Archives for April 2013

Review: Lord of Wicked Intentions

Reviewed by Jen

I have to say that I have liked all three installments of the Lost Lords of Pembrook.  And while this book wasn’t my favorite of the three, I still enjoyed it.  As with the books featuring his brothers, Rafe’s story delivers on the recurring elements of a tortured hero and a love that helps him find peace and redemption.

Rafe is the youngest Easton brother, the one who was left behind in a workhouse after his uncle killed his father.  His life there –and later, on the streets– has turned him into a very hard man.  He never got over his brothers’ desertion and as a result, he has never allowed himself to care for anyone since.  Add to that a severe aversion to being touched and he’s not exactly a knight in shining armor.

He meets Evelyn when her jerkwad of a half-brother tried to auction her off to be a mistress for a nobleman.  Rafe’s not in the market for a mistress, but he is drawn to Eve and he can’t bear the thought of her belonging to someone else.  So he takes her for his own.

When Eve’s brother set up the party that night, she thought he was trying to find her a husband.  It wasn’t until she was delivered to Rafe’s door that she found out what was intended for her.  And then she had a choice to make: give up her virtue or be turned out on the streets.

Before you get too mad at Rafe, know he never forces himself on her. He’s not a fraction of the monster he thinks he is. Generally, I am all over the tortured hero with an underdeveloped sense of self-worth.  And it wasn’t that I disliked him, it’s just there were times he was little too emo.  On top of that, I wasn’t really satisfied with explanation on the touching thing.  I don’t want to give it away, but his reaction seemed like it was perhaps an issue of a sexual nature.  For what it turned out to be, claustrophobia would have been a more reasonable reaction than an aversion to hugs, sheets, or clothing.

All that being said, I did enjoy watching his losing battle with himself as he fought not to fall in love with Eve. How he lies to himself about his feelings from the very beginning.  It’s easy to see why he connects with Eve.  He empathizes with her plight; he knows what it’s like to be left with only horrible choices to survive. Yet she doesn’t break. In fact, she becomes someone he can lean on. (The sexy times are really good too.)

We’re treated to time spent with the couples from the previous books, which I liked. But this can easily work as a standalone.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
Lord of Wicked Intentions
by Lorraine Heath
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Avon

Review: One for the Wicked

Reviewed by Jen

Karina Cooper wraps up her Dark Mission series in grand fashion with this final installment.  It’s a romance, yes, but it’s more than that.  Cooper brings back all the characters and couples of previous stories to wrap up the overall arc involving the mission, the church, the witches, and the genetic puzzle that’s been causing so many to die.

But let’s start with the love story.  Our hero is Shawn, a member of the resistance.  His life’s mission is to destroy the man who killed his parents: Laurence Lauderdale, head of the Order.  Now he has his chance to get even. The resistance is planning to kidnap Lauderdale’s daughter Kayleigh, hoping the brilliant doctor can help them with the cure to what’s causing the witches/ missionaries to degenerate.  Instead, Shawn uses the opportunity to snatch her for his own gains.

Before the kidnapping, though, Shawn masquerades as Kayleigh’s bodyguard.  And despite the hatred he bears for her family, there is a sizzling connection between them.  There are even a few, er, physical interludes.  But when the chips fall, Shawn goes forward with his plan.

Kayleigh feels understandably betrayed when her sexy bodyguard goes from kissing her to taking her prisoner.  The two of them go round and round, from passion to fury and back again. The sexual tension is always right there, simmering at the surface.  Sometimes, I questioned how Kayleigh could keep wanting him, the way he runs hot and cold with her.  But no matter how often he pushes her away, she keep giving in when he pulls her back.

The bigger arc explodes when Kayleigh’s dad sets his master plan in motion.  Not only must Kayleigh and Shawn end up working together to save New Seattle, but they are also joined by Silas and Jessie, Naomi and Phin, Caleb and Juliet, Parker and Simon, & Danny and Jonas.  Each has a part to play in averting another apocalypse.  It’s kind of epic, and I am glad that Cooper didn’t rush the climax.  It was, however, difficult at times to remember all of the people and threads from the previous books.  Even one, admittedly, left me scratching my head when the book was over. (If you catch the subtle nod to May’s parentage, I bow down to your excellent memory and attention to detail.)

All that being said, you may want to even consider a series re-read before you start this one.  (Don’t forget Before the Witches either.) Part of me wishes I had done that.  By the same token, if you are a new reader, you could probably still catch on to the romance, but the rest will leave you majorly confused.  I suggest you start the series at the beginning for maximum enjoyment.

Overall, it wasn’t my favorite romance in the series, but it was definitely a worthy end to the Dark Mission saga.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
One for the Wicked
by Karina Cooper
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Avon

Review: The Man Within

Reviewed by Jen
 

If you liked the first book in the Breeds series, you’ll like this second installment… maybe a little bit more.  The formula is the same, but now the characters and world-building are familiar.  On top of that, we’ve got a second-chance-at-love story, giving us a reason for the connection between our hero and heroine.

Taber and Roni have had something between them for more than a decade.  She was only 11 when he found her alone and terrified in the woods.  And ever since, he has made it his mission to protect her.  As they grew up, their feelings for each other grew into something more than friendship.  Finally, they were going to act on their attraction, when someone came between them.

Without getting into the particulars, I’ll tell you Taber marked Roni, but they never sealed the deal.  Each thought they had been rejected by the other, and they went their separate ways.  It’s now more than a year later. Taber and his fellow Pride-mates have gone public, and now the world can recognize the mark he left on Roni, making her a target.  They must reunite for him to protect her.

There is much angst to be found here.  Roni is still hurting over what she thinks is Taber’s rejection. But now, with his kiss, she has gone into heat for him.  Her body wants him more than ever, but her heart rebels.

There were a couple of times I took pause on the issue of consent here.  I did a little in the last book, too, to be honest.  Roni really has no choice about whether she will be with Taber sexually.  We’re told that in her heart of hearts, she really does want him, and I acknowledge that.  But it did bother me that he willfully took her choices away.  At least in the last book, Callan didn’t know what he was doing.  Taber did.

That aside, the sex is hot (though a bit over-the-top with all the creaming and clenching of the lady bits and spasming of the womb) — it’s also quite frequent.  I felt there was a little more character development this time around and I did believe in the emotional connection between Roni and Taber.

I’m still a bit annoyed that Lora Leigh is teasing me on the Sherra book.  It seems we won’t get her story until book 4.  Maybe I’ll skip ahead.

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Man Within
by Lora Leigh
Release Date: October 28, 2004
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave

Review: Wolf’s Desire

Reviewed by Shelly

This is the first time I’ve read anything by Ambrielle Kirk and I’m kinda bummed that I’ve not read her work before now. I must admit my expectations were low because the multicultural/IR PNR stories that I’ve read in the last year have left me disillusioned about whether the genre is getting quality stories.

The fourth in the Caedmon Wolves series, this story is about widow Keira Ellis and bodyguard Aiden Price. I’ve not read any of the other stories in the series, so I’m not sure of either the timeline of this one in relation to those or the appearance of these characters in any of the other stories. In desperate need for protection, Keira’s attorney hires Aiden to protect her after a series of home break-ins and oral threats. Aiden is a wolf in the Caedmon pack and as a bodyguard he’s never failed in his duties. Once these two meet, things (in and out of the bedroom) heat up quickly and stay that way.

There’s not a lot of back story, so other than titles, the other characters were just fillers. I think this series would be best if the stories are read in order because I would have like to know more about Keira and Aiden and the other characters.

This is a pretty quick read, the page count is 151 in ePub format. That kept my attention. The intrigue and mystery surrounding Keira made me wonder if she’s all human or if she’s got a little ‘Other’ in her. And Aiden – he seems to be a stand up kind of guy who just got hit in the face with meeting this mate. That was a very cute scene. The sex was good but my interest in the characters wasn’t as much as I wanted. This was an okay read for me.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: C

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Wolf’s Desire
by Ambrielle Kirk
Release Date: March 31, 2013

Review: Blood Roses

Reviewed by Jen

I had a really hard time getting through this book. I liked the premise and I found the world building intriguing, but the romance did not work for me at all.

It all starts when Leila gets a call from her sister, Alisha, begging for help. Alisha says she is being held by vampires. She needs Leila to bring her ancient spellbook to vampiretown (Blackthorne) and use her magic to save a dying vamp. It goes against everything she believes, but Leila agrees, for her sister’s sake.

It’s dangerous for any human in Blackthorne, but it’s even worse for Leila. She’s not only a witch, but a serryn, a rare woman whose blood is toxic to their kind. Unfortunately, Caleb, brother to the dying vamp, figures out her secret. And it only goes downhill for Leila from there.

Despite her deep seeded aversion to vampires, Leila is attracted to Caleb. An attraction he mercilessly exploits. Caleb is convinced Leila is a killer, as most serryns are. He puts her through the wringer, with test after test to prove her “true nature.” Most of these tests involve sex.

I had big issues here. Yes, ultimately Leila wanted Caleb, but at the same time, she really had no choice but to sleep with him. Not exactly non-con, but a little too close for my comfort. Add to that, Caleb lies to her, jerks her around, and threatens to kill her and her sisters throughout the book. I kept waiting for things to get better, for him to be redeemed, but it never really happened. And for the life of me, I cannot understand how Leila could fall for him under such circumstances.

I almost put the book down a few times… I was just so unhappy with Caleb’s treatment of Leila, but the world building was interesting and I figured the payoff would be worth it. But it wasn’t. The ending is terrible. Things aren’t really resolved and even calling it a HFN is a stretch.

The dynamic of the relationship was very off putting to me. The balance of power, virtually non existent. I can only watch my heroine get kicked when she’s down so many times before you can just count me out.

Rating: D+

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Blood Roses
by Lindsay Pryor
Release Date: April 23, 2013
Publisher: Bookouture

Review: Rules of Entanglement

Reviewed by Shelly

Gina Maxwell is turning out a nice series that focuses on the softer (not too soft) side of MMA fighters. I enjoyed the first one enough that I gleefully looked forward to the next story. Feisty District Attorney Vanessa McGregor is in Hawaii to help with the arrangements of her best friend’s wedding. She’s on a mission to make this the best wedding Lucie could have, and nothing will make her deviate from that mission – not even Lucie’s own brother. Best laid plans, right? Living la vida loca in Hawaii, MMA fighter Jackson ‘Jax’ Maris is only concerned about two things – training for fighting and surfing. Right from the start, I wanted to stand up and applaud Vanessa’s treatment of playboy Jax.

Vanessa is as spirited as she was in the first book and I was thrilled to see she wasn’t watered down in the least. She’s got a no nonsense personality that’s genuine and leaves no room for misinterpretation, especially when it comes to her unbreakable rules about life. It was good to see that her friendship with Lucie remained strong. I can’t stand it when the supposed best friend is relegated to the back burner, almost to the point of non-existence.

When Jax made his first appearance, I was for sure that this tool was going to make me verra verra upset and I loved loved loved that Maxwell didn’t allow Vanessa to fall for his charm, good looks and the general crap coming out of his mouth. Yeah, she thinks he’s sinfully good looking, but that doesn’t mean that she’s going to bow down and fall for his blatant disrespect of her time. Let the games begin!

Now when things settle down and Jax realizes that he’s not dealing with one of his typical vapid hangers-on, the chemistry and the heat between these two is absolutely smokingly delicious. It came across really well, even with the short time frame of their relationship. I’m not a destination kinda gal but the Hawaii setting isn’t distracting from the storyline and brings up a question that I never got answered – if Lucie and Vanessa are best friends and have been since college, how come Vanessa never met Jax before? Just sayin’.

The secondary characters were entertaining and I hope to catch up with them in the next book, especially Vanessa’s sister. That should make an interesting tale if Maxwell goes in that direction.

Overall, I enjoyed Vanessa and Jax. Revisiting Lucie and Reid was splendid and I would definitely recommend picking up this story. You don’t have to read the first book to understand this one, but it would make the story more enjoyable if you did.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Entangled

Click to purchase: Amazon
Rules of Entanglement
by Gina L Maxwell
Release Date: March 31, 2013
Publisher: Entangled

Review: Diana’s Hound

Reviewed by Jen

I continue to be impressed with this super-sexy and gritty series.  If you’re unfamiliar with the Bloodhound books, they center around a breed of engineered shifters in a kind of alternative- western- historical world with a little bit of a steampunk vibe.  If that sounds kind of schizophrenic, it’s not… it really works. Of course, it helps that is has some smokin-hot sex in there too.

We met Diana in Archer’s book.  She is an anomoly among the Bloodhounds –A– because she is a woman and –B– because she wasn’t turned by the Bloodhound Guild. Instead, she was attacked by a rogue hound and survived, changed.  She was taken in by the inventor of the Bloodhound alchemy, though she didn’t know it at the time.  Now that he is gone, she is working with Nate, hoping to understand his research.

Nate has been a part of the series from the beginning. I must admit, it was little hard for me to see him as a love interest at first. After all, he was introduced as a father-type figure to Satira… a man in his 60’s.  Now that the vampire-Bloodhound hybrid thing he’s got going on has changed his physiology, he looks young again. But in my head, Nate = old dude.  However, that all went out of the window when the sexual vibe kicked on.

Nate and Diana want each other.  He’s fighting it because of the age difference and because of what he is.  But once they go undercover together to figure out who is selling hounds to the vampires, that reticence gets harder to hold onto.  Especially when they spend the New Moon together.  For new readers, the new moon means “wild, passionate, crazy sex for three days.” (*fans self*) In other words… one of the highlights of every book.

If it sounds like I am fixating on the sex, maybe I am I’m not.  But that isn’t all the book has to offer.  I liked Diana. She has survived so much and still remains strong and whole and willing to love again.  Nate is a dumbass once or twice, but for the most part, he respects both sides of Diana and only wants what’s best for her.  We get some advancement in the overall series arc.  And… dammit, the sex is really hot.

Just read it.

Rating: B+

*ARC provided by author for review 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Diana’s Hound
by Moira Rogers
Release Date: April 23, 2013
Publisher: Samhain

Review: Hot Blooded

Reviewed by Jen
 

It’s an action-packed ride in this second installment of the Jessica McClain series. The story begins with our heroine chomping at the bit to save her mate and things do not slow down once between the first page and the last.

First off, let me say that if you haven’t read Full Blooded, I urge you start there.  This book is a continuation of that one –and while this has a self-contained mission, it all hinges on the events of the first installment.  There is a little bit of backstory mixed in, but not much.

Basically, the entire book is about Jessica’s journey to rescue Rourke from the clutches of the evil Goddess Selene, who kidnapped him.  She takes along her brother and one other wolf –along with her human nemesis and general PITA Ray– plus two vampire guides names Eamon and Naomi.  Their path is full of traps and landmines laid out by Selene.  As Jess overcomes one after another, she (and we) learn more about her strengths as a Lycan, and what that means in relation to the prophecies about her.

I like Jess. She is very powerful, but is determined to hold on to her humanity.  She not only wants to do the right thing, she puts her money where her mouth is, even when it’s hard.  But the real highlight of the book for me was Naomi. She was not what I expected and I grew to really like her.  And Ray… well, I think there is more to Ray than meets the eye somehow. (I could be totally off-base on that, but time will tell.)

Here’s the thing, though.  I liked the book, but didn’t love it the way some of my fellow reviewers did.  It’s well written; the pacing is good; the world-building is solid.  But I don’t feel an emotional connection to the characters. I like them.  But I don’t feel their feelings. Yes, I know Jess wants to get Rourke back, and thinking about him makes her wolf run in circles, but I don’t feel a crushing weight or fear of a life without him.  (Frankly, their time together as mates lasted about as long as a sneeze, so maybe that has something to do with it.) It’s not just about Rourke, though. It’s deep feeling for anything, everything.  Her thoughts and feelings are intellectually conveyed to me, but it’s missing that intangible thing that makes me feel like I am not only inside Jessica’s head, but her heart.

It is a good read, though. It kept me interested and invested in how it would all play out.  And Amanda Carlson does a great job laying the groundwork for the next battle ahead.  It looks like another exciting ride.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Orbit

Click to purchase: Amazon
Hot Blooded
by Amanda Carlson
Release Date: April 23, 2013
Publisher: Orbit

 

Review: The Eternity Cure

Reviewed by Jen
 

OK guys. This is not light reading.  But it is captivating, entertaining, thought-provoking, and heart-wrenching reading.  It’s a trade off I’ll take any day of the week.

The story picks up just a few months after the ending of The Immortal Rules.  (And this is the part where I tell you not to read this book unless you read that one first.)  Allie has left her ragtag band of human travelers safely in Eden and now she is on the hunt for her maker, Kanin, and the sadistic Sarren who holds him captive.  Her blood bond to Kanin draws her toward him, leading her through a string of trials and unlikely reunions along the way.  Ultimately, she discovers Sarren’s plans are much, much worse than the simple torture he is forcing Kanin to endure.  Allie must find him –and stop him– or lose those she holds most dear.

I know, I know… I’m not giving much away. But one of the best things about this book is the way the plot unfolds. It’s unpredictable, but never erratic.  By that, I mean Julie Kagawa made me excited to turn the page (or in some cases, terrified to turn the page.)  Allie’s journey tests her in so many ways.  She is not only challenged intellectually and physically, but over and over she must respond to situations that force her to define the kind of monster she wants to be.

I think Allison is a great heroine, in part because of her internal struggle.  It’s not always easy to live up to her ideals.  She has all those powerful emotions like wrath, heartbreak, and a need for vengeance that drive weaker people to abandon their principles. It’s how she responds through her emotions that defines her.

Again, the world-building is effortlessly fantastic. I was completely sucked in.  It was almost like its own character in the book: this dark, gritty, hopeless, soul-sucking world.  There are no info-dumps or overly complicated explanations.  It just is.  And it’s that bleak every-man for himself setting that contrasts so remarkably against the characters who fight to be something more… to rise above it.

I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you about two things.  One: There is a heart-stopping, punch in the gut scene that will leave you reeling.  At least, it did for me.  (It also made me cry.)  And two: there is a big old hairy cliffhanger that will have you counting the days until book 3 hits the shelves… which, by the way, won’t be until Fall 2014.  As I sobbed on Twitter, Julie Kagawa reached out to comfort me with this response: “Your tears feed my muse.” What a gifted, yet totally evil author.

Rating: A-

*ARC Provided by Harlequin Teen

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Eternity Cure
by Julie Kagawa
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Review: Tempest

Reviewed by Jen

I must say, I am impressed.  Kelly Meding has written a book about a gay male superhero, that manages to treat the lead character like any other hero in any other book.  It’s not about the fact that he is gay, yet she doesn’t shy away from it. He has a love interest and a romance that receives no more and no less attention than main characters have in previous books.  It’s not a m/m romance.  It’s just an urban fantasy with a romantic subplot.  It shouldn’t be a big deal, but as I read it, I realized just what a rare find it is.

This is book three in the Meta-Wars series and it picks up a few months after Changeling.  These books are complicated and nowhere is that more obvious than when Meding attempts to bring everyone up to speed in the early chapters.  I did read the first two books and even I had to sit and think about it for a minute.  I shudder to think about how confusing it would be for a new reader.  With that in mind, I say, start with Trance if you haven’t read these books already.

Anyway, as public opinion continues to sour on the Metas, Ethan (Tempest) volunteers to take a trip to Manhattan to track down a band of rogue Banes.  If there is any hope for some of the Metas living on the prison island to be freed, everyone needs to be accounted for.  Among the group of rogues is his father, who killed his mother years ago. He can’t pass up the chance to see the man face-to-face for the first time.  Joining him on the trip is Aaron, one of the Changelings we met in the last book.

A ton of stuff is going on here. From Ethan’s search for his dad, to getting to know the Metas on the island… from a brand-new threat to our superheroes to a romance for Ethan.  It’s action-packed and hard to put down.  Meding does a great job of getting us inside Ethan’s head… showing us so much of what he has been through. But she also made me feel like I knew Aaron for the first time.  I never thought I would be able see him beyond his previous actions, yet as Ethan fell for him, I found myself seeing the Changeling in a new light.

If you’re wondering about the sex… it is off-page. But this has never been a series about sex.  There is, however, a few kissing and build up scenes that were just enough to satisfy me.

The new villains give the storyline an interesting twist and I am interested to see how it all plays out in future books.  I will definitely keep reading –and holding out hope that Meding finally “fixes” poor Noah and Dahlia.  That whole thing still really bothers me.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Pocket Books

Click to purchase: Amazon
Tempest
by Kelly Meding
Release Date: April 22, 2013
Publisher: Pocket Books