eleanor’s height, hard gray eyes, and thanks goodness, always had his clothes on. I didn’t find a thing lacking in his physical attributes and the way he treated Eleanor was absolutely perfect. He was kind, responsive, and apologetic (when she needed him to be). I really liked these two individually but I thought they made a really good couple too. Even though there’s no explicit sexual shenanigans, I didn’t feel cheated because the sexual tension made it nail bitin’ good.

The “I love you’” was thrown about a bit too early for me, but other than that I recommend this read to anyone wanting a story with a good plot, dialogue and character development. And for those who happen to love a good vampire story, well then pick up Jefferson and Eleanor’s story. You’ll be glad you did.

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: B

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon 
Eleanor’s Heart
by Misa Buckley
Release Date: June 30, 2012
Publisher: Champagne Books

Review: The Bride’s Unexpected Change in Plans

Reviewed by Shelly

I’ve read some other stories from this author, but I can honestly say this short story is my favorite so far. Although this takes place in a world where other stories of Desconians have been penned by Clark, there’s no reference to say that this must be read as part of a series. For your own enjoyment you might want to, but I understood this storyline and the characters just fine as a standalone.

On Descon, in a galaxy far far away, mail-order bride Kimberley arrives from Earth on her wedding day only to be told that her promised marriage has been cancelled. Royal guard Ewin was sent to protect the Earth women from unwanted attention and has to break the news of the broken engagement to Kimberley.

Empathetic towards the abandoned Kimberley, Ewin takes her home to stay with him and his husband Dayved. Knowing that she’s not going to be able to stay with them forever, Kimberley nonetheless begins to develop romantic feelings for the couple. I really, really like angst –and Kimberley had quite a bit– but it didn’t feel over done; matter of fact, I thought it was very appropriate for the position that she found herself in. She’s away from home; she has no money after spending all of it to travel to the new planet; she’s doesn’t know anyone on Descon. She had so many negatives that I could see how self-doubt could take over a bit and be almost impossible to shake. What I really liked about Kimberley was that there was quite a difference in her between the beginning and the end of the story; a lot of growth and self-confidence.

Ewin and Dayved were an interesting couple because when they met Kimberley they were not looking for a third. It was purely by accident (fate if you must) that Ewin was present at Kimberley’s arrival. They found that even though they were not looking for a bride, Kimberley was their perfect match.

The sex among these three was hot. There was an anal scene that seemed out of place in the sequence of events, but other than that, both the sex and the story were really good.

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Bride’s Unexpected Change in Plans
by Rachel Clark
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Siren

Review: Second Chances

Reviewed by Jen

I found myself enjoying almost all of the five short stories in this m/m anthology.  Each had a slightly different take on the theme of second chances. I think the fourth story, Dirty Martini, was my favorite.

Non-Negotiable (T. D. Green) – It’s been six years since Alex broke Jacob’s heart and time has not healed the wound.  After three years together, Alex bailed on their relationship, just as Jacob’s sister was dying. Now, Alex has found his way back into Jacob’s life through work.  And it takes everything in Jacob to say no.  But how long can he truly keep up his walls when he never really stopped loving his college sweetheart?

I liked this author’s voice and I felt like I had a good idea of who Jacob was, even with the short story length.  But I thought he forgave Alex much too easily. I didn’t feel like Alex actually redeemed himself… just that circumstances and Jacob’s tender heart worked in his favor.  This bothered me.

Heart of Glass (L. J. Harris) – I enjoyed this one. It’s basically a story of an instant connection between two men who find exactly what they need in one another. Zack is an American who has moved to Australia to get a fresh start after a bad break-up. Heath is a man who left his wife and old life behind in order to figure out who he really is.  It takes hitting rock bottom to rebuild himself, but that’s what he does.  His transformation doesn’t become complete, however, until he crosses paths with Zack. Attraction gives way to passion, and ultimately love.  I would have been ok without the flash forward at the end, but overall, I thought this was sexy and sweet –and I was surprised by how much I felt like I knew these guys in a very short time.

Better Together (DaNay Smith) – Sometimes love just isn’t enough. Grayson gave up his career as an artist to follow Dom for his residency in Baltimore. But after years of putting his own needs aside, he up and leaves to go back to New York.  He rekindles his career. He’s a smashing success. It’s not enough, though.   His heart is empty without Dom. But can they get back what they once had?

I liked this second chance romance.  Both men are flawed, but there is no doubt about how much they love each other. It was easy to root for them to work it out.

Dirty Martini (Bette Browne) – Daniel was only looking to drown himself in an alcohol induced oblivion when he dropped into Nate’s bar.  He had just seen his ex out with another guy.  But even through his drunken haze, he made a connection with his sexy bartender.  The next night, he went back to the bar, hoping to make a better impression on Nate… and from there a romance was born.

This one is a little sexier than the other stories and I thought the bedroom action was well-done.  The attraction between Dan & Nate was hard and fast, but thankfully the author gave them a little time to let the emotions grow.  I liked it.

Notice to Appear (C. C. Lorenz) –  Things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse for Josh when a lame date turned into a trip to court for driving with an expired license.  But after the huge fines and massive inconvenience, the universe added insult to injury when his old high school crush turned up just in time to witness his humiliation.  Fortunately, the story only gets better from there. Carter not only remembers Josh, but he asks him out on a date –and turns out to be everything Josh ever dreamed of and more.

This was a sweet first love story, though I probably would have enjoyed it even more if it were a little more fleshed out.

Overall Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Bottom Drawer Publications

Click to purchase: Amazon
Second Chances
by T. D. Green, L. J. Harris, DaNay Smith,
Bette Browne and C. C. Lorenz
Release Date: August 31, 2012
Publisher: Bottom Drawer Publications

Review: Unravel Me

Reviewed by Shelly

This is the first Kendall Ryan story that I’ve read. I gotta say that I’m completely and totally impressed with her debut storytelling. Unravel Me is a good, solid story of loss, lust, and love. One fateful day, psychology student Ashlyn Drake receives a call from her mentor about what could possibly be the perfect subject matter for her thesis on dissociative amnesia. The caveat – the subject is in the hospital and accused of murder after being found at a bloody crime scene.

Not expecting to, I found Ashlyn to be a very likable character. Growing up poor without a mother, she’s from a working class family and has set out to prove a point – she’ll do whatever’s necessary to show that she can rise from her beginnings. In spite of her youth (mid-twenties) she’s neither stupid nor desperate and was really very level headed which I found very refreshing. There’s nothing I hate more than the temperaments and immaturity of the typical college student. But I digress.

I was a little (well – maybe a lot) skeptical about Logan’s interactions with Ashlyn. He had a physical presence that was well captured by Ryan. With that and his plain ole manliness, as well as his physical and verbal affections for Ashlyn, he eventually won me over – oh boy, did he ever! One of Logan’s attributes is his… how do I say this tactfully… his large endowment and he’s definitely not ashamed of it. I don’t mean that he’s crass, just that he’s mindful of how to wield that weapon of mass destruction quite well – if you know what I mean.

I really liked these two together; I thought the chemistry was sizzling and well written without coming across as either vulgar or unbelievable. I thought for being an expert in her field, Ashlyn could have been a bit more supportive of Logan’s need to remember his life. There were moments where I thought her heart overrode what was best for Logan, but they didn’t take away from her (or his for that matter) likability.

I would have liked to know more about Logan. He’s such a yummy character, I would have liked to know what really made him tick. What drive his ‘alpha-ness’ per se? Where did he come from? You know, the kind of stuff that makes you just go hmmmm.

Ashlyn’s best friend was a complete and total hoot, crazy as a loon but I think she’s the smartest one in the bunch – absolutely deserving of her own story (Ryan – this is me submitting my vote, just in case you’re counting).

Last, for those of you who might be curious if these two burn up the pages, heck yeah they do. All I’m saying is bring a glass of water with you because Logan’s got some …kinks… that are memorable.

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: B

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Unravel Me
by Kendall Ryan
Release Date: September 22, 2012